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Schools will reopen to all pupils from 8 March, the Government announced on 22 February. Portsmouth teachers and head teachers are now working hard to make sure that schools are as safe as possible for the return of all children.

All schools have reviewed their risk assessments and health and safety arrangements in the light of new developments and guidance. This includes increased access to testing and vaccination. The existing range of safety measures in place in education settings remains appropriate. We thank parents for their cooperation in following national, local and school guidance to protect Portsmouth.

Read the detailed government guidance.

Returning to school from 8 March

The level of coronavirus infections in Portsmouth has fallen rapidly from the peak in early January. For the latest Portsmouth data see the coronavirus statistics page.

Existing protective measures in schools, colleges and universities with adults and students in year 7 and above will remain in place. Additionally staff and students will be required to wear face coverings in all indoor settings. This includes classrooms, as an extra temporary precaution. It is also important for parents and carers to continue wearing a face covering when dropping off or collecting their child from school. Please follow your school’s advice on social distancing and other protective measures at this time.

Education settings re-opening on 8 March

All primary school pupils will return to school on 8 March.

Secondary schools and colleges will have discretion on how to stagger the return of their students from 8 March to allow them to be tested on return, with all pupils expected to be back in school full time from 15 March.

Early years and nursery provision has remained open to all throughout the lockdown.

Special schools, special post-16 providers, and alternative provision have also remained open to vulnerable children and young people. This includes children and young people with Educational Health and Care Plans, and children of critical workers.

School attendance

School attendance will be mandatory for all pupils from 8 March.

The usual rules on school attendance apply.

Wraparound childcare

Out-of-school settings and wraparound childcare will be open to vulnerable learners and children of parents who need to access it in order to work, attend education or seek medical care.

Detailed guidance has been published by the government.

Catch Up programme

The government is committed to helping children and young people recover learning lost as a result of the pandemic.

Specific initiatives for summer schools and a Covid Premium to support catch up will be developed alongside a long-term plan to make sure children and young people have the chance to make up their learning.

Read more on the education recovery package.

Holidays

Holidays should be planned within school and college holidays as usual. Avoid seeking permission to take your children out of school or college during term time. Ensure any travel is in line with national travel guidance.

Keep in mind that you and your children may need to self-isolate when returning from a trip overseas.

Safety measures in and around school

Schools and colleges have their own health and safety risk assessments, and keep them under review.

Please contact your child’s school for any questions or concerns about the safety measures they put in place.

Face coverings

In schools and colleges where pupils and students in year 7 and above are educated, face coverings should be worn by everyone (unless exempt) when moving around the premises and in classrooms and during activities, unless social distancing can be maintained. This will not apply in situations where a face covering would impact on the ability to take part in exercise or strenuous activity (for example – PE lessons). Pupils or students do not need to wear face coverings when outdoors on the premises.

The wearing of face coverings in classrooms is being introduced for a limited time until Easter. It will be kept under review and our guidance will be updated at that point.

Drop-off and pick-up arrangements

Some schools or colleges may need to stagger or adjust start and finish times. This helps keep groups apart as they arrive and leave the premises.

Your child’s school or college will be in touch to set out any changes they are making.

Please help schools and colleges manage these arrangements, for example by keeping your distance from others when dropping off and picking up your child and wearing a face covering.

Travelling to and from school

Most children and young people aged 11 and over are now required to wear a face covering on public transport. This does not apply to children and young people who are exempt from wearing face coverings.

If your child needs to share a car to school or college with someone outside of their support bubble or household, they should:

  • share with the same people each time
  • open the windows for ventilation
  • wear a face covering if they are aged 11 or over

Asymptomatic coronavirus testing in schools

Schools in Portsmouth are involved in programmes where school staff and secondary school children are tested regularly for coronavirus even though they do not have symptoms. This is to help detect cases of coronavirus before symptoms show or identify cases that do not show symptoms at all.

All secondary school and college students will take three COVID-19 tests as they return to the classroom from 8 March at existing school testing facilities. The schools and colleges will decide how to stagger the return of their students from 8 March to allow them to be tested on return. After an initial programme of three tests in school or college, students will be given two rapid tests to use each week at home.

Twice weekly testing will continue to be available for all on campus.

