Back to School: Your Frequently Asked Questions

We know that you will have lots of questions about returning to school and about what will happen in the coming school term. We’ve answered some of your top questions below. We will keep this page up to date as more questions come in.

When will I return to school?

Most young people will be returning to school from the 11th August onwards. You might be returning to school full time on 11th August, or you might be returning on a phased basis. This means that different years might be going in at different times. How it will be for you, depends on your school or local authority. They will let you know the details of when you’re going back and how it will look. All students will be back to school full-time by 18 August.

There are no plans at the moment for young people to spend part of the school week learning from home – this is known as 'blended learning'. But this remains the back-up plan if there is a big increase in the spread of coronavirus, or COVID-19 as it’s officially known.

Why has the decision been made to return full-time?

All the decisions about going back to school have been based on what is best for you, your friends, other students and staff at your school. The decisions are informed by the advice of an expert advisory group.

The scientific advice shows that the efforts we’ve all made to contain the virus through lockdown mean that infectious cases in Scotland are now at very low levels. As case numbers have gone down, the Scottish Government and local authorities have been able to move to reopen schools full time. However, if case numbers do rise again, the government will look again at the situation.

Further information on the scientific advice which led to this decision can be found on the Scottish Government website.

What will it look and feel like in school?

Schools will have plans in place to make sure you can return safely on a full time basis.

An important priority for the return to schools is supporting your wellbeing, particularly in the first few weeks and months. This will recognise the amount of time that you, your friends and other students have spent away from school. This is about your physical and mental health, but it is also about ensuring that wellbeing is a really important priority for your learning.

What about transport to and from school?

Your local authority might develop local advice on how to safely travel to and from school in a way which minimises the risks from coronavirus.

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 lockdown. The autumn term is a good opportunity to keep this going, and to help to limit the spread of coronavirus. 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 return to schools 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.

What does this mean in practice?

It means that if you are at primary school travelling on a dedicated school bus or other school transport you won’t need to physically distance from other students or wear face coverings. Although you might to be asked to use good hand hygiene which might include hand sanitiser.

If you are at secondary school then you should try as much as possible to physically distance from other pupils but this may not always be possible. Again, you might to be asked to maintain good hand hygiene which might include hand sanitiser.

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. 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 will be preparing new hygiene and cleanliness procedures, including more cleaning of buildings and regular hand washing for students and staff.

Your school will try to limit the amount 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.

All these changes will be discussed with you when you go back to school and are being done to limit the risk of spreading coronavirus, just like the changes to things outside of school.

Will I need to physically distance from my friends and other students?

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

When schools return in August, primary school pupils won’t need to distance from one another. This is because the balance of the scientific evidence suggests that no distancing should be needed between children in primary schools.

The evidence on physical distancing is less clear for older young people (aged 12 and above). As such secondary school pupils will be encouraged to distance from one another where possible when in the school building and grounds.

This means that classroom layout in secondary schools will possibly change to maintain class numbers but support physical distancing where this is practical. However, it will be up to individual schools to make arrangements according to their rooms/buildings. For example, where there are three maths sets in a year group (one set with 30 pupils, another with 20 pupils and another with ten pupils) the class size may be altered to improve the spread of pupils and create three sets of 20 pupils.

It is difficult to be specific about what this will mean in national guidance like this, as it will depend on the layout of the school.

Pupils in both primary and secondary schools will also be asked to distance from their teachers and other adults in school.

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

Will I need to wear a face covering or other “personal protective equipment” (PPE)?

In most circumstances you will not need to wear face coverings when in school, though you are free to wear one if you wish.

Again, in most circumstances, your teacher and other school staff will also not need to wear face coverings or other PPE. However, if they wish to wear a face covering they can do so.

If you have been advised to wear face coverings or other protective equipment for medical reasons you will be supported to do so – and you should make sure to tell your school if you do need to wear a face covering for medical reasons.

If the number of coronavirus cases starts rising again across Scotland or in your local area, schools may ask staff and older student to wear face coverings in school as part of measures to reduce the spread of the virus.

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

It is likely that your school will ask 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.

Will we need to wear school uniform?

Lots of pupils have asked about 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?

