Back to school

Find information and support for families as children and young people in Suffolk return to school in January 2021.

Last updated: 3 January 2021 (reviewed daily)

Child studying alone at school

Coronavirus and attendance at Early Years, Primary, Secondary and Special Schools and Colleges in Suffolk

Returning to school in January 2021


 

Primary and Special schools and early years settings

Primary schools may need to stagger the return of children to school from the week starting Monday 4 January 2021. Your school will let you know if they cannot open for your child from Monday. Some schools won’t be open on Monday 4 January for planned teacher training.

The rate of COVID infection increased in Suffolk over the Christmas break. This may mean that some Suffolk schools do not have enough staff available to open safely. It is a Headteacher's decision, with their governing body/trust, as to whether they can open safely. Suffolk County Council will support any school leader who makes a decision not to open for the majority of pupils from 4 January 2021. Each school will be responsible for this decision.

Parents and carers should check their school communications to see if their school is open or closed.

If your school is closed, children of critical workers and vulnerable children will be invited to attend as soon as possible. In these circumstances, contact your school to confirm your place in school - every school must open for those children.

It may take schools a day or two, or more, to know whether they have enough staff to reopen to all children safely. Keep looking out for messages from your child's school. Children will be given some remote learning if their school is closed and they are at home.


Secondary schools and colleges

Following the government announcements on 30 December, there have been some changes to pupils returning to secondary schools and colleges:

  • 4 January: secondary schools will only provide on-site education to vulnerable children and children of critical workers, and prioritise remote education to those in exam years
  • 11 January: Students in exam years should return to on-site education at school
  • 18 January: All students are required to return to school for on-site education 

More information about the return to school is available on the GOV.UK website.


Vulnerable children and children of critical workers

Secondary schools will provide on-site education to vulnerable children and children of critical workers. If you're a key or critical worker and you require your child to attend school from 4 January please contact your school.

A list of key worker roles and vulnerable children criteria can be found on the GOV.UK website.


Keeping your child off school

The Government has said it is vital that children attend school. School attendance became compulsory again from the beginning of September. However, we understand that many parents will feel anxious about their children attending school at this time. If this is the case, we would urge you to speak to your school’s headteacher to discuss it.  In general, where schools are open for your child, attendance is compulsory. However, we understand parents’ anxiety and in general do not expect sanctions for non-attendance in the current circumstances.


What to do if you have safety concerns

If you have concerns about your child returning to school or college, you should discuss these with your school or college as soon as possible. Schools are putting in place a number of different measures and they should be able to explain ways they are changing things to reduce risks.


Children who are shielded

Shielding advice is currently in place in Tier 4, so all children still deemed clinically extremely vulnerable are advised not to attend school.

Children and young people whose parents or carers are clinically extremely vulnerable can continue to go to school.

See the guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable for the current advice.

Children and young people under the care of a specialist health professional may need to discuss their care with their health professional before returning to school or college. This should usually be at their next planned clinical appointment.

If children are not able to attend school because they are following clinical and/or public health advice, you will not be penalised.


Children who are self-isolating

A small number of children and young people may be unable to attend in line with public health advice because they:

  • are self-isolating
  • have had symptoms or a positive test result themselves
  • are a close contact of someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19)

If your child is unable to attend school or college for these reasons, ask your school or college what support they can provide for remote education.

Children and young people under the care of a specialist health professional may need to discuss their care with their health professional before returning to school or college. This should usually be at their next planned clinical appointment.

If children are not able to attend school because they are following clinical and/or public health advice, you will not be penalised.

Safety measures in schools

Suffolk County Council has been working closely with schools to make sure safety measures are in place for the start of the new term. These include:

  • staggered start times
  • staggered breaktimes
  • increased hygiene
  • children remaining in consistent groups

These steps will all contribute to minimising risk related to COVID-19, while allowing teachers to get back to teaching children. 

Each school is different and will have set specific systems in place based on individual risk assessments. School leaders will be in contact with parents prior to the start of term to advise on the arrangements. If you have any concerns, we recommend you have a conversation with your school.

Child studying alone at schoolTips for families

Five Tips for Families contains support for families and children on topics including sleep, anxiety and challenging behaviour. The leaflets were produced by the Psychology and Therapeutic Services Suffolk (PTS) and the Parent Carer Network (SPCN).

Emotional wellbeing

You can also find information on our Emotional Wellbeing Gateway website to help support children with their mental health. Find out more by visiting emotionalwellbeinggateway.org.uk.

Family travelling to schoolTravelling to school 

You can read our advice on travelling to school to find advice on getting to school, sixth form or college safely. We've provided guidance including walking, cycling, scooting, 

Funded school travel

Our Suffolk Onboard website has information related to funded travel in Suffolk for the 2020/21 school year. You can visit suffolkonboard.com/schooltravel to find out more. 

SEN children learning at schoolSpecial Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND)

You can visit our SEND Local Offer website to find out about support services and local opportunities for children and young people with SEND all in one place.

Resources for young people

Visit The Source website for information aimed at young people in Suffolk, including advice and guidance on topics such as learning, health and relationships. 

Getting tested 

Find out about COVID-19 testing in Suffolk including when and how to book a test, plus a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section which may answer concerns you have around testing.