Going Back to School After the Summer Break

Last Updated 14/19/2021 at 14:55

We answer lots of questions you might have about going to school and will continue to keep this page up to date throughout the term with the latest information.

What does it look and feel like in school?

For the first six weeks after you return to school, the restrictions will be similar to before you finished for summer. This includes:

  • Face coverings will continue to be worn by staff in communal areas in all schools, and in classrooms by staff and pupils in secondary schools, up until October break (unless you are exempt).
  • Teachers and other staff will physically distance (one metre) from pupils and from other members of staff/adults.
  • You will be asked to take a lateral flow device test twice a week. Find out more about lateral flow device tests in our frequently asked questions article.

There have also been changes to self-isolation rules. From when you return, if you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you will be asked to self-isolate and take a PCR test. If the PCR test comes back as negative, you can end your self-isolation and return to school. This means it is unlikely that whole school classes will have to self-isolate and there will therefore be less disruption to your learning.

You may also be asked to do an additional lateral flow test if you are a 'low-risk' close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. If this is the case, your school will let you and your parents/carers know what you need to do.

All schools have plans in place to make sure you can attend as safely as possible. One of the things your school will be looking into is ventilation to help reduce the risk of the virus spreading at school.

Do you have to get tested to go back to school?

If you have any symptoms of coronavirus it is really important to get tested. Find out more about the symptoms and how to book a test.

If you don’t have symptoms of COVID-19, you are encouraged to continue to take lateral flow device (LFDs) tests twice a week. These tests are for people who don’t show any symptoms of the virus (asymptomatic) and should be taken three to four days apart. This is voluntary and you don't need to do this. However, by taking part you will help to make the school environment and community a safer place for everyone.

You may also be asked to do an additional lateral flow test if you are considered a 'low-risk' contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. If this is the case, the school will let you know and ask you to do a lateral flow test before you return to school.

It is really important to remember to report your results after doing your lateral flow device test, including if the result is positive, negative or void.

All members of staff working within your school will also be offered these tests.

Find out more about the testing being offered in schools in our FAQ.

Your safety in school

Schools still have enhanced hygiene and cleanliness procedures, including more cleaning of buildings and regular hand washing for pupils and staff.

Your school will be trying to limit the number of times you and other pupils move around the school. They will try to limit physical contact between pupils and teachers or other staff, where this is appropriate. They might stagger your break and lunchtimes and there may be slightly different start and finish times.

Your school will want to ensure that school spaces are well ventilated. This means that you might find that windows are open more often than before. You might also have more learning in the outdoors. There may be one-way systems in corridors and there might be different timetables to reduce the amount of mixing children and young people have to do.

Will you need to physically distance from your friends and other pupils?

Physical distancing means staying a certain distance, normally one or two metres, apart from other people.

There will be no requirement for physical distancing between pupils during the school day. However, you should physically distance yourself from school staff and other adults in school. These measures will likely be in place for the first six weeks of the new school term. 

Will you need to wear a face mask or face covering?

Research has found that wearing a face covering helps protect yourself and those around you.

At secondary school, all pupils are asked to wear face coverings when moving around schools, on school transport (if over 12 years of age), in communal areas and in classrooms. Your teachers and school staff will also need to wear them as well. These measures will measures will remain in place until the October break. 

Some people are exempt from wearing a face covering, this could be because:

  • they have a disability or health condition that means they cannot put a covering on,
  • a covering will cause them severe distress or anxiety, and/or,
  • they need to communicate with someone who relies on lip-reading.

If you are exempt from wearing a face covering, don't worry - you won't be asked to wear a face covering. If you need support or guidance, speak to your teacher or someone you trust at school for support.

Remember, if you see someone at school not wearing a face covering, they might be exempt from wearing a face covering.

If you don’t have access to a face covering, lose yours during the day or it becomes dirty, go to your school office, they should be able to provide you with a new one.

How will coronavirus be monitored to help prevent future outbreaks?

All pupils will be offered free lateral flow device, or LFD, tests to help monitor the spread of coronavirus. This is a test kit that can be done at home and helps to identify if you have the virus but aren’t showing any symptoms (also known as being asymptomatic). If you test positive using one of these kits, you should self-isolate immediately and book a PCR test which is done at a drive-through or community centre. You should also let your school know as soon as possible so that they can start contact tracing. 

At the start of term, there will be new LFD tests available. These tests only require a nasal-swab. You are encouraged to use up your LFD tests before receiving the new ones to prevent waste. These new LFDs will become available in your school when they run out of previous LFDs and have to order new stock.

Your school will also be taking extra care to look out for any symptoms of coronavirus. They will move swiftly to support people if anyone connected to the school community develops symptoms.

If there is a coronavirus outbreak at your school, your parents or carers will be contacted as soon as this has been identified. Steps will be taken to test anyone showing any symptoms and they will be asked to self-isolate.

It’s important that you and your parents or carers look out for symptoms of the virus amongst you and your family.

The main symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

If you believe that you, your parents or family members may have coronavirus it is important to follow the latest NHS inform guidance on coronavirus.

