It is a confusing time for our children. They have only just got their heads around the fact that the virus has changed how they live and play and so there will be questions.

How can I return to school but still can’t see Granny and Grandpa? Why are some of my friends going back at school but others are not? Parents and teachers need to work together collaboratively to support children as they make this next transition. The priority for staff and pupils returning to school this term has to be about welfare, support, connecting pupils together and getting children back into healthy routines.

Explain messages in clear and simple terms and be prepared to repeat the message

We need to explain to children that the virus will be around for a while but that we are learning more about it all of the time. This means that for many families, where everyone is fit and well, they can start to do some of the activities that they used to such as returning to school, rather than keeping away from people altogether.

Importantly from a safety perspective, we must also explain that the virus itself hasn't changed but that we have got smarter about it. It is still a risk and still able to jump from person to person and we therefore have to be clever about how we live and in particular, our hygiene. Keeping up the messages about how and when to wash our hands and making this fun and something everyone does together, will help.

Keep talking

Giving children a chance to ask questions about this will also be important. Allow time to do this and give them the chance to articulate this however they find helpful, be patient and try to listen carefully to their concerns. Keep allowing time for this once they have gone back to school too and feed this back to teachers who can help to work on these issues in school with children together.

Gradual change

This return to school is about a gradual change. Although we can start to go back to school and see some of our friends, it might take a while for life to get back to how it was before the virus but people are working very hard to do so. When we go back to school it will be different to how it was before. It is important to explain to children that they can expect to see fewer people and that this is necessary to keep each other safe. Keeping our distance where we can is another way to help us all stay safe.

Create a time and place to ask questions

Some children may talk about their feelings about returning to school openly. Younger children or children who are less forthcoming might take a while to process some of this and parents and teachers can often make this easier through play and drawing. Giving children an open task about how they feel on returning to school may garner a chance to talk about things. However, whilst this situation is very different to normal, it is important that it doesn't all feel different and heavy for our children. So making time for fun and play that is covid-free it is crucial.

Explain that we have all experienced this time together

We will always share this time and we have had more time together at home which is a positive thing. For those pupils worried about missing work, reassure them, the whole world has been in this situation and no one is behind. Schools will work with children and families to make sure that if there are any gaps in understanding has occurred it is identified and supported ahead of September.

Feeling loved

Parents will want to do their best to avoid their children feeling like they are to blame for getting behind, or indeed that they have been short-changed or impacted by this time. The most important message for children that are returning is to emphasise how much they are loved and how we will all come through this time by working together.

  • Lara Péchard is head teacher at St Margaret's School, Bushey