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Coronavirus (COVID-19): updates and advice

Schools and families

Latest school and childcare information

Updated 20 May 2020


Dorset schools and many childcare providers are open for children of critical workers and vulnerable children.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement schools and childcare providers are now preparing to open more widely. Schools are preparing to open for more pupils from:

  • reception
  • year 1
  • year 6

The earliest possible start date will be 1 June.

Risk assessment for schools

All Dorset primary and secondary schools are risk assessing their sites in relation to the need for social distancing. They are following government and council advice and will be in contact with parents and carers about measures to keep pupils and staff as safe as possible.

Opening childcare and schools more widely will depend on:

  • the government confirming it’s safe to do so
  • arrangements at individual settings

Secondary and upper schools are working on plans to hold face-to-face sessions for year 10 and year 12.

There will be no fines for not attending school

Parents will not be fined if they choose for their children not to attend school.

Choosing whether to send your child to school will be the choice of each parent or family. We will not be issuing any fines to those who choose not to send their children to school at this time.

Read the latest government guidance for parents and carers.

Arrangements for children who are home learning

Schools will continue to support children who are home learning. Schools will still send home learning packs home to all children including children who don’t go back to school but are in reception, year 1 or year 6.

You can find materials for home education that have been approved by our educational psychology service.

Educational Psychology Service helpline for parents

If you're worried about how your child is coping at the moment and need someone to talk to, our Educational Psychology Service has launched a new helpline for parents and carers where you can discuss your concerns with a professional.

Find out more about the Educational Psychology Service helpline for parents.

Class or teacher changes

Your child may not have the same teacher or class as before lockdown.

This will be a decision each individual school will make. Because schools need to limit class numbers for health and safety reasons classes could be very different.

Every school is different and what works in one school may not work for another. Some may be able to welcome more children or more year groups than others and we appreciate that this may be frustrating for you. Your child’s school will always be acting in the best interest of your child.

Changes to breakfast and after school clubs

There will be different arrangements for breakfast clubs. Contact your child’s school or childcare provider for details.

It’s unlikely that after school clubs will be running at this time. 

School places for children of critical workers

Schools will still be open for the children of key workers and vulnerable children, even if they’re not in reception, year 1 or year 6. Speak to your child’s school for more information.

Siblings in other school years

Unfortunately, it may not be possible to send all children in your family to school at the same time, even if they have a brother or sister in reception, year 1 or year 6.

We understand this may be frustrating for some families, but this is due to school capacity such as:

  • school size
  • classroom size
  • number of staff
  • other factors

Return to school for other year groups

We don’t know yet when other year groups will go back to school.
We’re awaiting more government guidance.

Arrangements for special schools and specialist settings

Special schools and specialist settings are planning a careful phased return for more children with education, health and care (EHC) plans when it's right and safe to do so.

Schools and settings will carry out individual risk assessments will communicate directly with families. 

Concerns about your child’s education

Children will not be expected to repeat any school time they have missed.

Contact your child’s school if you’re worried about their education.

Free school meals update

We're working with schools to make sure that they're able to provide a meal for all children who would normally get a free school meal, whether they're in school or not. Individual schools are making plans for their children and they will share this information with parents.

Contact your child's school to find out their process for providing free schools meals.

Many schools are using Sodexo and may email parents directly. Neither the council, school or Sodexo will ask you for your bank details.

Children eligible to attend school who do not normally receive free school meals will need to bring a packed lunch.

Find more information about free school meals.

Warning: free school meals scam

We've been made aware of a scam about free school meals. Some families have been sent an email asking for them to send their bank details to 'make sure they are supported'.

We'll never ask for your details: please ignore any emails like this and report as spam. We're working with schools to make sure all children who'd normally get a free school meal do so, whether they're in school or not. Schools, or in some cases Dorset Council, will be in touch with you to confirm your arrangements.

School transport 

Families with children still attending school are increasingly choosing to transport their own children to school. Please transport your children if you can. We will continue to provide transport where needed. We will contact parents if there are any changes to the service.

Find updated information about appeals for a school transport decision.

School uniform 

Your school will tell you whether children need to wear school uniform. 


Find childcare if your child is vulnerable or you're a critical worker

Find information about who can use childcare and find childcare settings who are open during the coronavirus emergency.

