Education Restart - Frequently Asked Questions for Children and Young People


There have been big changes in everyone’s lives because of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.  

For children and young people, one of the biggest changes was that schools closed for regular lessons and everyone had to stay at home as much as possible.  Instead of going to school every day, you will have had lessons online and learning packs from your school.  Now it’s time to make plans to get children and young people back to school.  

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is still about.  So we must all continue to keep the risk of catching and spreading the coronavirus as small as possible.  As we start to get schools up and running again, everyone will work to make sure pupils, school staff and their families are as safe as possible.  That means how things work in schools will change in a lot of ways.

Some of these changes might make you feel scared or worried.  That’s ok. It’s totally normal to feel like this when things are changing so much.  Your teachers, other school staff, parents, guardians and carers will help you get used to the new school arrangements.

Returning to School 

When will I start back to school?

Not everyone will start back to school at the same time.

The start of term will be 24 August 2020 for Primary 7, Year 12 and Year 14 pupils and for some pupils across all year groups.  All other pupils will return to school during week commencing 31 August 2020. 

Pupils will return to school full time which means you will attend five days per week. 

Your school will tell you when to return.  

What happens if I have an underlying health condition?

Some children may be designated clinically vulnerable and should follow medical advice from their hospital consultant if they are in this category.

Your parents or carers should speak to your school about this.  

If you cannot attend school, your school will make arrangements for you to learn online or by other remote learning.

What if I have Special Educational Needs (SEN)?

Children and young people with Special Educational Needs are those who, for lots of different reasons, find it harder to learn than other children their own age.  Children and young people who need extra help may be considered as a particular group and return to school at a different date arranged with their parents/carer.  

Your school will make sure that if you need extra help you will still get to spend time with your teachers and classroom assistants like before.  You will receive extra help with organising your day, schoolwork and interacting with others at school.

Some children with Special Educational Needs go to Special Schools.  In order to ensure as many children and young people as possible are able to return to learning in Special Schools, there will be a few changes to the normal school day. 

What changes will there be to the school day?

The changes to the school day because of the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) will happen in all schools and other places where children go to learn.

These changes will be put in place to help pupils stay safe when at school. Your teachers will do their best to help make sure you enjoy being in school and have fun learning and playing.  

If you have any questions or are worried when you return to school you should speak to a teacher or another adult who you trust.

It is important to remember that all schools are different.  Schools have been given guidance that sets out practical things they can do but every school might not follow every recommendation exactly.  Schools must do what best meets the needs of their pupils, staff and the physical circumstances of each individual school.

What will my new school day be like?

Your school will tell you and your parents about the arrangements before the day you are due to return.  This will include what you need to bring to school and what to leave at home.  On arrival at school, you may be brought in small groups to your classroom. 

The school day may start and finish at a different time depending on your year and class.

When you return to school, different rooms or places such as halls may be used to learn and play in during the school day.  You may be asked to stay away from certain areas which you used to go to in your school.

There may be a “one way system” in school which means that you have to walk in one direction around the school to get where you are going.  This may also mean moving around the outside of the school more.  Your school may have signs on walls, floors and little pointers to help you understand and make you remember how to do this.

There may be changes to eating lunch in school.  Your school will tell you about any changes and how you can stay safe at these times.

If the weather is nice your school may decide pupils can still be able to go play outside at break-time and lunch but you should listen to what the teacher says about being near each other and running around.  PE classes will still take place with different games maybe using different equipment.

If you have any questions about the changes in your school you should ask a teacher or your parents/carer.

Will I have to social distance in school?            

Social distancing is in place all around us.  It is a safety precaution to prevent the spread of contagious disease by reducing the number of times people are close together. 

Social distancing will take place at schools with children and young people expected to physically distance where possible.     

These spacing rules will be well managed by your teacher who will tell you about them.

What is a protective bubble?

You may be asked to be in something called a “Protective Bubble” which means that you will spend your time with the other children in your bubble and should not go too close to friends in the classroom.  These spacing rules will be well managed by your teacher who will tell you about them.  If you have any worries about this you can talk to your teacher.

If you are at post-primary, your school will decide how protective bubbles will operate in your school when you have multiple classes.  Your school will do its best to make sure you can see and be with your school friends.

If you are in years 11-14 at Post-Primary schools, staying in a single class group may not be possible, as pupils will be in mixed classes based on their choice of examination courses, but your school will try to implement as much social distancing as is possible for these year groups.

Will my classroom look different?

Your classroom may look different when you go back to school with more spaced out desks and activity areas.  Your teacher will help you understand about any changes to the classroom. This is to help everyone in the school stay safe and the classrooms to stay clean.  Children and young people may be asked to stay away from certain areas which they used to go to in the school.

What can I do to help everyone stay safe in school?

You should wash your hands more often than usual when at school and follow the teacher’s instructions to stay safe and healthy.  Soaps, hand towels and hand sanitisers should be available around the school.

You should use tissues if you need to cough and put them in the bin afterwards.  If you do not have a tissue then cough into your elbow.

Pupils and staff should try to not touch their face, eyes, nose or mouth.

If you feel unwell you should not worry, just tell the teacher.

When using the bathrooms and toilets you should help keep them clean for everyone in the school.

There may be signs or posters around the school to help remind you about the importance of staying safe.

Will my teachers be wearing face coverings or masks in school?

You may see teachers, staff and other visitors in your school wearing face coverings or masks, this is to keep you, them and other people safe and healthy.  Some things in the classroom including equipment, toys and games which are hard to keep clean may not be available for you to use.

These special arrangements in school are to keep children and young people safe and healthy, and to help make sure they do not bring the virus home to family members. 

Your school will have been well cleaned before you have to come back to your classroom.

Will I have to wear a face covering in school?

Given the things that will be put in place in schools to limit and contain the spread of COVID-19, face coverings are not generally recommended for routine use in schools.  Staff and pupils may wish to use them during the routine school day and this is acceptable.

We strongly recommend that everyone wears a face covering on school transport if you can, but you must wear one on public transport (with other members of the public) if you are aged 13 and over. 

Will I still get to spend time with my classmates?

You will still be able to spend time with classmates and your teacher, this will help you settle in with school friends you perhaps haven’t seen for a while.   It is hard to explain in detail how this will be done as each school is different, but young people have told us it is very important and we have shared these views with school principals and teachers to help them understand your concerns around this.

Will I still be able to speak to the school counsellor?

If you attend a post-primary school the school counsellor will still be available for you to talk to.  School principals and teachers understand how difficult many children have found the lockdown and are worried what going back to school will be like.  They will listen to what you say and will help you manage the changes.

Eating in School

How will I have break and lunch in school?

You will be able to have lunch and school meals but you will have to follow your school’s plans for social distancing when eating your school meal.

You will be able to enjoy break and lunch in school as usual. However you may not be able to eat your school meal in the dining hall and disposable containers and cutlery may be used by your school.

You should wash your hands before and after eating at break-time and lunch and you should never share your food with your friends.

You can bring a packed lunch to school as normal if you wish. This is up to you and your parents to decide. However if you are starting school before 1 September you will need to bring a packed lunch. School meals will be available as normal from 1 September.

Getting to School 

How will I travel to school?

Walking or cycling - You are encouraged to walk or cycle to and from school instead of using the car, bus or train as long as you can do so safely.  

Dedicated school transport – This is a bus or taxi which is only used by school pupils so there should not be any other adults on the bus other than a driver and sometimes an escort.  It could be an Education Authority yellow bus, an Ulsterbus, a Metro bus or perhaps another type of bus that will usually say “school bus” at the front. If you are eligible for home to school transport and have no other way of getting to school, you should use this for your journey to school.

If there is space, you should try to socially distance by staying 2 metres apart from the other pupils on the bus and the driver or as far away from other pupils and the driver as you can if there is not enough space to be 2m away.  If you have a brother or sister on a bus or other people from your class or school, you should sit in the same part of the bus as them and try to sit in the same part of the bus each day if you can. This will help to reduce the number of different pupils that you might sit near on the bus each day.

Public bus and train services - These are Ulsterbus or Metro buses and trains which are allowed to carry school pupils and adults at the same time. If you use one of these buses or trains to get to school, you will have to follow the same rules that apply to all passengers and there are new signs on-board to guide you. This means that if there is space, you should try to socially distance by staying stay 2 metres away from other passengers or 1 metre if that isn’t possible. More information on these rules is available on the Translink website and in safer travel guidance from the Department for Infrastructure. 

By car - Your parents may wish to drop you off and pick you up from school. Your school should let your parents know the arrangements for this.  To try and avoid too many cars being at the school gates, you are encouraged to park your car away from the school and walk the rest of the way.

You may have to start school at a different time to avoid lots of people arriving and leaving school at the same time. You school will let your parents know the arrangements for this.

More information on home to school transport for pupils is available on the Education Authority website.

Do I have to wear a face covering on school transport?

We strongly recommend that everyone wears a face covering on school transport if you can, but you must wear one on public transport (with other members of the public) if you are aged 13 and over. 

You do not have to wear a face covering if you are not able to put it on and take it off again safely without help or have a disability or illness that would make it difficult to wear or it might upset you.

If you are using a disposable face covering on transport, you must take it off the bus and put it in the bin that your school should provide. If you are using a reusable face covering on transport, you should bring a plastic bag to tie and keep in your schoolbag until you need to use it again on the journey home.

Are there any other rules to follow for my journey to school?

If you are using any bus to get to school, you should always sit properly in your seat facing the front of the bus and try not to turn around to talk to your friends.

You are not allowed to eat or drink on a bus or taxi on your journey to school unless it is for medical reasons.

You should make sure your hands are clean before you get on a bus or into a taxi.

You should use hand sanitizer on your vehicle if it is provided.

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