Returning to School (March 2021)

We eagerly look forward to welcoming our children and their families back to Houghton Conquest Lower School on Monday 8th March and very much look forward to hearing our school filled with laughter and smiles.

I would like to take this opportunity to re-iterate some of the key measures that we are taking to welcome your child back as detailed in my letter sent home on the 2nd March. In essence we will be reverting to our Autumn term COVID planning measures with a few amendments.

It may seem a lot of information, but we want to be completely transparent and refresh you about the measures in place and hope that they are all reassuring.

All children in Reception to Year Four are expected to return to school on the 8th March The Department for Education have made clear, that now the circumstances with regard to the Coronavirus have changed, it is vital for all children to return to school to minimise as far as possible the longer-term impact of the pandemic on children’s education, wellbeing and wider development.

School attendance will therefore be mandatory again from the 8th March 2021. This means from that point, the usual rules on school attendance will apply.

The government have published guidance about how schools should work to facilitate all children returning. In interpreting this guidance, we have given careful consideration to pupil and staff safety, the logistics associated with how school will run given our classroom and external spaces, size of buildings and corridors, numbers of entrances and exits, timetabling and staffing capacity.

We have planned for a staggered drop off and collection with children in two/three classes allocated to a “bubble”. Within this wider bubble there will be a sub-bubble which will be your child’s individual class.

These bubbles will remain together at allocated times of the school day, for example at playtimes and at lunch.

Bubble 1: Robins (Foundation)

Bubble 2: Sub bubbles containing –  Doves (Y1) and  Owls (Y2)

Bubble 3: Sub bubbles containing – Hawks (Y3) and Eagles (Y4)

Bubble Group 4: all Preschool children

These classes have been assigned to a bubble as members of staff will be moving between classes as we have a small staffing team. It also enables children to widen their social groups at playtimes.

  • As advised by DfE staff will arrange the classrooms with forward facing desks and staff are required to maintain their distance from pupils and other staff as much as possible. All of this forms part of our revised, detailed risk assessment which will be carefully considered by Governors.
  • Each child will be given their own pack, containing equipment which they need and which will not be shared.
  • Classroom based resources, such as books and games, can be used and shared within the bubble; these will be cleaned regularly, along with all frequently touched surfaces.
  • Where whole-school shared resources are needed, these will be cleaned before and after use with appropriate cleaning materials.
  • Staff will be able to work across ‘wider bubbles’, for example to support groups of children or to cover for absent colleagues, but they must maintain social distancing from the children and other adults and this will be minimised where possible.
  • We will be able to invite some visitors into school, such as education psychologists, social workers and supply teachers.
Timings of the day: staggered starts and collection times Arrival and departure times will be as follows:-

Bubble 1 – Robins 9am 3.05pm
Bubble 2 – Doves and Owls 9am 3.05pm
Bubble 3 – Hawks and Eagles 8.45am 3.15pm
Bubble 4 – Preschool 9am or 12.20pm dependent on session booked 12pm, 12.30pm or 3:30pm dependent on session booked
Please note the following important change:-

In order to avoid disruption to curriculum time for our KS2 children (Hawks and Eagles), if you have children in more than one bubble (which includes bubble 3) please ensure you drop them off at the earlier arrival time and collect at the later departure time.

  • For those who are not familiar with the arrival/departure system, parents are asked to form an orderly line along the left-hand side of the walk-in path to prevent gathering of groups of people.
  • The path is marked with a one-way system and 2-metre markers, which we require you to adhere to.
  • You will be asked to walk up the one-way system and stop at the white box at the green gate. At that point it is expected that your child will walk in through the school gates independently.
  • We would appreciate that only one parent/carer drops off their child.
  • No parents will come beyond the school playground gates unless you have an appointment prearranged.
Curriculum and organisation
  • The children will be learning in classes and will be minimising contact with children from other classes. The only exception to this is when children are having lunch and are outside on the school playground. They will then be allowed to socialise with their wider bubble; those within their key stage. Children will be encouraged to play socially distanced play activities.
  • Again, in Years 1 to 4, children will be seated facing forward at their tables rather than facing each other.
  • Windows and doors will be kept open as often as possible to increase ventilation.
  • Staff will be able to work across ‘wider bubbles’, for example to support groups of children or to cover for absent colleagues, but they must maintain social distancing from the children and other adults, and this will be minimised wherever possible.
  • We will be able to invite some visitors into school, such as education psychologists, social workers, and supply teachers, with the headteacher’s permission.
  • The government is clear that education is not optional and is committed to schools delivering a broad curriculum. At Houghton we strongly recognise the need for recovery before academic learning can be achieved.
Play times
  • We feel that children in their ‘wider bubble’ (key stages) can play together, outdoors, with socially-distanced inspired play, where they have washed their hands before and after their playtime. This will allow further social opportunities and support social and emotional wellbeing.
  • The playground will be partitioned into these widened bubble zones. Each zone will also contain a calming area if children would prefer to play quietly.
What will children need to bring/wear?
  • Book bag
  • Water bottle
  • Packed lunch if you are not entitled to Universal Infant Free School Meals or Free School Meals.
  • Coat
  • Sun hat (depending on the weather)
  • Children will be provided with their own set of equipment and stationery, so please do not bring any into school.
  • If your child needs to have ‘spare’ clothes in school please put them in a named plastic bag which can be kept on their peg.
PE PE lessons will continue to take place; on your child’s PE day, they will be required to come dressed for PE that day.  Your child may wear warm tracksuit bottoms and a jacket over their PE shorts and while t-shirt as the weather is still very changeable.  Your child’s PE day is as follows

