Getting children back into classrooms for the start of the new term was a top priority for the government, after almost six months of home schooling for thousands.
In Scotland, pupils returned to schools in mid-August, while the rest of the UK went back in early September, with new safety rules in place due to the ongoing pandemic.
With October school holidays now approaching, many families will be keen to enjoy a break or even enjoy a short holiday abroad. But, with many countries faced with quarantine restrictions, doing so could mean having to complete a 14 day self-isolation period on arrival back in the UK.
What happens if my child needs to self-isolate?
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The UK government has said that pupil attendance will be mandatory from the start of the autumn term 2020 and it is a parent’s duty to ensure their child attends regularly.
Schools have a responsibility to record attendance and follow up on any absences, while also having the ability to issue sanctions, including fixed penalty notices, in line with local authorities’ codes of conduct.
However, there are some exceptional circumstances during which pupils cannot attend school due to coronavirus. Pupils who miss school because they have to self-isolate will not be recorded as absent, the Department of Education has said.
To ensure such absences are recorded accurately, schools have been told to record non-attendance by pupils who are required by law or government guidance to stay at home with a new category.
These absences will be recorded with a ‘code X’, meaning they are ‘not attending in circumstances related to coronavirus’. This classification will not count as an absence in the school census.
Absences marked with this classification must only be used to record when a pupil does not attend because their travel to, or attendance at, school would be:
contrary to guidance relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus from Public Health England (PHE) and/or the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)prohibited by any legislation (or instruments such as statutory directions) relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus
Will absences due to travel quarantine be penalised?
Government guidance states that no parent will be penalised for following official public health advice for their child. This includes if they are required to enter a period of quarantine after travelling abroad to certain countries, meaning this will not be counted as an absence.
Guidance states, “As usual, parents should plan their holidays within school breaks and avoid seeking permission to take their children out of school during term time.
“Families should also consider that their child may need to self-isolate following trips overseas that require a period of quarantine.
“If a pupil is required to be in quarantine on arrival in, or return to, the UK, code X should be used in the register.”
When should children stay off school?
Pupils should not attend school in the event that a member of their household has suspected symptoms of coronavirus, or has tested positive for the virus.
Additionally, if pupils are identified as a close contact of someone who may have Covid-19, they must self-isolate.
In all of these circumstances, the ‘code X’ will be used to mark any absences from school, indicating that non-attendance is related to coronavirus. Parents will not be penalised for keeping their child off school in any of these situations.
A version of this article originally appeared on our sister site, The Scotsman.