Mum tells you what to expect when children go back to school

A mum of triplets who have already returned to school has given advice to other parents whose children will be back in the classroom next month.

Julie McCaffrey’s 11-year-old triplets have started high school in Perthshire, Scotland and Boris Johnson has made it clear he wants all children in England back at school when they reopen in September.

Boris Johnson has issued a plea to parents to send their children back to the classroom when schools reopen next month.

The Prime Minister said the risk of contracting coronavirus in schools is “very small”, and that pupils face greater harm by continuing to stay at home.

Julie told the Mirror: “My 11-year-old triplets Lily, Clara and Elise are well aware of the deadly seriousness of Covid-19 after many tears during the long lockdown separation from their grandparents.

“But they sprinted off, without a backwards glance to start their new high school.

“Things are very different, of course. Alongside their pristine pencil cases and scientific calculators, they have masks and hand sanitisers in their school bags.

“But to kids deprived of the company of classmates for so long, they’re small inconveniences. In their excited minds, precautionary measures are positive changes.

“Take the uniform re-think, for instance. All summer, we’ve had blazing rows about my girls obstinate refusal to wear their blazers.

“No amount of cajoling – “but you suit purple. And blazers have so many really cool secret pockets for pens” – could convince them.

“Then news came from school that blazers were banned for the first term because they couldn’t be laundered daily and carried a small risk of cross-infection. Same goes for ties.

“Round one to my girls.”

She added: “Lily has a sartorial style that can be described as casual in the extreme. She had insisted on wearing her favourite paint-splattered denim dungarees to her primary school prom before it was Covid-cancelled.

“So when further news came that girls should wear black leggings or joggers to school to remove the need to change for PE, she thumbed her nose at me.

“Two nil to the triplets.

“Our annual shoe-shopping row has blighted every summer holiday since the beginning of primary school.

“I want my girls to wear formal, leather school shoes, while they loudly protest that they are the ONLY ones in the WHOLE SCHOOL not wearing trainers.

“This year my girls begged to be put up for adoption rather than wear mum-approved shoes.

“Then news came from the school that all-black trainers should be worn so pupils can seamlessly skip from class to gym. The kids win again.”

She added: “The staggered start saw only first years in the school building on day one, leaving the dining hall to themselves and safe from having their sandwiches swiped by sixth years.

“Trips to the nearby deli to buy a slice of pizza at lunchtime are now forbidden.

“To cut down on children charging through corridors, their timetables have been re-worked.

“Morning registration has been abandoned and they do three two-hour lessons each day instead of seven different subjects. It means more time to finish assignments and less homework.

“Sanitising hands and wiping surfaces at the start and end of lessons keeps kids and classrooms safer – and smelling fresher.

“And my girls don’t even mind the teachers being behind screens at the front of class. “It means they can’t see us passing notes at the back of the class,” giggled Clara.

““And it’s nice not having teachers peering over our jotters while we’re working,” agreed Elise.

“So when the majority of our English, Welsh and Irish cousins return to school next month, I hope you all feel as safe and reassured as we do.

And I hope you enjoy the sound of the school bell – and the peace in the house – as much as I do.”

Boris Johnson has issued a plea to parents to send their children back to the classroom when schools reopen next month.

The Prime Minister said the risk of contracting coronavirus in schools is “very small”, and that pupils face greater harm by continuing to stay at home.

Many pupils in England have not been to class since March, when schools were closed except to look after vulnerable children and those of keyworkers.

Schools in Scotland reopened earlier this month, while those in Northern Ireland will welcome pupils again on Monday. English and Welsh schools will follow suit in September.

Mr Johnson said: “I have previously spoken about the moral duty to reopen schools to all pupils safely, and I would like to thank the school staff who have spent the summer months making classrooms Covid-secure in preparation for a full return in September.

“We have always been guided by our scientific and medical experts, and we now know far more about coronavirus than we did earlier this year.

“As the chief medical officer has said, the risk of contracting Covid-19 in school is very small and it is far more damaging for a child’s development and their health and wellbeing to be away from school any longer.

“This is why it’s vitally important that we get our children back into the classroom to learn and to be with their friends. Nothing will have a greater effect on the life chances of our children than returning to school.”

Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith wrote in the Daily Telegraph that the Government “needs to show it governs with a steady hand, based on a clear strategy and message”.

He added: “This battle over schools reopening must see the Prime Minister in the lead, galvanising his inner Churchill.

“It is a fight that if the Government wins, will see the start of an uplift in its fortunes and win it must.”

Mr Johnson’s comments come after the UK’s chief medical officers issued a joint statement seeking to reassure parents that it was safe to send their children back to school.

They said “very few, if any” children and teenagers would come to long-term harm from the virus solely by attending school, while there was a “certainty” of harm from not returning.

A Public Health England (PHE) analysis, published on Sunday, found there were 67 single confirmed cases, four “co-primary cases” (two or more linked cases diagnosed at the same time) and 30 outbreaks of Covid-19 in schools during June.

It said the majority of cases linked to outbreaks were in staff and warned that school staff needed to be “more vigilant for exposure outside the school setting to protect themselves, their families and the educational setting”.

The analysis also said further school closures may be necessary in regions with increasing community infection but this should “be considered only in extremis”.

Dr Shamez Ladhani, paediatric infectious diseases specialist at PHE, who headed the monitoring of England’s schools, told The Times: “We need to educate the educators.