The national guidance says that schools might wish to introduce staggered break and lunch times. This means that you might have your lunch at slightly different times, and you might take their lunch in smaller groups.

The guidance doesn’t require all schools to follow the same policy and it states that schools should come to arrangements which 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.

Between now and when term starts each local authority and school will be making their own plans for how meals (hot and cold) will be provided. Your school will be in touch to confirm arrangements – please look out for any advice between now and the start of term.

If you go out of school grounds for lunch you 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?

Your school will 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 most common symptoms are:

· new, continuous cough

· fever/high temperature (37.8C or greater)

· loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste (anosmia)

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.

What if I have been shielding?

All young people and staff who have been shielding should be able to return to school in August, unless you or your parents or carers are given advice from a GP or healthcare provider not to. If you or your parents or carers have any concerns you may want to discuss these with your school or local authority. If you are unable to go to school due to health advice, the school will have plans in place to allow your learning to continue, through distance learning.

I’m anxious about returning to school – what will be done to support my wellbeing?

It is 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 resources.

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.

I’m worried about starting S1. What will be done to help me?

Having schools closed has been hard for pupils who are going into P1 or S1. They will have missed out on things like induction days that they would normally have when starting school. Schools will have plans in place to help you settle into your new school. In some schools there might be more of a phased return.

Will my learning be affected by the changes being put in place?

This has been a difficult time for everyone - in particular young people. When you go back to school, your teachers will spend time focusing on helping you, your friends and other pupils feel more settled. This will support your learning.

Wellbeing will be a high priority, and this is a very important aspect of the curriculum. Your school might take a phased approach to giving you formal schoolwork. They might ask you for your concerns or questions as part of an effort to ensure that students’ priorities are taken account of in the return to schools.

Practical activities, sport and music

There are no plans for schools to teach a reduced curriculum or to provide fewer subject choices than they did prior to coronavirus. However, for 'hands-on' learning and activities, your teachers will be likely to adapt the way they deliver lessons to allow learners to carry out these activities in a safe way. Certain activities may not be taking place in the same way when you first return at the start of the new term.

Scientific and medical advice is still being developed on activities such as singing, talking at loudly, for example in drama performance, or playing wind/brass musical instruments, and how these can be managed safely.

Senior phase pupils and subject choice

It is important that all young people can succeed in the areas that they are most passionate about. Schools and teachers will be doing all they can to make sure that this continues to happen.

Most senior phase pupils will already have made their subject choices for the next school year. Your school should support you to learn in a way which is best for you. If you have any concerns about the delivery of a subject due to changes which may be in place, you or your parents or carers should talk to your teachers.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) have said that a full timetable of exams and coursework is planned at all levels in 2021. The most up to date advice and guidance from the SQA can be found on their website.

What about after school care and clubs?

The Scottish Government has published guidance covering all the wider activities like after school care and after school clubs. Your school should be in contact with your parents or carers to make them aware of any new arrangements.

Measures will be taken to ensure that when you attend after school clubs you are kept safe and the chance for the virus to spread is minimised. Where possible, your parents or carers are being asked to try to limit the number of out of school care settings you attend, as it’s still important to minimise the number of people that children have contact with.

Further guidance is still being developed to provide more detail on other out of school activities such as sports clubs, bands, choirs and other groups.

What if I have additional support needs?

For many young people with additional support needs the 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 ahead of the new school term 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 there is another outbreak of coronavirus?

If there is a local outbreak of the virus which affects your school there will be a discussion between your school, the local authority and local health protection teams, and they will decide what action needs to be taken. They might decide to temporarily close the school. If this happens you will be provided with work to do at home, just like in the 'lockdown' in March/April, with digital classrooms and online learning for a temporary period.

What happens if I need to self-isolate for two weeks?

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 can I do to help?

The period since March 2020 has been a challenging one for you, your teachers and your parents or carers.

This next period will be challenging too.

It will be a lot closer to 'normal' because you will be attending school and seeing your friends every day. But it will also be different – a “new normal” – because the safety arrangements will mean changes in the way that the school day will look and feel.

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

One of the best things you can do is to keep good hygiene to help minimise the spread of coronavirus. This means washing your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds and catching any coughs or sneezes in a tissue or into your sleeve or elbow.

Where can I get 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 Back to School 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.