If you're aged 12 or above, you can also download the Protect Scotland app. Find out more about the app.

Do you need to self-isolate?

You will only need to self-isolate if you are asked to do so by a contact tracer, a member of staff at school or you get a notification from the Protect Scotland app. If you are asked to self-isolate, this will be because you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Rules around self-isolation have changed as you go back to school after summer. If you are a close contact of someone who has COVID-19, you will be asked to self-isolate and book a PCR test. If your PCR test comes back as negative, you will no longer need to self-isolate and can return to school. Continuing to take lateral flow device tests as you return will also help to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

If you need to self-isolate, the school will have plans in place to allow your learning to continue in a distance-learning arrangement.

You must self-isolate between getting a PCR test and receiving the results.

Will your parents/carers be allowed into the school building?

It is likely that your school might be asking parents and family members not to enter school buildings.

This is to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus. There may be new arrangements for dropping you off at school and limits on the use of school and community facilities like swimming pools or community centres or libraries in the school.

You should speak to your school about how this might affect you, as each school will be different.

What will happen at lunchtime?

Your school might have a staggered break and lunchtimes. This means that you might have your lunch at slightly different times, and you might take their lunch in smaller groups.

National guidance doesn't require all schools to follow the same policy and it states that schools should come to arrangements that suit them. It is recommended that pupils and parents/carers should be involved in discussions. Please look out for any specific advice from your school.

If pupils go out of the school grounds for lunch, they should follow the rules in place for wider society, for example wearing a face covering when entering a shop.

What about transport to and from school?

As far as it is safe to do so, you are encouraged to travel to school by foot, bike or scooter. We’ve seen an increase in the number of people walking and cycling during over the last year and a half! You can get further advice on cycling to school from the Sustrans website. You can also find information about Bikeability Scotland, the national cycle training programme for school children, and whether your school takes part in the scheme.

The national guidance on attending school says that “dedicated school transport” – in other words, a school bus which is organised by your school rather than a public transport bus - should be treated as an extension of the school estate.

This means that if you travel on a school bus or similar shared school transport, you will be asked to comply with the new arrangements required as if you were in school.

If you're at secondary school

You will be asked to maintain good hand hygiene which might include hand sanitiser. Unless you're exempt, if you're using transport provided by the school such as a school bus, you should wear a face covering when boarding the bus, during the entire journey and when leaving, until you're off the bus.

Public transport

The rules are different for public transport.

Anyone over 12 years old who uses public transport to get to and from school will be asked to wear face coverings and must follow the rules on physical distancing, unless exempt. More information on public transport can be found on the Transport Scotland website.

However you get to and from school, it’s a good idea for you and your parents/carers to plan your journey ahead of time.

If you're feeling anxious about being at school

It's totally normal for you to feel anxious or worried and for your parents to have these feelings too. You can get lots of advice from our #AyeFeel page on mental wellbeing.

You should feel confident in asking any questions of your school, and your parents or carers should feel confident in doing the same. Remember - guidance teachers, counsellors and other support staff are there to help, and to answer any questions that you might have.

What about people with additional support needs?

For many young people with additional support needs the recent school closures and disrupted routines have been extremely difficult. Schools and local authorities know that many pupils and their parents or carers are anxious to ensure that you receive the ongoing support that you need.

Your school should be in contact with your parents or carers to discuss your individual needs. You and your parents or carers can find further guidance about additional support needs on the Enquire website.

What about your Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA)?

If you get EMA to help you continue learning, you will still get the amount you are entitled to, even if you have to take time off from school or college because:

  • you need to self-isolate
  • you have the virus
  • your school or college closes

Find out more about EMA here.

What can you do to help?

Dealing with the coronavirus outbreak has been challenging for you, your teachers and your parents or carers.

The Scottish Government, your school and your local authority would appreciate your help in following the advice and supporting the new rules that have been in place in school from August onwards.

These are some steps you can take to help reduce the spread of COVID-19:

  • wear a face covering
  • clean your hands regularly and practice good hygiene
  • if you have symptoms get a test and stay at home
  • take lateral flow device tests twice a week and report your results (positive, negative and void)
  • use the Protect Scotland app

Tell us how you're keeping yourself and your friends safe and helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 and you could win a MacBook or an iPad!

More Information

Information for you

Check out our coronavirus web pages for more of our information about coronavirus.

You and your parents or carers have a right to ask questions, to seek the information you need and discuss any issues with your school. Please contact your school or local authority if you have questions about local arrangements. Your school will likely have a Pupil Council or other pupil voice groups if you wish to play a part in ensuring that student views are heard in your own school.

Information for your parents or carers

The Parent Club website has information and advice for your parents or carers.

Parents and carers can also access Guidance for Parents and Carers from the National Parent Forum of Scotland. This guide includes contact details for your school’s local authority.

NHS Inform has a wide range of guidance, including physical distancing measures and advice for infected households.

The official Scottish Government guidance

All of the Scottish Government official guidance documents are available from the Scottish Government website.

Scroll down to 'Education and Children' for the return to school guidance.

Visit our Coronavirus (COVID-19) information pages.