Monday: Eagles
Tuesday: Robins and Hawks
Wednesday: Owls
Friday: Doves

Sickness A child who has symptoms should not be sent into school.  For more information please see our ‘symptoms and isolation’ page.

We will not be allowing children to enter the school building wearing a face mask. We would kindly ask the parent to remove their child’s face mask before entering the school grounds and take it home with them. You are more than welcome to wear them on your commute to and from school; however we will not be excepting children who are wearing them coming onto the school premises.


In addition to the above, we can confirm that the following actions will be a part of your children’s experience


  • A comprehensive cleaning routine will continue.
  • Entrance and exit to school will be at strictly allocated times to limit footfall.
  • Children will be encouraged to come onto the school site with one parent.
  • Parents will not be allowed into classrooms and at times, not allowed on site unless prearranged meetings are scheduled
  • Parents will be responsible for maintaining the social distancing of their child upon entry and exit to the school.
  • Scooters and bicycles will not be allowed past the main green gate onto the school playground but can be used in getting to school and placed in the racks outside the green gate or alternatively, parents can take them away after.
  • Children will be required to wash their hands on entering their classroom. Children will be required to wash their hands very regularly with soap and water and will be monitored in doing so.
  • Children will be allocated toilets which will be used by their wider bubble only.
  • Where possible, children will be encouraged to apply their own basic First Aid (e.g. the comfort of a wet paper towel). Where children require First Aid, the adult will be wearing personal protective equipment.

Our Special Code of Conduct Poster for children
Returning to school Children’s Special Code of Conduct
Returning to School Social Story
Returning to Pre-school Social Story
Keeping Safe at School – Parents Guide

Set up a back-to-school routine

Having consistent bed and wake-up times will help. The National Sleep Foundation suggest starting two weeks before the first day of school to set sleep routine habits. But even a week beforehand will help your child adjust.

The first week back will be difficult, transitioning from being in ‘home mode’ so don’t worry and indeed expect this. Try to maintain healthy habits around sleep (around 9-11 hours for children aged 5-13), exercise (around one hour per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity three times a week) and a healthy diet.

Create structure with a ‘school’ routine during most weekdays if you can. Be guided by your knowledge of what best supports your child during times of change and transition.  For some children, a visual calendar will help ‘count down’ and know which days are weekends.

You could set up a practical chart for getting ready. You could include:

Talk about going back to school

Most children have some level of stress or anxiety about school.  You can offer support by normalising experiences of worry and nerves. Reassure your child the feelings they have are totally normal and very common, and they will likely overcome them once they have settled in. Worries and courage can exist together.

Depending on your child’s age, you could also try writing a social story  about going to school and the routine ahead.

Help create a sense of school belonging

A sense of belonging at school can really affect academic success and well-being. Parents can facilitate positive attitudes about school by setting an encouraging tone when talking about it.

Look out for signs of stress

Parents can spot stress if their child (depending on age): is more clingy than usual; appears restless and flighty, or cries; shows an increased desire to avoid activities through negotiations and deal-making; tries to get out of going to school; retreats to thumb sucking, ‘baby’ language, habits they had previously grown out of, or increased attachment to favourite soft toys.

We have all been through a huge ordeal and change to our routines; stress responses are to be expected. However, if these behaviours persist for more than a few weeks, talk to your class teacher about what is happening. Together, we can work on a strategy of support.

Encourage questions

Encourage questions children may have about coming back. What will be the same? What will be different? Be open about what we do know and what we do not know yet. Tell your child who they can talk to at school if they have questions. We will all be completing ‘Helping Hand’ when we get back so that everyone has a ‘go to’ person who can help.

Also, let your child know, nothing is off limits to talk about. Have in your head some time set aside to talk informally and with low pressure (usually whilst doing something else, like driving somewhere, cooking together etc.) Most importantly, do not over-do it: too much talk can worry children too.