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Returning to school after shielding

We’ve pulled together guidance from a range of trusted organisations to help you make sense of the plans for children to return to school in September.

We understand that returning to school may feel daunting for some parents and their children, especially after schools have been closed or after a period of shielding. We also know that some children and their parents are eager to return to school and want to know the safest way to do this.

We’ve pulled together guidance from a range of trusted organisations to help you make sense of the plans for children to return to school in September. You can find links to guidance and sources of information at the bottom of this page.

What does the guidance mean for you and your child?

The latest government guidance means that most children will be able to return to school in September. This is in line with school attendance becoming mandatory again, meaning that parents have a duty to make sure their child attends school regularly. 

However, children who are classed as "extremely vulnerable" are recommended not to return to schools when they reopen.

Children who can return to school

Most children, across all year groups, will return to school in the autumn term and this includes most children who have a brain tumour diagnosis. For some children this may be the first time they’re returning to school after diagnosis and treatment of a brain tumour, or, for others, after a long period of absence because of the restrictions in place due to coronavirus (Covid-19). We know that returning to school is likely to come with lots of questions and uncertainty, for you and your child.

Some children who are returning to school in September will be considered ‘vulnerable’, which will be the case for some children who have a brain tumour diagnosis -for example, if they’re undergoing chemotherapy or other specific targeted treatments (or have done in the last six months) or if they’re on long-term maintenance steroids. Children who are considered ‘vulnerable’ can return to school. You can find the full details of which children are considered ‘vulnerable’ in guidance from Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG).

When preparing for your child to return to school we recommend that you find out what their school is doing to keep pupils safe. Most schools will have shared information about their plans with parents already and may have information on their websites. 

Following government guidance, you can expect that your child’s school will:

  • minimise contact with people who are unwell, by following the requirement that people who are ill stay at home
  • follow robust hand and respiratory hygiene, cleaning hands thoroughly more often than usual and promoting the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach
  • have enhanced cleaning arrangements, cleaning frequently touched surfaces often
  • minimise contact between individuals and maintain social distancing where possible
  • where necessary, wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

In response to any infection, schools are also required to:

  • engage with the NHS Test and Trace process
  • manage any confirmed cases of coronavirus within the school community
  • contain any outbreak by following local health advice.

Support for your child when returning to school

Some local authorities have created advice to help families prepare for their child returning to school after coronavirus. This is an example from Lancashire which includes top tips for what children might need to be ready to return to school, what parents can do to help children, and book recommendations. Their top tips include:

  • tell your child’s teacher how to recognise if they’re feeling anxious or worried
  • make links between routines at home and at school, e.g. meal times
  • ask for photographs of any changes to classrooms
  • talk to staff about your child settling in again, if their interests have changed and how they’re feeling.

You may find this advice about preparing your child to return to school after their diagnosis and treatment of a brain tumour helpful. It was written by clinical psychologists, Emily Bennett and Emily Talbot, from the Department of Clinical Psychology and Neuropsychology at Nottingham University Hospitals.

One of the things we'd recommend is to start getting ready for your child's return to school as soon as you can. Ideally, this will give you the opportunity to meet with teachers and have a plan in place, so everyone feels more confident and reassured about the process.

Emily Bennett and Emily Talbot

Schools have a duty to ensure that children with health needs or disabilities are able to access a good quality education and the same opportunities at school/college as any other young person, and that the individual support they need to achieve this is provided. These duties are set out in our Education Resources within the Education Charters for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

You may also find this Q&A about schools and coronavirus, published by the World Health Organisation (WHO), helpful. They answer questions about coronavirus risks for children, returning to school and the benefits to children’s wellbeing of schools reopening.

Children who are unable to return to school

The Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG) state that children in the ‘extremely vulnerable’ group are recommended not to return to school. Children may be considered ‘extremely vulnerable’ if they, for example, have immunodeficiency, immunosuppression or are receiving a very specific immunosuppression as part of their treatment. Most children who have a brain tumour diagnosis will not be considered ‘extremely vulnerable’ under these guidelines and are likely to be able to return to school in September.

You can find details of which children are considered ‘extremely vulnerable’ or ‘vulnerable’ from Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG).

If your child is considered ‘extremely vulnerable’, or has ongoing and/or complex health needs, you should have contact with their consultant or GP to discuss their individual circumstances, whether they should return to school and what measures they should take to remain safe (this could take place at their next clinical appointment). For some children this might mean continuing to shield or following stricter social distancing measures than others. You and your child’s medical team can discuss this and make a decision based on what’s best for your child.

Schools have been using online learning technology throughout the lockdown period and are likely to use this to continue to provide education to children who are unable to return to school. You should talk to your child’s school are soon as possible about how they can support your child to access education at home whilst they’re unable to return to school.

Local authorities must provide education for children who aren’t able to attend school for more than 15 school days because they’re unwell. This can be provided in several ways, including a home tutor or online learning. You can find more details in the Department for Education guidance on Supporting Pupils at School with Medical Conditions.

There will be a small number of children who won’t be able to attend school because they are following public health advice – for example, they’re self-isolating because they or someone in their family has had symptoms or because they live in an area where there’s been a rise in the number of cases of coronavirus and they’ve been told to shield whilst the rates remain high. Parents won’t be penalised if their children don’t attend school while following clinical or public health advice.

The CCLG recommends that siblings of children in the extremely vulnerable group can attend school when it re-opens, and that they should wash their hands as soon as they come home. Additionally, the government recommends that children who have family members who are shielding can now return to school.

Do you have questions or feel unsure?

We know that even with these measures you and your child may feel concerned about their return to school, or about not being able to return to school yet. This could be for several reasons, for example, because they’ve been shielding previously, because they’re in a household where someone is clinically vulnerable, or because of their brain tumour diagnosis and associated clinical and educational needs. Please know you’re not alone in feeling this way and there’s support available to help you and your child feel more confident about returning to school.

  • Talk to your child’s school about how they’re staying safe and how they’ll be able to support your child to return to school.
  • Share information about the impacts of brain tumours and their treatment with your child’s school for example possible side effects of brain tumours. This can help them understand your child’s needs following a brain tumour diagnosis and support them as they return to school.
  • Talk to your child’s medical team, consultant, clinical nurse specialist or GP if you have any medical concerns or questions.

Please know we are here for you. You can get in touch with us with any questions or concerns you have about your child returning to school.

You can contact us by calling 0808 800 0004 or emailing childrenandfamilies@thebraintumourcharity.org

Guidance and sources of information

About the author

I’m a member of the Children and Families Team at The Brain Tumour Charity. I’m dedicated to supporting children, young people and families affected by a brain tumour by being there every step of the way to provide help, understanding and support, when it’s needed most.

Media contacts at The Brain Tumour Charity

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