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Safe at school

Our schools are safe places and the best place to learn. 

We are following government guidance and working closely with every nursery, school and college in our borough to support them to manage the risk of infection from Coronavirus (Covid-19).  

Don’t miss our live question and answer on schools and Covid-19 in Tower Hamlets taking place on Tuesday 13 October, 7pm to 8.30pm. Click here to watch live from 7pm. 

All will have introduced new measures, which will vary by individual setting but include: 

  • A one-way system 

  • Marking the floor to support social distancing 

  • Increased signage to support hygiene measure (e.g. washing hands, covering your mouth when you sneeze) 

  • Creating ‘bubbles’ or groups of children and teachers by class, or year group 

  • Having different start and finish times, break times and mealtimes throughout the day to manage the flow of children through the school 

What is the best protection against Covid-19? 

Follow the latest government guidance

The most effective way to control the virus in education settings remains self-isolation (staying at home) if you, or any person in your household or support bubble, starts to show symptoms of Coronavirus (Covid-19). 

What are the symptoms of Covid-19? 

If you have any of the following three symptoms, stay at home to protect others, and get tested right away: 

  1. A high temperature 
  2. A new, continuous cough 
  3. A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste 

Other people in your household will need to self-isolate for 14 days. 

If any person in your household has Covid-19 symptoms - visit the NHS website to book your free test or call 119 (7am to 11pm; for children under five, call 111).

Covid-19 guide for families

Take a look at our Covid-19 guide for families which includes what to do if your child, or children, has:

  • Covid-19 symptoms
  • Tests positive for Covid-19
  • Someone in your household has Covid-19 symptoms
  • Someone in your household tests positive for Covid-19
  • Contact tracing identifies your child(ren) as a close contact
  • Your child(ren) has been in contact with someone who has been identified as a close contact
  • Your child(ren) has travelled abroad and must self-isolate

It also includes a detailed guide to what Covid-19 symptoms are, how to respond to cold/flu symptoms and how you can protect yourself, and others, on the school run.

How are Covid-19 symptoms different to cold and flu? 

If you have symptoms of the common cold symptoms - stay at home but do not get tested. 

How can I get the latest advice and information about Covid-19? 

Visit www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/covidchampions to become a Covid-19 Community Champion - Stay updated. Support others. Save lives.

When does my child, or my household, need to self-isolate?  

You must self-isolate for 14 days (stay at home and not go out or meet others; see NHS for latest guidance, and learn more about how long to self-isolate) if: 

  • You have Covid-19 symptoms
  • You are waiting for your Covid-19 test results
  • You have test positive for Covid-19
  • You are living with someone who has Covid-19 symptoms or who have tested positive
  • Someone in your support bubble has Covid-19 symptoms or has test positive
  • You, or someone in your household, has arrived in the UK from a country where there is a high coronavirus risk (list)

Protect your loved ones. Download the NHS Covid-19 app for Apple and Android at https://covid19.nhs.uk/  

Learn more about NHS Test and Trace, the national programme which ensures anyone who develops Covid-19 symptoms can get tested quickly 

Why school is important

Children have a right to education, and a school is the best place to learn.

We know that the impact of being excluded from an education are lifelong, and can be emotional and social, not just academic.

The government recognises this and children - who play a small part in the spread of Covid-19, and are less likely to get ill from it - are now legally required to go to school.

Travel to and from school

Public transport capacity is limited so where possible try to walk, cycle or scoot part or all of your journey.

Visit our school run page for advice and support to make travel more active, healthy and enjoyable.

For longer journeys, Transport for London are running extra buses at the busiest times – visit tfl.gov.uk/reopeningeducation for more information.

What support is available for families

Department for Education

The Department for Education has information for parents and carers on their website gov.uk/backtoschool.

Family Information Service

If you need support you can call the council’s Family Information Service on 020 7364 6495 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm).

Mental wellbeing

If you, or anyone you know, needs support with mental wellbeing visit good-thinking.uk to explore a range of free support, resources and apps available.

The gov.uk website also contains guidance for parents and carers on supporting children and young people's mental health and wellbeing. It covers stress, eating disorders, grieving, bullying, physical health, autism, children who care for others, learning disabilities , urgent support, and more. 


For support arranging childcare when school starts again, or when you go back to work, call the Tower Hamlets Children’s Centre team on 020 7364 5277 (Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm) or visit the childcare and early years page for more.

Information in other languages

Visit the London UK website for information and advice in a range of languages.

Sign up to our residents' newsletter to get the latest information in your email inbox.

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Anyone who has tested positive with Covid-19 should isolate for ten days. Anyone in their household should isolate for at least 14 days. You must tell NHS contact tracers that your child, or children, attend an education or childcare setting.


Your school may do several things, including but not limited to:

  • Working to ensure that children and staff do not attend school, or get sent home, if they have Covid-19 symptoms - and get tested.
  • Regular handwashing
  • ‘Respiratory hygiene’ such as covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing and employing the ‘Catch it. Bin it. Kill it.’ tissue method, followed by handwashing
  • Frequent cleaning
  • Reduced contact and mixing including:
    • One-way systems
    • Markings on the floor
    • Bubbles
    • Staggered start and finish times, and more

For the vast majority of children, the benefits of being back in school far outweigh the very low risk from Covid-19.

Children appear to have a milder course of infection than adults. Most children have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Deaths in children due to Covid-19 are extremely rare.



In early August the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), an authority on the health of children and young people, summarised the key current evidence regarding Covid-19 in children and young people.

Highlighted sections of the RCPCH work can be found below but we recommend that you read the full report here:

  • There have been far fewer cases of Covid-19 in children than adults - children consistently make up one to five per cent of total case numbers.
  • Covid-19 infection appears to be milder in children than in adults - with children presenting milder symptoms or no symptoms at all. Infants and children typically appear to make full recoveries.
  • Very few (around one per cent) of those infected develop life-threatening symptoms and deaths are extremely rare (around 0.01 per cent) similar to seasonal flu.
  • Emerging evidence from several countries suggests children may be less likely to acquire the disease.
  • There is some evidence that transmission by children is limited, with trends emerging to support this claim - but further research is required - studies in multiple countries, including China, of infected families have concluded that the illness was not introduced by children and a study in France found one infected child did not pass on Covid-19, despite being exposed to over 100 people. Similar studies in Ireland, Singapore and the Netherlands have found no secondary transmission from children in education settings.

Covid-19 infections in Tower Hamlets are now low, so the chances of your child catching it at school are also low. Schools are taking lots of steps to stop the virus spreading in addition to the NHS Test and Trace service which aims to find infections and stop them spreading through communities.

Since March, there have been no cases of Covid-19 in Tower Hamlets education settings. From June onwards, with wider reopening, there have been a total of two cases - introduced from the same household - with no onward transmission.

All the research suggests children may be less likely to catch Covid-19. There have been very few examples of children passing Covid-19 on in schools across the world. 

Washing children’s hands when they leave school and arrive home can reduce risk further.


Attendance will be mandatory from September, making it a legal requirement to send your child to their school.

Fines are a possibility, but we want to support families to feel confident about going back to school first.


In late March, Covid-19 infections were increasing faster than anticipated. The government then announced that schools should close to slow the spread of the virus.


In mid-May, Transport for London announced that may be introducing a temporary removal of free travel on buses and trams to schools for 11 to 17-year-olds in full time education.

This is most likely to be introduced following October half term, so travel would still be free on the return to school in September until Monday 2 November. Much of the detail is still unknown, and the situation could change, so this is the best information we have right now.

This does not impact on our statutory transport obligations.

Schools will work with Transport for London to check eligibility for discretionary free travel.

Transport for London estimate that 30 per cent of children would remain eligible for free travel, which would include the following:

  • Children aged ten and under
  • Children aged 11 to 17 who live more than two miles from their school/college
  • Children aged 11 to 17 who live less than two miles away from their school/college if they:
    • have a social worker
    • have an Education, Health and Care Plan
    • are in alternative provision (i.e. educated in a pupil referral unit, or an alternative provision academy/free school)
    • do not have a safe walking route
    • cannot walk due to a medical condition or lack of mobility

For everyone else, using an 11 to 15 and 16+ Zip card, they will be charged half of an adult fare on buses (£0.75).

