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Coronavirus (COVID-19): updates and advice

Schools and families

Latest school and childcare information

Updated 10 June 2020

Schools and childcare opening to more children

School and childcare providers are now opening more widely to welcome more children from:

  • pre-schools, nurseries and childminders
  • reception
  • year 1
  • year 6

Vulnerable children and children of critical workers can still attend childcare and school even if they are not in these year groups.

Opening childcare and schools more widely depends on arrangements at individual settings and whether they can open safely. Some schools have plans to open in a phased way starting with younger pupils. Childcare providers have been asked to prioritise 3 and 4 year olds, then younger children. 

Secondary and upper schools are working on plans to hold some face-to-face sessions for year 10 and year 12. Your child's school will contact you to discuss arrangements. 

No other school years have to go back before the end of this school term.

Search for childcare providers who are open

Search our Family Information Directory to find childcare providers who have told us their coronavirus status is 'open'.

Sign up for our newsletters for families

Keep up to date with all the latest school, childcare and SEND information; sign up to get our regular family newsletters.

There will be no fines for not attending school

If your child is eligible to return to school or childcare you can choose whether you send them back or not. Parents will not get a fine if their children do not attend school at this time.

Safety in schools and childcare settings

For more information read the government's guidance on opening schools and educational settings. You can speak to your child's school or childcare provider to find out what measures they're taking to help keep your child safe.

Schools and childcare settings have carried out risk assessments and are following government and council advice. 

We know this is a difficult time and circumstances will be different for many families. We encourage you to make a choice based on what you feel is best for your family.

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, after school clubs and holiday clubs

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

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

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.

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.

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.

Find information about special schools, services and transport for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

School uniform 

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

Childcare funding

Eligibility for all the different childcare funding schemes have not changed but there are some temporary flexibilities for parents claiming 30 hours funded childcare and Tax-Free Childcare. This includes parents who:

  • are now not able to work
  • are now working less due to coronavirus
  • have missed the deadline to apply for this term

If your child is eligible you can still apply for 2 year old funding if you haven't received a golden ticket. If you cannot find a provider offering care for 2 year olds you can use your funding later this year. Contact us if you need advice on finding childcare or funding.

Support for families staying at home

If your child is not in one of the eligible year groups that are returning to school or you choose to keep them at home for now, there's still support available.

Schools will still send learning packs home to all children including children in reception, year 1 or year 6 who do not go back to school.

Resources to help you with home learning

Read the government guidance for supporting your child's education during coronavirus.

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

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

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 some more support contact our Educational Psychology Service helpline for parents on 01305 228300.

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.

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.

Foodbanks in Dorset

Find your local foodbanks on our Family Information Directory.

Children's Centre nurseries

Our 2 Children's Centre nurseries are now open for families who would like their children to return. Our nurseries are limited on the number of children they can care for:

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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