Going to School During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

Last Updated 12/04/2021 at 17:38

We answer lots of questions you might have about going to school this year during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

When will pupils return to in-school learning?

After the Easter holidays, most secondary pupils will return to school full-time. Pupils who are shielding will not return to school full-time until at least 26th April.

After the Easter break, young people returning to education who are in secondary school (S1-S6 inclusive) will be able to test for coronavirus at home, twice a week, using lateral flow devices. 

When attending school, you should wear a face covering and continue washing your hands regularly. When schools return from 12th April, physical distancing won't always be in place, but other measures may be increased (for example, more ventilation in classrooms), this will vary from school to school. 

Your school will have the latest information about expected return dates and arrangements in the meantime, so make sure you check their website and social media pages for the most up to date announcements.

Find out more about FACTS at school and how you can prevent spreading COVID-19.

How will exams be affected?

The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills have announced the following changes to the SQA exams schedule for 2021:

  • National 5 exams have been cancelled, and instead, students will be awarded grades based on their coursework throughout the year, and the grades estimated by their teachers.
  • It is likely that your grade will be based on between two and four pieces of coursework. There is more information about how this might impact the subjects you are studying on the SQA website.
  • Higher and Advanced Higher exams have been cancelled. Grades will be based on teacher judgement of evidence of learner attainment. Information will be published shortly on how this will work.The SQA has also said that a range of scenarios is being considered regarding the alternative certification model that will be used to award grades this year. 

The alternative certification model will let teachers and lecturers use assessments you have done as evidence to decide what your results should be. Checks will be in place to ensure that results are fair, this is called quality assurance. Find out more about the alternative certification model.

Your results will arrive by post on 10th August 2021. You can also use MySQA to access your results by text message or email. 

The appeals process for 2021 is currently being developed. 

For more information, visit the SQA website and download their booklet for learners or watch the short video below.

What does it look and feel like in school?

Schools have plans in place to make sure you can attend as safely as possible.

You should always remember FACTS, as much as possible.

FACTS stand for:

  • 😷 Face coverings
  • 🙅 Avoid crowded spaces
  • 🧼 Clean your hands regularly
  • ↔️ Two-metre distance 
  • 🌡 Self isolate and book a test if you have symptoms

Additionally, all students will be asked to do a voluntary COVID-19 test at home using what is called a lateral flow device (LFD). For more information about lateral flow devices and the testing programme, visit our FAQ.

Your school will provide you with more information about LFD tests and will organise a time and date for you to go to school to collect a supply of tests to enable you to do them at home.

Check out more of our information about FACTS at high 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.

As confirmed by the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, on the 8th March 2021, all secondary school pupils will be given lateral flow devices (LFDs) which are test kits, to use twice a week, so they can test themselves at home during their phased return. 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.

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.

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 the lockdown! 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 should physically distance from other pupils, this means staying 2 metres apart. Again, 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 five 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.

Your safety in school

Schools now have hygiene and cleanliness procedures, including more cleaning of buildings and regular hand washing for students and staff.

Your school will be trying to limit the number of times you and other students move around the school. They will try to limit physical contact between students 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 students?

Physical distancing means staying at least two metres apart from other people.

In order to enable all students to go back to school after the Easter break, there will be no requirement for physical distancing between pupils during the school day where it's not possible. However, you should physically distance yourself from school staff and other adults in school. 

As physical distance won't always be possible at school, other measures to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 will be put into place. This will vary between schools but could include:

  • encouraging physical distancing where it is possible 
  • discouraging of contact, for example through hugs or holding hands
  • increased distances between desks in classrooms and changes to room layouts 
  • changes to seating plans so you sit next to rather than opposite other pupils 

You can find more information about the evidence that has informed the decisions at the Scottish government website.

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, in communal areas and in classrooms. Your teachers and school staff will also need to wear them as well. This is in line with World Health Organisation guidance.

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.

Find out more about wearing a face covering at secondary school. 

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.

Will you need to wear a school uniform?

The national guidance does not require any changes to schools’ existing school uniform policy, but it does recommend that school uniforms and staff clothing should be washed regularly – as would be recommended normally.

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 students and parents/carers should be involved in discussions. Please look out for any specific advice from your school.

If students 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.

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. Find out more about lateral flow device tests and the school testing programme.

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.

If you're 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 has 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 if you need to self-isolate for ten days?

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

What about my 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 you can do to help

Dealing with the coronavirus outbreak has been challenging for you, your teachers and your parents or carers. The future will also be challenging too.

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.

Remember FACTS:

  • 😷 Face coverings
  • 🙅 Avoid crowded spaces
  • 🧼 Clean your hands regularly 
  • ↔️ Two metre distance
  • 🌡 Self isolate and book a test if you have symptoms

You can also help by taking part in the regular testing that will be happening at school. Take a look at our FAQ on lateral flow device tests and the testing programme for more information.

If you’re aged 12 or over, you can download the Protect Scotland App

Check out more of our information about FACTS at high school.

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.