Two different sorts of tests are being used – Lateral Flow Tests and saliva tests. Schools are making their own arrangements for testing. Please contact your child’s school or check their school’s website for specific details.

Testing remains voluntary but is strongly encouraged.

Lateral Flow Testing

Lateral Flow Tests involve a throat and/or nasal swab and gives results in around 30 – 60 minutes.

If the test carried out in school is positive, the person being tested – and anyone who is in their household or who was in close contact with them during the previous 48 hours – must self-isolate for 10 days.

Schools are making their own arrangements for Lateral Flow Testing. Please contact your child’s school or check their school’s website for specific details.

Saliva testing pilot

Saliva testing was originally run as a pilot in Southampton schools and is now being rolled out across Hampshire, Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. Three Portsmouth secondary schools, Charter Academy, The Portsmouth Academy, and Trafalgar, are now part of this pilot.

If the test is positive, the person being tested – and anyone who is in their household or was in close contact with them during the 48 hours before their test or subsequently – must self-isolate for 10 days.

Secondary schools taking part in the pilot are making their own arrangements for saliva testing, so please contact your child’s school or check their school’s website for specific details.

Managing cases in schools and colleges

Schools and colleges will take swift action when they become aware that someone who has attended has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). They will contact their local health protection team if they:

  • have 2 or more confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) among pupils or staff within 14 days
  • see an overall rise in child or staff absence rates where coronavirus (COVID-19) is suspected

The local health protection team will advise what action should be taken. Closure will not usually be needed, but some groups may need to self-isolate.

If your child is self-isolating or shielding in line with government guidance, your child’s school or college will provide remote education.

If restrictions in schools or colleges are again needed to help contain the spread of the virus, there may be some changes to how they operate. Schools and colleges will be prepared for this, following contingency framework guidance published by the government.

Exams and assessments (2021)

Detailed information about the curriculum is available on the government website.

Key stage 1 and key stage 2 assessments:

The national curriculum assessments due to be held in summer 2021 have been cancelled. These include:

  • tests
  • teacher assessments
  • the Year 1 phonics screening check

Schools can choose to carry out the optional Year 4 multiplication tables check within the 3-week period from Monday 7 June.

Schools will continue to use assessment during the summer term to:

  • inform teaching
  • give you information about your child’s attainment in their annual report
  • support your child’s transition to secondary school if they are in year 6

GCSE, AS and A level exams

GCSE, A and AS level exams will not go ahead as planned in 2021.

Students taking GCSE, AS and A levels, will receive grades based on teacher assessment. The exam boards will support teachers to reach their judgements by providing guidance and training.

The DfE and Ofqual launched a consultation on the proposals for alternative arrangements. This closed on 29 January and this guidance outlines the decisions taken to support students and teachers following the consultation.

Vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs)

Due to the continued disruption caused by the pandemic, the government announced that it is no longer viable for some VTQ external exams and assessments to go ahead in February and March.

This year, there are 3 groups of vocational, technical and other general qualifications (VTQs). Each has  a different approach to awarding. Given the diversity of these qualifications, the precise arrangements will differ slightly but they will aim to give as much fairness to students as possible.

Ofqual will put in place the technical framework needed to carry out the arrangements for each of these groups and the qualifications in scope for each.

See further details on VTQ exams and assessments on the government website.

Remote learning

Schools and colleges have been working hard to implement remote education effectively. They will continue to provide remote education for pupils who are not eligible to attend on site between now and 8 March.

From 8 March, attendance is mandatory for all school-aged pupils. However, where a pupil cannot attend school on site because they are complying with government guidance or law relating to coronavirus (COVID-19), for example if they need to self-isolate or shield, state-funded schools have a duty to provide remote education for school-aged children.

Schools have worked hard to make sure that everyone can learn from home while they are unable to attend school in person. Some have provided devices and wi-fi vouchers for families without internet access. Please speak to your school if you need any support accessing the remote learning system they have set up.

Education is critical for the well-being and life chances of all children and young people. We thank parents for supporting their children while they are learning remotely from home.

