Schools in England closed their doors to the majority of children on Friday 20th March. The unprecedented move was taken to help reduce the spread of coronavirus. 

Six months later and the start of the new school year in England is just around the corner. Inevitably there will be some changes in place and there will be a period of adjustment for children as well as parents. 

Dr Daniel Atkinson, Clinical Lead at Treated.com, helps take us through the potential ‘new-normal’ for returning to school and what parents can do to help their children through the process.

Be vigilant for Coronavirus symptoms

Keep an eye out for symptoms. As your child starts to mix with more people it’s important to remember that the virus is still out there. Don’t send your child to school if they show signs of a new or persistent cough or a high temperature. 

Dr Atkinson tells us: ‘The risks of coronavirus for young children are small and the benefits of returning to school are big. New safety precautions have been put in place to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading through schools, however, it’s still important to follow the government guidelines on isolation should you or your child develop symptoms.’

Check in on mental wellbeing 

In the lead up to the first day back at school, find a moment to sit down and talk to your child about what’s going to happen. This will give you an opportunity to explain the potential changes your child might come across in their school setting. If your child’s school has sent through any information now is a good time to go through it. 

Use this time to check in on their mental wellbeing. Ask them how they are feeling about returning to school and try to reassure them that whilst things might be a little different to what they remember (if they used to attend school before lockdown) they will still be learning lots of new and exciting things as well as having fun. 

Dr Atkinson says: ‘It’s difficult to say how the pause in education caused by coronavirus will impact our children. Children are resilient but can be sensitive to external factors, especially when they see how adults are reacting. However, there’s no doubt that returning to school and interacting with their peers will be a positive experience for the majority of children.

It is possible that some children will be feeling anxious about being apart from their parents. Speaking to your children and giving them time to process what going back to school will be like is one of the best things you can do at this time. This will give them the support they need to return to school with confidence.’

Get used to washing hands

It’s probably something that you’re already used to doing at this point, even without the school routine. However, the start of the new school year provides the perfect opportunity to reiterate the importance of washing your hands. 

Get your children used to doing it before they leave the house and make sure your children wash their hands as soon as they get home from school. 

Dr Atkinson explains: ‘Maintaining good hand hygiene is just as important now as it was at the start of lockdown. Encouraging your children to wash their hands before they leave the house, before and after meals, after using the toilet and when they return home is a good habit even when they’re not in school.’

Drop off and pick up rules

The oft fast-paced school drop off may be a little different when the autumn term starts. There may be new rules in place to help maintain good social distancing between parents, teachers and other children. As parents it’s important to adhere to the guidelines provided by your child’s school. By following any new safety rules put in place by your child’s school, you’ll be setting the best possible example for your child. 

So, what could you expect on your child’s first day back in school? There could be a one-way system in place, staggered start and finish times, parents may not be allowed to remain on the school premises or enter the building and you may be asked to wear a mask. 

Dr Atkinson tells us: ‘Depending on the rules set out by your child’s school, you may feel more comfortable wearing a mask to drop off or pick up your child. It’s also good to get into the habit of carrying hand sanitiser with you too.

Be aware that it could take some time for everyone to get up to speed with the new rules and therefore drop off or pick up could be a little slower than usual.’ 

Make things as easy as possible for both you and your child

Try to reinstate a routine for your child before the school year starts. This can be as simple as getting up at regular time in the morning, having breakfast and getting dressed. Keeping regular meal times can also help build structure into your child’s day and reflects what they can expect at school. 

Some children have not been to their education setting for over six months. Therefore adapting to the new school year, following on from these unusual summer holidays, may take some time.  Make sure that your contact details are up to date with the school and keep in touch with your child’s teacher so that you are aware of any changes to the guidelines or issues that your child may be experiencing. 

Parents may be anxious about sending their kids back to school after such a turbulent time and with still many unanswered questions about the next steps in the fight against coronavirus. 

Dr Atkinson tells us: ‘Feeling anxious about waving your child back off to school is normal. Don’t feel like you’re going through this process alone. A new school year can cause some level of stress for all parents even without the current extreme external factors. If possible, speak to other parents, introduce yourself to your child’s teacher and make sure you’re up-to-date with what will be expected of you and your children when the school term starts. Try to avoid leaving things to the last minute as that could add to any potential stress

Most schools are encouraging email contact or have links to their coronavirus guidelines on their webpage. Having the knowledge that safety precautions are in place will help reassure you and your children.’