Most childcare settings are now only open to the most vulnerable children and those whose parents' work is critical to the coronavirus response. Some childminders now have the option to care for other children if they are from the same household, for example siblings. They cannot do this if they're caring for vulnerable children or children of critical workers.

The government plans to bring in new guidelines from 1 June which could mean schools and childcare settings will open to more children.

In preparation for the new guidelines Dorset registered childcare providers are risk assessing their sites. Speak to your childcare provider to find out if they plan to re-open from 1 June.

Definition of critical workers and vulnerable children 

The government has now confirmed their definition of both critical workers and vulnerable children and young people.

This includes all council Children’s Services staff.

If you think you are a critical worker, you should confirm with your employer that your specific role qualifies as critical.

Childcare funding

Eligibility for all the different childcare funding schemes have not changed. If you've received a golden ticket for 2 year old funding you can use it now if you're in one of the priority groups, or when childcare re-opens for everyone.

If you can't care for your children at home

As parents you should not rely on people who are advised to be in the stringent social distancing category for childcare if they have underlying conditions, such as:

  • grandparents
  • friends
  • family members

As parents you should do everything you can to make sure your children are not mixing socially in a way that can continue to spread the virus. You must make sure children observe the same social distancing principles as adults.

Resources to help you with home learning

We've gathered some resources to help you and your children during the coming weeks including activities, arts, crafts and games.

Find a list of online education resources to help children learn at home from GOV.UK.

SEND families: special schools and services

Find useful support and guidance  from the Council for Disabled Children.

Our frontline teams are currently looking at every child's situation and their needs. This is a difficult time and we know that it may be even more challenging for our SEND families. 

We're making contingency plans and speaking to health providers to help meet the needs of those with the most complex health needs. Our staff are working to provide support, sometimes in different ways.

Our education team are working with local schools and educational settings. You will have been contacted by your school about arrangements.

Our commissioning teams are working with all of our service providers, including: 

  • residential settings
  • schools 
  • short breaks providers

This is so they understand their business continuity plans and to talk to them about different ways of delivering support to families if they close, either because of staff shortages or if they're forced to close. We're assessing where services may need to be delivered differently and how we'll support them to do that. 

Our teams are working with many community providers to consider how to help and support vulnerable families, particularly those who are eligible for free school meals.

We have already made extra resources available to food banks and are working with our schools and school meal providers to find the best way of supporting families who will need it over the coming months.

We're also working hard to keep the EHC plan process moving. Assessments for an EHC plan may look different as it becomes more difficult to do our work face to face. We may need to do more by telephone or video calls where possible. Our decision-making panels are moving to online meetings. We'll continue to review this. 

Sign up for our SEND newsletter for regular updates. 

SEND travel arrangements

Families with children still attending school are increasingly choosing to transport their own children to school. Please transport your children if you can. 

We will continue to provide transport where needed and we will contact you about any changes to the service. Families can claim for petrol and wear and tear expenses for their journeys to school. This will not affect any benefits you may get. 

Contact the SEN Travel Team to claim your SEND travel expenses:

SENDIASS drop-in sessions

The SENDIASS drop-in sessions have been cancelled until further notice.

You have a safeguarding concern

Contact us if you're concerned about a child in Dorset.

Children's Centres and coronavirus

All Children's Centres in Dorset are now closed.

We're still available to offer support to you and your family. Contact your local Family Partnership zone.

If you're worried about the immediate safety of a child or young person contact our Children's Advice and Duty Service:

Children's Advice and Duty Service

Name: Single point of contact for safeguarding concerns
Tel: 01305228866
Full contact details for Children's Advice and Duty Service

Foodbanks in Dorset

Find your local foodbanks on our Family Information Directory.

Children's Centre nurseries

Our 2 Children's Centre nurseries are open for vulnerable children and children of critical workers only: 

Dorset Music Service

Find out more about our plans for music tuition and rehearsals during the coronavirus emergency.

Online music resources

Find the online music resources we've put together for you to use during this time.

Young people during the coronavirus

Advice for school leavers and young people looking for work

Find advice from Ansbury Guidance to help you work out what to do.

Contact services for looked after children

Find out about contact services for looked after children during the coronavirus emergency.

Dorset Young Carers Service

Find out how we can support you during the coronavirus emergency.

Support for care experienced children and young people

Find advice and support for care experienced children and young people during the coronavirus emergency on our information station.

Child employment during the coronavirus pandemic

We will not be issuing any child employment permits until further notice. Find out more on our child work permits page.

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