Covid: When will children return to school and what are the rules?

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Children are back in the classroom, after months of enforced home-schooling.

But things are not yet back to normal, with testing and masks part of life for pupils and staff.

When did children return to school?

How does testing work in schools?

Secondary school students in England were tested for Covid three times in the first two weeks of school. They have since been able to get two tests each week to use at home.

These are lateral flow tests, which involve taking a swab of the nose and throat. The sample is put in a tube of liquid and gives a result within 30 minutes.

Testing is voluntary and children will only be tested if a parent or carer gives consent. Pupils will not be stopped from attending school if they do not take part.

Staff or pupils who test positive should self-isolate. If the test is done at home, they should also book a second test to confirm the result.

You should not send your child to school or college if they:

  • Have Covid-19 symptoms, or live with someone who has symptoms
  • Have tested positive themselves, or live with someone who has tested positive
  • Are a close contact of someone who has Covid-19
  • Are required to self-isolate for travel-related reasons

All primary and secondary school staff are in England also being offered twice-weekly rapid tests. Parents and carers can also get a twice-weekly test.

In Scotland, all teaching staff as well as senior phase pupils (S4 and above) are being offered home tests twice a week.

All school staff in Wales will also be offered twice-weekly rapid tests.

Students and teachers at special schools in Northern Ireland are being offered weekly tests.

Will children have to wear masks?

Students and staff in English secondary schools, colleges, and universities have to wear face coverings indoors - including in classrooms - unless 2m (6ft) social distancing can be maintained.

The rules do not apply to younger children in nurseries and primary schools, but adults should wear face coverings where possible.

Some students and adults may be exempt - such as those who cannot use a face covering because of a disability or illness, and those who rely on lip-reading and facial expressions to communicate.

In Scotland, all secondary pupils are asked to wear masks, including in class.

In Wales, face coverings must be worn by secondary school students and staff everywhere outside the classroom.

Secondary school students in Northern Ireland are required to wear face coverings both inside and outside the classroom.

What is happening about exams?

In England, A-levels, AS levels and GCSE exams have been cancelled and teachers' estimated grades will be used instead.

Results will be published earlier in August to allow time to appeal. Primary school SATs will not go ahead this year, nor will phonics or timetable testing.

Welsh students will have their grades determined by teachers, based on evidence such as mock exams and coursework.

In Northern Ireland, schools will have to submit the grades they think pupils should be awarded at the end of May.

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