Tips for attending school and Covid-19

We looked for the clearest tips, for both parents and doctors, about how to keep children safe and in school. Here’s the tips and advice we found:

Back to school

Getting back to school is essential for children’s well-being and development.
Evidence is showing that children have lower rates of transmission of COVID-19 and are more likely to experience only mild symptoms if they do catch the virus.

Hand hygiene

Children should be washing their hands for 20 seconds with soap and water (that’s the same as singing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice).

They should wash their hands:

  1. After arriving at school
  2. Before and after break time
  3. When changing rooms
  4. Before and after eating food
  5. When going to the bathroom
  6. Before going home

Schools can help with this by supervising hand washing and staggering trips to the bathroom according to classroom ‘bubbles’.


All children over the age of 11 should wear a face mask if travelling on public transport.

Public Health England does not recommend the use of face masks in schools at present. If you live in an area which is experiencing local lockdown restrictions, children in Years 7 and above will be required to wear face coverings when moving around school in areas where social distancing is hard to maintain e.g. in corridors. 

Face masks need to cover both nose and mouth and should be put on and taken off very carefully, without touching the outer part. They can’t be shared.


We are all worried about how to tell the difference between the usual coughs and colds and symptoms of COVID-19. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have written an article to help parents and doctors to understand the symptoms and when to test for COVID-19.

Nearly all children who become unwell after going back to school will have a common cold virus, not COVID-19. So parents and carers can keep doing what they would have done to look after their unwell child before COVID-19. Children with simple cold symptoms such as runny noses or sore throats without fever, should not be tested for COVID-19.

Your child will need to be tested if they have one of the main symptoms COVID-19:

  • new continuous cough
  • fever/high temperature
  • loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste

If your child does have any of these symptoms they should get a test, your child and everyone you live with will need to stay at home and self-isolate until you get their test results.

Don’t send your child to school if they or anyone in the house has symptoms of COVID-19. If a child becomes symptomatic at school they will be sent home to self-isolate. Schools may have a home testing kit they can give you.

If you are worried about your child get advice from your GP or NHS 111 – for children under 5 call 111, for children over 5 use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service.

Seeing grandparents or clinically vulnerable relatives after being at school

The current advice allows you to be indoors with grandparents or clinically vulnerable relatives, if neither of you have symptoms and you can socially distance.

Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, advised grandparents not to hug and kiss their grandchildren when they got back from school, he said “Keeping children seeing grandparents is important, making sure they wash their hands etc when they come out of school. Being sensible, being relatively secure, I think is the way forward.”

Public Health England have also put together specific guidance for households where grandparents, parents and children live together

Top tips

Things you can do to help protect your children’s health include regular hand hygiene and making sure they are up to date with all their vaccinations!

  • Avoid mixing with other social bubbles, for example on the school run. Schools may organise staggered drop off/pick-ups to help with this
  • ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it’ – Remember to ‘Catch’ a cough or sneeze with a tissue, ‘Bin it’ by throwing the tissue away and ‘Kill it’ by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water
  • Everyone should be washing their hands more frequently for 20 seconds with soap and water
  • Visit for the latest guidance and more information

We hope this helps to tackle some of the confusion about returning to school. You can find other resources about keeping your child well during coronavirus here: