First children in England return to school in Leicester and Leicestershire

School children in Leicester and Leicestershire begin to return to school today Credit: PA

More than 90,000 schoolchildren in Leicester and Leicestershire begin to return to school this morning after a summer break like no other.

These are the first schools in England to fully reopen after closing at the start of lockdown, because schools always break up earlier for summer in this part of the country.

It's thought around 20 of the city’s 112 schools will reopen, with the rest spread out over the next week or so.

Boris Johnson has said it's a 'moral duty' to reopen schools safely, while the Chief Medical Officer has said the risk of children catching Coronavirus is 'incredibly small' compared to the damage of not attending school.

But, of course, Leicester was the first city in England to experience a local lockdown when Coronavirus rates soared. So what can we expect from today?

How should I prepare my child?

It's recommended that you regularly remind your child about the importance of handwashing and social distancing.

Their school clothes should be washed regularly, and you should stay vigilant for any Coronavirus symptoms.

Is my child safe at school?

There are rules all schools will be following.

  • Any staff member or pupil who's displaying symptoms must stay at home. They must also self-isolate if they live with someone who is suspected of having COVID-19.

  • Classes or year-groups may be required to stay in bubbles and to avoid contact with children outside their group.

  • Schools should also ensure that everyone washes their hands on a regular basis and put enhanced cleaning measures in place.

  • In response to an outbreak, the school must contact NHS Test and Trace and follow advice from their local health protection team.

  • They may advise the school to close temporarily. Teachers should have remote education plans in place.

The local authorities in Leicestershire say that individual schools have done their own risk assessments, taking into account government advice, so there will be some variation between schools.

What if a child gets sick with Coronavirus symptoms at school?

In Leicestershire, this is what will happen:

  • Schools will arrange for the child to go home

  • While they're waiting to be collected, they will be isolated behind a closed door, or at least two metres from other people (with adult supervision)

  • Staff looking after the child will wear PPE

  • All areas the child goes will be cleaned

  • If the child tests positive, the rest of their class, bubble or group will be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days

Do I have to send my child back?

It's the law that parents of school age children should get a full-time education.

In Leicestershire, the council asks anyone with particular concerns to speak to their child's school.

There may be differences for children who are shielding or self-isolating.

Will I be fined if I don't send my children back?

Leicestershire County Council say it will be a last resort,

"Schools have a strong history of working closely with families regarding any child’s absence from school.  Enforcement action will only ever be pursued if all other engagement with a family has failed."

What about masks at school?

There's been an overnight change to government guidance.

The World Health Organisation says adults and children aged 12 and over should wear a mask, and children are during some parts of the school day in Scotland.

Last night the government said masks should be worn in communal areas in secondary schools in regions where local lockdowns were in place.

So that includes Leicester and Northampton.

In all other parts of the country, it will be up to headteachers to decide whether masks are required.

Teaching unions had been calling for clarity.

How will school transport be different?

  • In Leicestershire, the local authority is recommending children wear a face covering when travelling on dedicated school transport 

  • The same children should always sit together

  • Children should fill up the bus from the back

  • Face to face seating will be avoided

How should I take my child to school?  

People are being asked to consider cycling, walking or scooting, as well as parking with extra care near school sites or a few streets away.

Marshalls will be outside some schools to try to stop gatherings. Social-distancing reminders have been stencilled on pavements and lamp posts wrapped with health messages.

Guidance from other parts of the Midlands: