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Returning To School During COVID-19 - Parent Worries

It is natural to have worries about how the return to school will work for your child and family life. However it is really important that children are able to get back to socialising and learning at school. 

Most children have been out of school for a long time during the pandemic lockdowns. There will still be changes to keep the risks of COVID-19 as low as is possible for staff and students.

Children are very tuned in to how their parents are feeling so may pick up on your worries about them going back to school. Getting information and support for your concerns will help you feel more confident and help your child feel more confident too.


  • There is so much information about coronavirus it can feel very confusing. Make sure you get your information from places you can trust – use reliable sources and websites. The 'Full Fact' independent website is useful to check stories you might hear, but want to find out if they are true.

    It is now widely agreed by experts that it is safe for children and staff to go back to school. The Department for Education has information for parents and carers about the return to school *here*.

    Each school will be risk assessing to take into account their layout, and the numbers and ages of pupils. They will then decide the steps they need to take to keep the risks from the virus as low as possible for everyone. This might mean that if you have children at different schools it is managed slightly differently.

    Check your child’s school website for information. Use their contact details to get in touch if you have questions or concerns. They may be able to easily put your mind at rest.

    Remember the risks to healthy children and young people are very low. It is very unusual for them to become seriously unwell if they catch the virus.

    By following the advice to reduce the risk of spreading the virus and helping your children do the same, you will be doing the best you can to keep them safe.  

    • Avoid touching your mouth and face. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and water. regularly (see video *here*). Use hand sanitiser in between.
    • Keep at least 1 metre away from people you do not live with.
    • Wear a face covering in places wear social distancing is difficult (read more *here*).
    • Self isolate and get tested if you or anyone in your family have symptoms (read more *here*). 

    Managing your own feelings is important and will make it easier for you to support your children. Get information from school so you understand how they are adapting to the new rules. Talk to family and friends about how you are feeling. Our ‘coping with stress’ page has more information on stress and ways to cope with it *here*.

    Remember the positives for your children of getting back to school. They will be able to meet up with friends, be active and get back to learning.

  • You may feel worried about how to support your child with their own anxieties about returning to school. Try and keep your own worries and concerns quiet. Get support from your friends and family out of your children’s earshot.

    • Find out together about what school is going to be like now. Write a list of the things you want to know more about together and plan how you will get answers.
    • Focus on the positives as much as you can.
    • Remind them that most people who get the virus are not made seriously ill. Children are a low risk group. Remind them of the steps they can take to keep virus risks low (handwashing, social distancing and staying home if they or someone they live with has symptoms).
    • Help your child learn how to manage their worries. Look at our page on worries and anxiety *here* for more information.

    Getting prepared and back into the routines of school nice and early can help you and your children feel more ready and reduce worries. Look at our page about getting back into school routines *here*.

  • You might feel worried about the education your child has missed. How much children have been able to access learning through school, or by parents trying their best with home schooling will vary a lot. All children have been affected in some way. Try not to worry. All children are in the same position and will get help to catch up as needed.

    The pandemic has caused a lot of changes and made some things harder for everyone. Schools are aware that this will have got in the way of learning for all children. Schools are being provided with some extra funding to help children catch up, and will be making plans on how to support children.

    Remember your child will have learnt some different things during lockdown. They have spent more time at home. They have had to adapt to a lot of changes and followed rules to keep everyone safe.

    There are things you can do to help your child too;   

    • Encourage your child to read (this can be anything, books, comics, game instructions).
    • Encourage them to write and draw. Play games that encourage them to concentrate.
    • Get them cooking with you – measuring ingredients, working out how long it will take to cook.
    • Get outside in the fresh air, be active and look at the things around you.

    *Click here* to look at our page about activities for the family during COVID-19.

  • Your child may have thrived during lockdown, especially if they had found school attendance hard before. They may have found it a relief to not have to go to school for all sorts of reasons. It may have also felt easier for you too.

    The government have said that they expect all children to attend school again in March. (although it may be a staggered return) You may be feeling worried about this. Start talking to your child about returning to school. *Click here* for more information about this. They might find it easier to talk their worries about school now they have had a break from it.

    Work out what has made being at home work so well for them.

    • Is it because of the time they have been able to spend with you? If so plan how you can carry on with this special time once term starts.
    • Is it because they haven’t had to see other children and young people? This could be because of bullying shyness or other worries. Talk to school about this. *Click here* to look at our emotional health section for more information.
    • Is it because they haven’t had to worry about school work feeling too hard or not interesting them. Let school know this is a worry for your child so that they can help them feel more confident about this. 

    Make a list together of the things that have been difficult and plan what you need to do or who to speak to, to make things better. This can be a fresh start for your child and things can feel better for them.  

  • We know that the majority of children are at low risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.  But your child or other people in your household may have been told they are more vulnerable. They may have been told that they needed to shield at the beginning of lockdown. *Click here* to look at the NHS list of those who are considered more vulnerable.

    It is natural that this might be a worry now that all children are expected to return to school in March.

    Most of those advised to shield will be able to return to their normal activities including school or work. They should follow guidance on handwashing, social distancing and self isolating.

    Family members who live with a shielding person have previously been advised to limit their contact with the shielding person but follow general guidance. If this affects your child or someone in your family;

    • Talk to your GP and/or the specialist team that care for them for individualised advice and reassurance. They will help you feel confident that you have got the balance right between reducing any risk and your child being able to socialise and learn.
    • Talk to school so they know this is a worry for you and your child.
    • Reassure your child that following the guidance on good hygiene, masks and social distancing keeps the risk from the virus very low.
  • If your child has additional needs that impact on their education you may have extra worries and questions about your child’s return to school. The government advice is that all children both in mainstream and in special educational provision will be back in school in March.

    Your child may have found the changes that lockdown brought especially challenging. They may find the move back to their school routines easy or it may be hard for them.

    Talk to your child’s school so that they can up date you on their plans to keep risks low. They will be able to talk and plan any extra support or care your child will need.

    They will also explain any changes to school transport if your child is eligible for this. Transport will be provided in a way that minimises risk to children and staff.

    Visit Norfolk County Council’s ‘Local Offer’ - this will give you up to date information about SEND and how services are adapting and meeting children and families needs during the pandemic.

    Family Voice Norfolk has an important role in supporting families where a child has Special Educations Needs and/or disabilities. They provide support and information about all aspects of meeting your child’s needs and the services they use. They are regularly updating their information to take into account the impact of COVID-19. 


Who Can Help?

If you have any questions or worries about your child you can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text Chathealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of the Healthy Child Programme team.

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