Children turning 11-years-old should retain free travel until they finish primary school and eligible pupils turning 18-years-old should retain free travel until they finish school that year.


Where possible, you should avoid public transport and walk, cycle or scoot to and from school.

If you must use a private vehicle, try to park a few streets away from your school and walk the remaining distance. If you are dropping children off at the school gate, please do not idle - switch your engine off - to cut down on pollution outside of our schools. You should avoid parking anywhere where there are restrictions - look for signage, red lines, single and double yellow lines.

Check this page regularly for the latest advice, information and support on active travel.


Following government advice, measures adopted on public transport such as social distancing, will not be applied to statutory transport provision.

This is because pupils will not be mixing with the general public. Furthermore, government advice confirms that children may be mixed for activities such as specialist teaching and transport.

Like other local authorities in London, we do not have the budget, capacity or vehicles to allow for transport by bubble. Children will still travel in groups based on where they live, with an emphasis on consistency for students, drivers and staff.

We will continue to work closely with Public Health England to ensure all journeys are done in the safest way possible, and we will be responding to government guidance as it evolves.

If parents would prefer to take control of arrangements for travel to and from school, you may opt for a personal travel budget (PTB). A PTB is a payment made directly to parents to arrange their own transport.

This is only available to families who are eligible for travel assistance, with a PTB being adopted for the long term. Eligible families may also claim for help with the cost of a travel card or a contribution to the cost of petrol, if using their own vehicle.

The council also offers independent travel training (ITT) to children over ten-years-old, see video example of ITT here.

For further information on your eligibility and possible transport option available, call our Special Education Needs and Disabilities Travel Assistance Team on 020 7364 4397 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm).


Most schools in Tower Hamlets remained open for vulnerable children and children of key workers during lockdown. More schools have been reopening in phases since June, as the spread of the virus slowed down and now the number of people with the infection is low.


The family and the school will be contacted by Public Health England. They will give advice to close contacts and will support the school to stop the virus spreading to other people. The school will let parents know and will say what they are doing to protect the school community.

Close contacts will be advised to stay at home but will not usually be tested unless they develop symptoms.


If your child develops symptoms, you should arrange a test right away. If they are at home, keep them there for at least ten days (or until a negative test result comes back). If your child is at school and develops symptoms, they will be sent home for at least ten days.

Other people in your household will need to isolate with them for at least 14 days and be tested too.

Currently, positive test results for Covid-19 happen in less than one per cent of cases, and this number is falling.

If you are being tested, you should support NHS Test and Trace with their contact tracing to protect our schools and communities.


Anyone who has tested positive with Covid-19 should isolate for at least ten days. Anyone in their household should isolate for at least 14 days.

They need to tell NHS contact tracers that their children attend a school or childcare setting.


If you are a close contact of someone with Covid-19, speaking with contact tracers will help stop the spread of infection.

Please do not ignore their messages even if you think you’re okay. Take part to help keep our community safe.


If you, or anyone in your household has symptoms, you should stay at home and get tested right away.

Call 119 or visit https://nhs.uk/coronavirus.

For children under five, call 111 or visit https://111.nhs.uk for more advice.


Anyone with a new continuous cough, fever or a change or loss in their sense of taste or smell should get tested right away.

Visit https://nhs.uk/coronavirus for more information


Where possible, walk or cycle to your school and avoid public transport.

Check this page for regular updates on active travel and visit https://tfl.gov.uk/reopeningeducation for more information on active travel choices.


No. There is no need for anything other than proper handwashing and their normal personal hygiene routine, following a day at school (source).


Face coverings will be mandatory for staff and students in Year 7 and above in areas that are subject to local lockdown. Currently in Tower Hamlets - which is not subject to a local lockdown - it is the choice of individual schools. In either case, it is unlikely that they will be worn in a classroom, instead they will be worn when moving around the school, where social distancing cannot be maintained.

Check with your school to understand what they are asking you to do. The new rules do not apply to primary schools where the risks to children are lower.

Read more on the Department for Education blog: Face covering in schools and colleges: your questions answered or read the full guidance.

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