Remote learning top tips

Here are some top tips to help your child to be ready to learn:

  • Help them find a suitable learning space at home
  • Start logging on and getting ready 5 minutes before lessons start
  • Support them to engage fully in their lessons
  • Acknowledge and praise their hard work
  • Encourage questions – show them how to virtually ‘raise their hand’
  • Take an interest in their progress and learning
  • Remind them to finish any tasks teachers set
  • Discuss any feedback they get from teachers
  • Listen to them and help them to manage their feelings. Young people can find mental health support on this page.
  • Stay in touch with the school about their learning and wellbeing, feedback what’s going well and what could be better
  • Be there: to listen, to talk and help manage their feelings
  • Have a good morning and bedtime routine: be ready for school after a good breakfast and a consistent bedtime to ensure good sleep pattern will benefit your child.
  • Stay active. Plan time outside if you can do so safely or visit Change4Life for ideas for indoor games and activities.
  • Look after yourself and know there is support available. As well as thinking about the children or young people in your care, it is important to take care of your own mental health and wellbeing.

This is a challenging time for everyone, so be patient with your child and with yourselves. Doing your best is all that anyone can ask!

Remote learning via your games console

If you are struggling to sign on to your remote learning using a laptop, did you know that your PlayStation or Xbox has a web browser that you can use?

Here’s how:

  • Open your internet browser on your console (Edge for Xbox, or WWW for PlayStation)
  • Navigate to your school’s remote learning page
  • Enter your username and password when asked
  • Use the browser as you would on a computer

Resources from the BBC:

The BBC is showing curriculum content on TV every weekday:

  • primary-school programming, including BBC Live Lessons and BBC Bitesize Daily, from 09:00 to 12:00 on CBBC
  • at least two hours of programming to support the GCSE curriculum on BBC Two
  • BBC Bitesize has lots of content divided into subject and age categories, with much new material added since March.

School places for critical workers

We are in a national lockdown until 8 March. School places are available only for vulnerable children and for the children of parents carrying out critical work. This means that they are unavailable to supervise their children at home on any given day.

If you believe you are in this situation please talk to your school and they will discuss what capacity they have to offer your child a place.

Due to the need to restrict the size of groups, schools may not always be able to give a school place to everyone who is technically eligible. However they will always take the circumstances of each family into account.

Find more information for critical workers on the government website.

Supporting vulnerable children

Schools and colleges remain open to school children and young people who are vulnerable as well as to children of critical workers. From 8 March schools and colleges will be open for all.

The school can work with you to:

  • support your child in a way that meets their specific needs
  • address any worries or concerns you may have.

Clinically extremely vulnerable children

Children who are clinically extremely vulnerable should not attend school, college or university. They should also limit the time they spend outside the home. They should only leave the house for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential. It is advised children and young people who are clinically extremely vulnerable continue to follow the shielding measures until at least 31 March 2021.

Your child’s school will work with you to help your child access their remote learning system.

All 16 to 18 year olds with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality will be offered a vaccine in priority group 6 of the vaccination programme.

Very few children and young people are at highest risk of severe illness due to the virus. Doctors have  been reviewing all children and young people who were initially identified as clinically extremely vulnerable to confirm whether they are still thought to be at highest risk.

If you have already talked about this with your child’s doctors and they have confirmed your child is still considered clinically extremely vulnerable, your child should follow this shielding advice. If you are unsure if your child is clinically extremely vulnerable, please check with your GP, consultant or health professional.

View guidance for those identified as clinically extremely vulnerable.

Free school meals

Schools will continue to provide free school meal support for pupils who:

  • are eligible for benefits-related free school meals and
  • who are required to self-isolate at home during term-time.

This support may be provided via a daily grab and go bag or weekly food parcel rather than through a supermarket voucher.

Possible coronavirus symptoms

The Wessex Healthier Together website has useful information for parents if you are worried that your child has coronavirus or another illness and you are not sure what to do.

You must get a test if you or anyone in your household has:

  • a high temperature (chest or back hot to touch)
  • a new, continuous cough or
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

Find out more about getting a test in Portsmouth.

Find out more information about how to self-isolate, what you can and can’t do and what local support is available in our protect Portsmouth self-isolation guide.

You can find the latest NHS information and advice on the NHS website.

If your child is unwell with other symptoms or you are unsure if your child should be in school or early years setting – find more information on our Coronavirus-related absence from school page.

 

Helpful information and support

Here are some other helpful sources of information and places you can find support: