Full reopening of schools from Monday 8 March
Face-to-face classroom learning for all schoolchildren in Tower Hamlets began again on Monday 8 March.
This is not the end of lockdown, but it is the beginning of a gradual relaxation, or ‘4-step plan’ to ease lockdown.
Attendance is mandatory for all students, and the benefits of attending are multiple. School/college remains the best place to support your child’s learning and their wellbeing.
If you have any questions or concerns you should speak directly to your child’s school.
Thank you for the work you’ve done this far to support your children’s learning whilst schools have been closed to many.
Visit our advice and support page to get help at home with children’s mental health, online learning and for more information about online safety.
“It is absolutely universally accepted that there are huge advantages for children to be in school from a health point of view, as well as educational and from a life course point of view.
“If you keep children out of school, every single one of the children you keep out of school is disadvantaged. The risk to children is incredibly low from going to school and from catching Covid. So everything is strongly in favour of children going to school.”
Prof. Chris Witty, speaking on 24 February
We recommend that you continue to scroll down this page for some answers to common questions and that you also read the Education Secretary’s Open Letter to parents, carers and guardians (23 February) and All students to return to school and college from 8 March and what you need to know (22 February) from the Department for Education.
Where can I get the latest information and advice about COVID-19?
If you would like to receive regular updates about the COVID-19 situation in the UK, and in Tower Hamlets, by email, WhatsApp or weekly video discussions, become a COVID-19 Community Champion today.
Weekly video discussions are themed (eg testing, mental health, schools) and include a standing item on vaccines plus an opportunity to ask questions to our experts.
You can also sign up to receive our residents’ newsletter – sent once a week, visit our Coronavirus page or go to gov.uk/coronavirus.
Testing in secondary schools
Testing is voluntary but strongly encouraged. By testing people, we can uncover infection with no symptoms, helping us to find positive cases of infection quickly and break the chain of transmission.
Secondary school and college students will take COVID-19 tests as they return the classroom from the 8 March.
Schools and colleges will have discretion on how to phase the return of their students over the first week to allow them to be tested on return.
Children and young people will have their first three tests in school/college to help them get used to the tests, Students will then be provided with two rapid tests to use each week at home.
Staff in secondary schools will also be supplied with test kits to self-swab and test themselves twice a week at home.
Schools should offer students tests three to five days apart to manage the number of students passing through the test site at any one time.
Anyone who tests positive will need to self-isolate.
Testing in primary schools
Primary school staff are being supplied with test kits to use at home twice a week.
Primary school students are not currently being asked to take part in testing.
Public Health England have advised there are currently limited public health benefits attached to testing primary students.
Primary-age students may find the testing process unpleasant and are unable to self-swab. This approach will be reviewed in the light of any emerging evidence.
What safety measures are in place at schools and colleges?
The safety of children, young people and education staff is taken very seriously, with guidance for education settings based on the best medical advice from Public Health England. Locally, advice to schools and colleges includes regular review and recommendations from the Tower Hamlets public health team too.
Evidence from the Public Health England-led Schools Infection Study continues to show that infection rates in schools mirror infection rates in the wider community, suggesting schools are not the main driver of infections.
The Schools Infection Study (SIS) by PHE, ONS and LSHTM also showed that COVID-19 infection rates in schools among staff and students mirrored infection rates in the wider community.
PHE’s Surveillance in Schools study (sKIDS) suggests that transmission in primary schools is extremely low and outbreaks are rare.
Measures introduced in 2020 have been strengthened, which mean staff and students in secondary schools and colleges are advised to wear face coverings in all areas, including classrooms, where social distancing cannot be maintained as a temporary extra measure until Easter when this will be reviewed.
Watch How to wear a fabric mask safely
Any staff and students who fall into the Phase 1 priority groups determined by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will have been offered a vaccination by the middle of May.
See BBC ‘COVID: When will I get the vaccine?’ for latest information.
The JVCI will provide advice on the next phase of the vaccine rollout. The Government is committed to offering every adult a dose of the vaccine by 31st July.
The vaccine is currently not being offered to children. Research is underway to understand how the vaccines work in children and whether there would be a benefit to rolling the programme out to them in future.
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
View our advice and support page for a collection of links, advice, information, and support for parent/carers with school-aged children during COVID-19.
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).
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.
See also Mental health resources for children, students, parents, carers and school/college staff from the Department for Education.
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.
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