“There’s a clear need for a duty of care outside the school setting so staff need to protect themselves, and in turn other staff and pupils.”

He added: “Staff are very good at social distancing and infection control in the classroom, but upon leaving the school environment these measures are more likely to be broken, potentially putting themselves and their colleagues at risk.”

Education unions have called for greater clarity on how schools should handle a spike in coronavirus cases.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Government advice needs to cover the possible self-isolation of bubbles and, in extremis, moving to rotas or to more limited opening.

“It needs to cover advice to heads about the protections needed for staff in high-risk categories if infection rates rise.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson’s commitment to get all children back to school was at “serious risk” after a “week of chaos” over exam results.

Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Layla Moran called on Mr Johnson to sack Gavin Williamson to “restore confidence among parents, pupils and teachers”.

On Sunday, the Education Secretary defended a trip to see “family in Scarborough” after reports he visited the seaside resort for a holiday the week before the A-level results fiasco.

Mr Williamson wrote on Twitter: “I cancelled our family holiday abroad this year to focus on the challenges Covid-19 created for the education sector.

“Over the summer, I went to see family in Scarborough for the first time since lockdown, and while there I was in constant communication with the Department.”

Mr Johnson is expected to return to Westminster this week after he ended his summer holiday in Scotland, with his fiancee Carrie Symonds and son Wilfred, early.

Hugo Tilmouth, CEO of hygiene and charging stations company, CleanedUp / ChargedUp said: “Schools are a vital part of our community. We have been working hard with education providers in a bid to help them operate effectively and safely in the coming weeks with our hand sanitising stations, helping to provide parents with added confidence .”

What to expect

Smaller classes : classes will be maximum of 30 pupils, however, guidelines suggest if schools can have smaller then they should do so.

Bubbles : Your child will be assigned to a bubble – a group they will need to stick in. A bubble can range from the size of a class to the size of a year group. The idea is if one child tests positive then the whole bubble needs to be sent home for 2 weeks.

Track and trace : there will be track and trace systems in place to keep your child safe. If any child feels poorly they will be tested and will have to isolate for 14 days if the test is positive. The NHS will then be informed and as a parent, you will have to contact everyone your child has been in contact with. They must then also isolate for 14 days.

Staggered break times : Schools will be staggering break times throughout the day, to reduce your child mixing with other bubbles.

5 ways to keep your child safe at school in September

In this guide, we‘ve put together 5 ways you can help improve your child’s safety, ready for when they’re back at school according to CEO of hygiene and charging stations company, CleanedUp / ChargedUp Hugo Tilmouth.

Gamify social distancing!

Us adults know that social distancing is still the most effective way of preventing the spread of coronavirus, but it can be a really difficult one to explain to young people – especially when they can be so used to hugging their friends and playing close contact games at lunchtime.

To help your child understand, use simple and positive language. Explain that we have to keep our germs to ourselves so that we can keep everyone else healthy. Try not to give them too much info on the science behind the virus – or leave that explanation for their class teacher! But most importantly, listen to how they are feeling about it.

Tip: You could make a game of practising social distancing outside of school, for example: while you’re doing the food shop in town, suggest they walk 1m apart from you (and others!) and if they manage to do it for the whole duration, they get to choose what’s for desert!

Be a good example when it comes to hand sanitisers

Government guidelines advise that frequent handwashing is the most effective way of preventing the spread of coronavirus.

It’s likely that hand sanitiser dispensing stations will be provided by the school and placed in busy areas for teachers, staff, and children to use.

Tip: Children copy adults – so wherever you go, use the hand sanitiser provided and your child should follow, Make it a normality, so they know to do it when you’re not there. It’s most important when they first get to their classroom in the morning and when they finish for the day. So practice doing it before school and straight after school.

Hugo Tilmouth said: “We want to get the country moving again post lockdown to instill consumer confidence to return back to normality. We think it’s vital to provide the necessary services to keep people healthy when they’re outside the home and hand sanitisation plays a huge role in this. The faster people can return to normal the better it is for all school, companies and the economy”

Stick to the signage and guidelines provided on the floors and walls

It is expected that the school will put up colourful, easy to read posters and signage up for the kids in classrooms, toilets and communal areas, encouraging them to wash or sanitise their hands regularly and reminding them to stick to social distancing rules. Floor markers may also be provided as well.

Tip: you could keep this consistent by putting up temporary signage and markers in your own home as a reminder that the rules still apply outside of school. Make this a fun art project by creating posters with your child and showcase to friends and family when they visit.

Pop spare facemasks in their school bag

Masks will not only protect other people from your child, it will protect your child too. In spaces such as schools, masks are highly recommended, but not compulsory.

Face masks can seem pretty scary to some children, so you could practice wearing them with your child outside of school, so that they get used to it. It can also help them get used to seeing others wearing them as well.

Tip: Encourage your child to decorate some masks to wear. Spend time doing this with them and be on hand to answer any questions about why we have to wear them. Some design inspiration could be: flowers, Spider-Man, funny mouths, animals or simply their own name!

Monitor your child’s health

Monitoring your child’s own health is an extremely important part of protecting yourself and others. Whilst it’s exciting to be going on back to school if you’re feeling slightly under the weather then please stay at home!

Tip: you may want to invest in a swanky new thermometer, to check your child’s temperature quickly and more often.

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