Coronavirus: council service information and advice

We're working with schools and early years settings to understand the implications of current government announcements and will keep this page updated. Your child's school or setting should contact you directly with any changes.

Please follow the government's latest coronavirus advice on Gov.UK.​

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Returning to school

 The Government has said that the conditions are now right for nurseries, early years settings and primary schools to start to open to a wider group of children from 1 June and secondary schools from 15 June. Special schools are also asked to open to more children over time.

Settings and schools in Portsmouth have been working hard to make the right arrangements for more children to return.

This will be in addition to the children they have been teaching and caring for all through the pandemic. Schools and early years settings have done a fantastic job teaching and caring for the children of key workers and vulnerable children and it is expected that more of these children will be returning.

Not all settings and primary schools will be ready to open from 1 June; some will be opening later, up to 15 June, when secondary schools will also start to be open to more children. Please wait for your child's school to get in touch with you to let you know when it will be possible for your child to return.

Given that not all teachers are able to come into schools, and more keyworker children are expected to need a place, not all primary schools will be able to offer places to children in all of the year groups allowed back by the Government. The Government guidance to schools recognises this and sets out a recommended priority order: children of key workers and vulnerable children, early years, reception, year 1 and then year 6.

For secondary schools the Government guidance is that only a quarter of the Year 10 group can come into school at any one time.

Schools and settings are keen to make sure that your child enjoys their time at school or nursery. They recognise that children may be anxious and that they may also have had relatives who have been ill with the virus. They will be working to make sure that all children feel supported and enjoy returning to learning.

To make sure that arrangements are as safe as possible for all children and staff settings and schools will be following Government guidance. This includes teaching children in small groups, making sure there is as much social distancing as possible, ensuring everyone washes their hands frequently and increasing the cleaning of school buildings as well as staggering times for people to arrive and leave.

The detailed arrangements for each school are different and your child's school will keep you informed at all times.  If you are offered a place for your child you are strongly encouraged to support your child to return to their school. It is not compulsory and there will not be fines for non-attendance, but your child will benefit from being with their peers and being taught by their teachers. If you do not take up an available place it may not be possible for your child's teacher to support your child's learning at home as much as they have been doing so far.

Parents and carers deserve huge praise for the way you have supported your child's learning at home. If your child cannot yet return to school, the school will continue to support their learning as well as they can. Please continue to keep in touch with the school and follow the school's guidance on how best to support your child.

In addition to support from your child's school, you can find resources to help you here https://www.portsmoutheducationpartnership.co.uk/covid-19-resources/ and here https://www.portsmouth.gov.uk/ext/coronavirus-covid-19/schools-and-families-coronavirus-information#activities

Keeping safe

If you or someone else is in immediate danger please call the police on 999. If you are unable to speak press 55. This will transfer your call for assistance without you having to speak.

If you’re worried about a child or young person suffering from harm or abuse, or see something that just doesn’t seem right, contact Portsmouth Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 0845 671 0271 or 02392 688793 in office hours, or 0300 555 1373 out of office hours. You can also call the @NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 (8am-10pm Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm weekends) or email help@nspcc.org.uk at any time. Visit the Portsmouth SCP website for more information.

Stop Domestic Abuse continues to accept referrals, however they're unable to offer any face to face support at the moment. For advice and support for anyone experiencing domestic abuse:

Support for  professionals and the public outside of normal working hours with any social care issues:

  • 0300 555 1373 (Monday to Thursday, 5pm - 8.30am, Friday to Monday, 4.30pm - 8.30am).
  • If you are hard of hearing or deaf, please call 07465 205 102.

    Keeping children safe online

There is a lot of support available to keep your child safe online. Below are some useful links to help parents and carers:


Alcohol abuse

National Association for Children of Alcoholics (Nacoa) provides information, advice and support for everyone affected by a parent’s drinking. Visit the Nacoa website.

The Nacoa helpline will be open throughout the closure period:

Free school meals

Free school meals are being provided for all eligible children who are not attending schools. 

Schools are doing this in a variety of ways, some are using the government's food voucher scheme, others are providing food parcels or a daily 'grab and go' meal. Your child's school should have confirmed details of this.

If you need any further information please contact your child's school.

If your situation has changed and you think your child may now be eligible for free school meals you can find more information and apply online.

School meals scam

We have been informed that some parents have received an email stating the following: ‘As schools will be closing, if you’re entitled to free school meals, please send your bank details and we’ll make sure you’re supported’. This is a scam email and is not official. If you receive any emails like this, please don't respond and delete it immediately.

View more information on coronavirus scams

School admissions

Starting School and Junior Transfer Allocation

National offer day remains unchanged. Parents are advised of allocation via email (if applied online) or by letter sent on Thursday 16 April 2020. Allocations cannot be notified by telephone.

Full information about admission is available on the  school admissions booklet page.

In-year applications

In-year applications are currently not being processed due to the closure of schools. This service will resume once schools re-open.

If you are a key worker or your child has a particular vulnerability and you are unable to make suitable arrangements for your child, please do contact admissions@portsmouthcc.gov.uk.

Children's mental health

With the current and changing situation and media coverage, it is likely that some children and young people may become concerned and anxious. This is reasonable, as they will never have experienced something like this before and do not have the experience to know what may happen.

Parents, carers and adults who work with children and young people play a very important role in looking after children's mental health and providing a familiar and secure environment where they can talk about any questions and worries.


Advice and guidance for parents

What to do if your child is unwell? 

If your child becomes unwell during the coronavirus outbreak you can still get help. It is important to get help whether it is coronavirus or something else. You can follow the NHS Solent information sheet for further guidance and Healthier Together/RCPCH poster to help with symptoms and appropriate action.

Exam cancellations

Primary assessments, including SATs, and exams including GCSEs, AS levels and A levels will not go ahead this summer.

Ofqual, the exam regulator, has released information on how exam boards will work with teachers to provide grades to students whose exams have been cancelled.

Find out more information about exams and grades for this academic year.

A and AS level results will be published on 13 August and GCSE results on 20 August, as originally planned. This will enable progression to higher and further education to take place in the normal way.

If the student believes their grade does not reflect their performance, they will have an opportunity to sit an exam at the earliest reasonable time, once schools are re-opened. 

Students who have had their exams cancelled will have the option to sit an exam in summer 2021 (please note: this will not impact those moving onto higher education this year).

Support for year 11s

Year 11s can now access a new website that supports their move into further education. Flying Start Portsmouth looks to help those into college, apprenticeships and future employment.

Subject-specific activities, frequently asked questions, mental health guidance and a CV and profile builder prepares students for life after school.  

Pregnant women and new mothers

If you're pregnant and living with a person with symptoms of coronavirus, you should try to find somewhere else to live for 14 days. If this isn't possible, try to keep away from each other as much as possible.

For more information, read advice given by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

  • If you are pregnant it is important that you still attend your antenatal appointments and continue to seek advice from your midwife or maternity team.
  • If you are worried about your health or the health of your unborn baby, please contact your midwife or maternity team.


Registering a birth

It may be more difficult for parents of new-borns to register their child’s birth given the government guidelines around coronavirus. Because of this, HMRC has announced that parents are not required to have registered their child’s birth in order to claim child benefit.  Further information about claiming child benefit can be found on Gov.UK.

Breastfeeding and infant feeding support

If you are still receiving midwifery care and need advice on feeding your baby:

  • Portsmouth Maternity Centre - call 023 805 40777
  • If during the night - call 02392 286000 (extension 3284)

    If your baby is over 10 days old, and you need support with issues including breastfeeding, formula feeding or introduction to solid foods, contact:
  • Solent Health Visiting Service - call 0300 123 6629
  • Solent Pulse Text Message Advice Service - 07491 163275
  • National Breastfeeding Helpline - 0300 100 0212 (09.30am – 09.30pm)

    Useful websites

Parents with children age 0-5

If you have questions about your children's health, feeding, sleeping, crying, minor ailments, or you have postnatal depression, please contact the Duty Health Visitor on 0300 123 6629.

Solent Pulse is a text messaging service that is also available for parents to text any questions to:

  • a Health Visitor on 07491 163275, or
  • a School Nurse on 07491 163276

If you think your baby or child is unwell and you are worried, please seek advice as you would do normally by contacting NHS 111 or your GP as appropriate. You may also find the Healthier Together Website helpful for guidance on childhood illness and well-being. 

If it’s a serious or life-threatening emergency, call 999

You can find early years activities and educational resources, in the  'Activities for children at home' section.


Personal protective equipment (PPE) information

Face masks should not be used by babies and children under 2.

Parent frequently asked questions

Why can more children now attend school and childcare settings?

The government wants to get all children back into education as soon as the scientific advice allows. We know it is the best place for children to learn, and because we know that the early years has a huge impact on a child's future.

Will my child be safe?

There is scientific evidence that younger children are less likely to become unwell if infected with coronavirus. The numbers returning will be lower than normal, which reduces the risk of infection. Early Year's providers will also be making changes to how they are organised and will put measures in place to reduce risks.

The government guidance explains what providers can do to reduce the risk of transmission, and they will share their plans with you once they have finalised the details.

Should I keep my child at home if they have an underlying health condition or live with someone who is shielding or in a clinically vulnerable group?

Children and young people who are considered extremely clinically vulnerable and shielding should continue to shield and should not be expected to attend.

I usually pay my child's setting for some of the time they are there. If I don't feel comfortable send my child back, will I still be charged for their place?

This will depend on a range of factors and is a decision for each individual provider. Parents are encouraged, where there are no underlying health issues, to return their children to their childcare setting. Providers continue to have business costs to meet and so may decide that in order to continue offering a place, some or all of the fees may be applied.

What happens if there is a confirmed case of coronavirus in my child’s childcare setting?

There will be a robust risk assessment in place, in line with government guidance, that sets out the next steps if this happens. Your setting should be able to share this with you if you ask.

Staff and children over 5 in all settings will be eligible for testing if they become ill with coronavirus symptoms, as will members of their households.

Test kits are unsuitable for under-fives. Call 111 if you’re worried about a baby or child. If they seem very unwell, are getting worse, or you think there’s something seriously wrong, call 999. Do not delay getting help if you’re worried. Trust your instincts. Further information on the NHS guidance

My provider is not opening at their usual times and cannot offer me the hours and days that I was previously attending. Can I move my child to a setting that can offer me what I need?

All providers are being encouraged to offer places to priority groups and, as part of their risk assessments to ensure safety for the children, the staff and yourselves. They may have to operate at a reduced level initially to manage this. Depending on the size of the setting, it may not be possible to offer places to everyone but talk to your provider to understand their decisions.

I am worried about how my child will react on returning to the setting, will I be able to take them in to settle them?

The advice on social distancing for adults remains the same, so it may not be possible for parents to go into the setting. You should talk to your provider and share your concerns. Early years practitioners are very creative in their approach to supporting children and will have thought about the best way to manage these situations to ensure the children's happiness and well-being.

I am a key worker and have been sending my child to a new provider whilst my original setting has been closed, using my early education funded hours. Can I move my child back to their original setting when it re-opens, and will I have to give 4 weeks' notice to the current setting?

It will be up to you to consider the impact of moving your child, especially if they are due to start school in September. It would be best to contact your original provider to ensure that they can offer you the hours that you need.

If you choose to return your child to their original setting, you will not be required to give notice on the funded hours you use.

You should consider the impact of moving your child, especially if they are due to start school or have special educational needs or a disability.

Do I still need to renew my 30hr code and Tax-Free Childcare?

Yes, do so in the same way as you would normally by logging into your account at www.childcarechoices.gov.uk.

The Government has also announced that any working parent usually eligible for 30 hours free childcare or Tax-Free Childcare will remain eligible if they fall below the minimum income requirement due to COVID-19.

In addition, the 30 hours deadline for the summer term has been extended to the 31st August to give working parents additional time to protect their place. This a temporary change and will be reviewed over the summer.

A list of settings that are currently open is available to view. We also have outreach officers who can give you advice if you require further assistance. Please email: eyfunding@portsmouthcc.gov.uk

School, nursery and pre-school - closures

There is a Department of Education helpline to answer education queries about coronavirus. Staff, parents and young people can contact the helpline by email: DfE.coronavirushelpline@education.gov.uk or telephone: 0800 046 8687 (open Monday to Friday - 8am to 6pm).

The Government took the decision to close all schools and early years settings such as nurseries and pre-schools from Friday 20 March. They will remain closed until further notice, except for some vulnerable children and children of parents or carers who are critical workers and who absolutely need to send their child to school or to an early years setting. This is a key part of the Government's measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Government's advice is that if children can stay safely at home, they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading. They have set out the following key principles:

  • If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.
  • If a child needs specialist support, is vulnerable or has a parent or carer who is a critical worker who cannot look after their child in any other way, then educational provision will be available for them.
  • Parents should not rely for childcare upon those who are advised to be in the stringent social distancing category such as grandparents, friends, or family members with underlying conditions.
  • Parents should also do everything they can to ensure children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus. They should observe the same social distancing principles as adults.
  • Residential special schools, boarding schools and special settings continue to care for children wherever possible.

    Children are being encouraged to keep learning, to keep healthy and to fill their time productively. Schools and early years settings will inform parents of arrangements made to enable learning to continue while closed.

Find information on who is classed as a critical worker.

There may be circumstances when the school or early years setting is unable to provide a place to eligible children due to staff shortages, or other reasons, in which case, the school or setting will work with the council to resolve the issue quickly and inform you of the outcome.

Advice and guidance:

School closures for children with an Education Health and Care Plan

Many children and young people with Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) can safely remain at home. School and colleges will remain open for some children and young people with an EHCP who are not able to remain safely at home. Your child's school or setting will be in contact to let you know what support will be available. 

There may be circumstances when the school or setting is unable to provide a place to eligible children due to staff shortages, or other reasons, in which case, the school or setting will work with the council to resolve the issue quickly.

Find helpful information and resources on the Portsmouth Local Offer website.

Portsmouth Parent Voice (PPV) have set up a closed online support group for families with children or young people with special educational needs and disabilities, and a Sharing is Caring group to help with essentials.  PPV can be contacted by email on ppvmanager@p-d-f.org.uk or 07712 439159.

Homestart are also offer parenting advice. This can be delivered remotely over the phone or over a video call. Please call 023 9273 4400 Monday-Friday 9am – 5pm.  There is also a limited doorstep drop-off service for crafts and equipment, as well as a Facebook page full of helpful parenting tips.

Parenting support via Family Hubs

You can find details of parenting surgeries being offered over the phone here.

The Triple P Parenting Programme is tailored specifically to parents of pre-teens and teenagers during the COVID19 pandemic. They have available a PDF guide, online course, free digital magazine, articles on home schooling and various other resources to support not only typical issues related to parenting adolescents but also the extra pressures of this current situation.