School life is going to be different for Winchester pupils who are returning to school in September with student ‘bubbles’ and possible staggered start and finish times.

The UK's Chief Medical Officers have agreed that it is safe for children to return to school, but only is strict precautions are taken.

The government have said that returning to school is vital for children’s education and for their wellbeing as time out of school is detrimental for children’s cognitive and academic development, particularly for disadvantaged children.

The Department of Education has produced in depth guidance for pupils, teachers and parents who are preparing for the return, which has been published on its website.

Here are some of the changes pupils will face in September.

Do I have to send my child back?

From September it is compulsory for all pupils to return to school.

Any parents that refuse will be threatened with fines.          

What are student bubbles?

Students will be grouped into ‘bubbles' to reduce contact.

Advice on the website states in secondary schools the 'bubbles' are likely to need to be the size of a the whole year group.

At primary school they may be able to implement smaller groups the size of a full class.

The bubble system should help to reduce the number of people who could be asked to isolate should someone in the group becomes ill with COVID-19.

Getting to and from school

Hampshire Chronicle:

Getting the bus to school is still allowed but walking or cycling is preferred.

Pupils are being encouraged to used hand sanitiser when getting on and off transport.

Schools should have organised queuing and boarding on transport and ensure distance within vehicles.

Face coverings for children over 11 can be used if they are likely to come into very close contact with people outside of their ‘bubble’

Schools may introduce staggered start and finish times allowing pupils to travel at quieter times. 

Cleaning and hygiene

Uniforms do not need to be cleaned any more often than usual, nor do they need to be cleaned using methods which are different from normal.

Schools will have washing or hand sanitiser ‘stations’ available so that all pupils and staff can clean their hands regularly.

Schools will adopts the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ and should ensure that there is enough tissues and bins available in the school.

There will be an enhanced cleaning schedule that includes:

  • more frequent cleaning of rooms and shared areas
  • more frequent cleaning of sports equipment
  • toilets will be cleaned regularly - different ‘bubbles’ may be allocated their own toilet blocks

What happens if someone becomes ill?

Hampshire Chronicle:

If a school has two or more confirmed cases within 14 days, or there is a rise in sickness absence, this will be classed as an 'outbreak'.

An outbreak could result in the whole year or school being sent home as a precaution. 

A mobile testing unit may be sent to test the infected pupil's class or ‘bubble’ and if necessary, the whole school including staff.  

If there is a local outbreak or national lockdown schools are expected to offer ‘immediate remote education.

Schools require people who are ill stay at home and will actively engage with NHS Test and Trace.

Dententions could be banned

Due to the ‘bubble’ system pupils may not be able to stand unsupervised on their own outside the headmaster's office or a classroom, or be held in detention or isolation as punishment. 

Face masks

Hampshire Chronicle:

In England, secondary school pupils will have the ''discretion'' to wear face coverings in communal areas, where social distancing is not possible.

They will be mandatory for secondary schools in parts of England that are under a local lockdown or facing extra government restrictions.

Break times

Schools may implement staggered break and lunch times to allow for separation of ‘bubbles’ and time for cleaning surfaces in the dining hall.

If the school does not implement straggered breaks, ‘bubbles’ will be separated.


Schools have been told to avoid large gatherings such as assemblies or collective worship with more than one group.


Hampshire Chronicle:

Schools have been told to prioritise outdoor sports and that all contact sports avoided.

Sports equipment will need to be cleaned between each use.

School trips

School trips both in the UK and abroad will be discouraged.