Everything you need to know for the return to school in September

28th August 2020

a colourful school fence

The start of the new term isn’t far away now, and all children and young people in Devon will be required to go back to school. But things will be a little different to normal this year.

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, this autumn term might feel especially strange or worrying, and for many of you it will be your first time back in the classroom since lockdown began. It might even be your first day at a new school.

Our schools are experienced at managing risk, though, and we’ve been working with them to make lots of changes in line with government guidelines to help keep you safe.

Here are some useful information resources to help you prepare for September, including what safety measures will be in place, changes to school transport and mental health support.

Why are all children going back to school?

The government’s plan is that all children and young people, in all year groups, will return to school and college full time from the beginning of the autumn term.

This is because the prevalence of coronavirus (COVID-19) has decreased since schools and colleges restricted their opening in March. The NHS Test and Trace service is up and running and it is now understood about the measures that need to be in place to create safer environments in schools.

School is good for your educational progress, your wellbeing, and your wider development – so it’s really important for all children and young people return to school and college as soon as possible!

You should attend school again from September unless you’re unable to because either yourself or your carers are following medical and/or public health advice.


What safety measures will be in place?

a poster promoting washing hands to keep Devon safeEach school will have their own arrangements and will let you know about the measures that they’ve put in place to help keep everyone safe.

This could include:

  • introducing a one-way system
  • marking the floor to support social distancing
  • putting up signs to remind everyone to wash their hands and cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing
  • creating ‘bubbles’ or groups of children and teachers by class, or year group
  • having different start and finish times, break times and mealtimes throughout the day to manage the flow of children through the school.


School transport

To help keep everyone as safe as possible, we’re asking pupils aged 11 years old and over to wear a face covering when travelling on school transport, unless you’re exempt from wearing one.

Your school might draw up its seating arrangements for transport if they wish, but as a general guideline you’ll also be asked to sit in your year groups on larger vehicles wherever possible, with the youngest students sat at the front.

If you get public transport to school, remember that social distancing guidance applies to all passengers – but these rules don’t apply on transport that’s just for school pupils only.

Around 70 extra buses dedicated to school and college students will be in service across Devon, so there’s plenty of extra capacity for social distancing measures on public services.

And, of course, you could always walk or cycle to school if you can – it’s great exercise and you’ll be helping to reduce pressure on public transport.


Face coverings

As a general rule, you won’t have to wear a face covering in school. You’ll only have to wear on if there is a local lockdown in your area, in which case pupils aged 12 and above (apart from anyone who doesn’t have to wear one for medical reasons) should wear face coverings when moving around areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain, such as in corridors or communal areas. Your school will let you know if this happens.


Your mental wellbeing

We’re guessing that you’ll have had very different experiences while at home, in terms of learning and personal experience, than the ones you would’ve had in school. As we approach the return to school, it’s a good idea to try to return to your “usual” school day routine in the lead up to September.

If you’re struggling to adjust to the change, or would like to talk to someone about your mental health in general, the following services are all available to you:

  • Devon’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are offering additional 24/7 telephone support. Please contact 03300 245 321 during normal hours (8am-5pm, Mon to Fri) or 0300 555 5000 outside these hours.
  • The ChatHeath text line allows young people aged 11-19 a place to talk completely confidentially with a school nurse about any worries or concerns they may have. Text 07520631722.
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