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New Year, New Look: What to Expect From Schools in September

With the start of the new school year just days away, back-to-school nerves are no doubt beginning to set in. This year, perhaps more than ever. After such a prolonged time off school, it is inevitable that children may be worrying about getting back into school routines, meeting their new teachers and classes and, overall, seeing what school is like post-lockdown. 

Following the latest guidance from the Department for Education, we’ve put together a list of the changes primary school pupils are likely to see when schools reopen next week. 

The Classroom

  • Desks are likely to be set out in rows so that children will sit next to, but not facing one another. 

  • Pupils may have their own equipment such as pens and pencils that they keep in their trays, lockers or pencil cases. 

  • Most classroom equipment will be used as normal, with teachers ensuring it is cleaned regularly between uses. Some equipment that is harder to clean may be temporarily out of use but schools will ensure that children have the resources that they need to support their learning.

The Playground

  • All pupils will be organised into ‘bubbles’ – these will most likely be separate class bubbles or whole year group bubbles. Breaktimes are likely to be staggered so that different bubbles use the playground at different times, meaning the playground will be quieter, with each bubble having plenty of space.

  • If space allows, the playground may be split up into different zones, with each bubble having their own zone to play in. 

    • Play equipment may be limited or even not used at all. Many schools will compile booklets or use PE lesson time to teach the children different equipment-free, socially-distanced games. Any equipment that is used, will be cleaned regularly.

The Dining Room

  • Like classrooms, the dining hall may have seating set out in rows so that children can still sit with their peers but they'll be seated beside one another rather than face-to-face.

  • Depending on the space available, it is likely that the use of the dining hall will be limited to a bubble at a time. Tables and chairs will be cleaned thoroughly between each bubble. 

  • Some schools may decide to have children eat their lunches in their classroom to avoid having too many pupils from different bubbles using the same area of the school. This will ensure children feel calm and secure in quieter, familiar surroundings.


  • Certain subjects may not be taught in the ways that we’re used to. Music and PE, for example, may have to take place outside, PE may be equipment free and Computing may not make use of some technologies. Schools are working hard to plan creative ways to teach certain subjects and content under the new guidance.

  • Singing will most likely be discouraged in line with government guidance. It may be that choir groups and singing clubs can still meet but practice will take place outside instead. 

  • School trips and visits are still encouraged. These may differ from previous years to ensure the guidance is met but schools and educational visit sites are working hard to ensure that the appropriate safety measures are in place.

Daily Routine

  • The start and end  of the school day is likely to be staggered so that there are limited numbers of children arriving at any given time. It may be that different year groups have different arrival times or schools may decide that pupils can arrive at school across an extended period of time. For example, pupils may be encouraged to arrive between 8:30am and 9am. 

  • Whole school assemblies will not take place. Instead, assemblies may take place in-class, for a single year group at a time or even remotely via video links!

  • After-school clubs may be limited, particularly for the Autumn Term. Certain clubs, such as karate, chess and computing may be replaced by different club options which still allow for social distancing and increased cleaning measures to be adhered to.

  • Children will be washing their hands much more regularly! Teachers will designate time upon arrival at school, after break times and before eating so that children can wash their hands thoroughly.

The key thing to remember is that every school is different. Most schools will communicate changes to parents and pupils prior to the start of term but, if you or your youngster is worried, contact their class teacher and ask them for more information about what to expect. Just like parents, teachers want children to feel happy, safe and reassured about the start of term and all of the measures in place are there to do just that!

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