© Crown copyright 2020
This publication is licensed under the terms of the Open Government Licence v3.0 except where otherwise stated. To view this licence, visit nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3 or write to the Information Policy Team, The National Archives, Kew, London TW9 4DU, or email: email@example.com.
Where we have identified any third party copyright information you will need to obtain permission from the copyright holders concerned.
This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/closure-of-educational-settings-information-for-parents-and-carers/closure-of-educational-settings-information-for-parents-and-carers
This guidance is for parents and carers, on schools and educational settings which are open only to children who have a parent who is a critical worker and vulnerable children.
As the Prime Minister announced on the 10 May, from 1 June, at the earliest, primary schools in England may be able to welcome back children in key transition years – nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6. Secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges will also be able to provide some face-to-face support with young people in year 10 and year 12 to help them prepare for exams next year. You can access more information on the opening of schools and educational settings to more pupils from 1 June for parents and carers.
To align with the government’s position on nannies, we have updated our guidance for early years settings to confirm that paid childcare can be provided to the children of one household from Wednesday 13 May. This includes childminders, who may choose to look after the children of one household if they are not already looking after vulnerable children or those of critical workers.
1. Closures of schools, childcare and other educational settings
1.1 What age groups does this cover?
The closures apply to registered childcare providers, primary and secondary schools and colleges and other providers. This is for both state-funded and independent schools.
1.2 Is it mandatory for all schools, colleges and other providers to remain open in some form?
We are asking schools, colleges and other providers, early years settings and other settings to remain open for children of critical workers and vulnerable children where they can.
We understand that some may be unable to do so, especially if they are experiencing severe staff shortages. In that instance, we will work with local areas to use neighbouring settings to continue to support vulnerable children and children of critical workers. To make this easier, we have made temporary changes to the law to allow vulnerable children and the children of critical workers to attend another school, on a temporary basis, if their school is closed. The changes ensure they can return to their normal school once it reopens.
1.3 When will early years settings, schools and colleges open to more children and young people?
As the Prime Minister announced on the 10 May, from 1 June, at the earliest, we are asking primary schools in England to welcome back children in key transition years – nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6. We are also asking secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges to provide some face-to-face support for young people in year 10 and year 12 to help them prepare for exams next year.
Other children will continue to be supported to learn at home. You can access more information on the opening of schools and educational settings to more pupils from 1 June for parents and carers.
1.4 Will this apply to independent schools and boarding schools and residential colleges and other providers?
Yes. We are asking independent schools and boarding schools and residential colleges and other providers to do the same as state schools and welcome back children in key transition years – nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6, from 1 June at the earliest. We are also asking secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges to provide some face-to-face support for young people in year 10 and year 12 to help them prepare for exams next year.
For all children and young people with an education, health and care (EHC) plan in special education settings, such as special schools, special post 16 institutions and hospital schools, settings should encourage attendance based on the child’s risk assessment and on the ability of the setting to provide for their needs, and not using the child’s year group as a primary deciding factor.
2.1 Are schools and colleges opening during the May half term, including the bank holiday?
We trust schools to make arrangements that work for their school community, in consultation with parents and carers of vulnerable children and those who are critical workers.
3. Early years settings
3.1 Why is my childcare provider telling me that they will continue to charge me during coronavirus related closures?
We are working hard to mitigate the impacts of coronavirus on all parts of our society, including individuals and businesses. We expect nurseries to comply with the law and take a reasonable and proportionate approach to parents’ fees, in light of these unprecedented circumstances, and to communicate any arrangements clearly with them.
3.2 Is there any additional support available for parents who were meeting eligibility criteria for 30 hours free childcare and/or tax-free childcare before the coronavirus outbreak but are no longer working or working reduced hours?
Yes. If you are temporarily not meeting the minimum income requirement for 30 hours free childcare and/or tax-free childcare as a direct consequence of the coronavirus outbreak and would normally meet the threshold for these schemes, you will be treated as eligible.
You should continue to apply or reconfirm if you have a childcare account already.
3.3 Do parents need to provide any proof to access 30 hours free childcare or tax-free childcare that they’ve been adversely affected by the coronavirus outbreak and so can still apply?
You should continue to apply or reconfirm if you have a childcare account already. You will be contacted if further evidence is required.
3.4 Can I still get 30 hours if I or my partner have earned over the maximum threshold because we’ve had to work longer hours due to the coronavirus outbreak?
Subject to parliamentary approval of a temporary amendment to the 30 hours free childcare regulations, we intend to allow critical workers who exceed the maximum income threshold (£100k per year), due to increased hours as a direct result of the coronavirus outbreak, to remain eligible for 30 hours for the current tax year.
3.5 I am not a critical worker and my child isn’t vulnerable. Do I still need to apply or reconfirm for the 30 hours entitlement if I’m not currently accessing a place?
We encourage all eligible parents to continue to apply for and reconfirm, their 30 hours entitlement, even when childcare settings remain closed to all but vulnerable children and children of critical workers. This will ensure a smooth transition back into childcare when settings fully reopen.
3.6 Is there any flexibility for parents who have missed the deadline for 30 hours codes?
We have asked local authorities and childcare providers who are approached by the parents of vulnerable children, or critical workers who have missed the 31 March 2020 deadline, to accept their codes, having first checked the child’s date of birth to ensure summer term eligibility. To be eligible for a summer term 30 hours place the child must have turned 3 before 1 April 2020.
At this time, only the children of critical workers and children who are vulnerable, are able to access childcare. A list of children prioritised for education provision can be found in guidance on critical workers who can access schools or educational settings. We have asked all early years settings to prepare for wider opening from 1 June 2020 and will update the guidance on 30 hours in due course.
4.1 What will happen to exams?
Primary assessments, including assessment against the early learning goals that form the Early Years Foundation Stage profile, SATs, and exams, including GCSEs, AS levels and A levels, will not go ahead this summer.
The exam regulator, Ofqual, exam boards and awarding organisations will work with teachers and other educational staff to provide grades to students whose exams and assessments have been cancelled this summer.
Further information is available for schools and colleges, students and parents on how qualifications will be awarded in summer 2020.
No exams will be taking place in schools and FE providers this summer.
5.1 Can parents appeal if a school has refused them a place?
Yes, we have amended the regulations so that admission authorities can hold appeals by telephone, video conference or in writing, where necessary, instead of holding face to face hearings with parents. More information on the appeals process is available.
6.1 My child is still attending school, and usually gets free transport. Will they still get this?
Yes. Local authorities remain under a statutory duty to provide free home to school transport for eligible children, where those children are still attending school.
Colleges and schools also have capacity to support transport costs where necessary for 16 to 19 year olds.
6.2 If children are attending an alternative setting on a temporary basis, will transport be provided?
We will work closely with local authorities to put the necessary arrangements in place to support children.
6.3 How should children travel to and from their childcare, school or college?
Parents and children should consider walking and cycling where possible, or driving if necessary. They should avoid the use of public transport where possible, particularly at peak times.
Government has published guidance on how to travel safely, which schools, parents and young people can refer to when planning their travel, particularly if they need to use public transport.
7. Free school meals
7.1 If my child is eligible for free school meals, will they still receive a meal or food voucher while the school is closed?
Yes. Under normal circumstances, schools are not expected to provide free school meals to eligible children who are not attending due to illness or if the school is closed. However, during the coronavirus outbreak we expect schools to continue to provide support to these children if the school is only open for certain groups or closed.
Headteachers can decide which of the available options will be best for families in their area. We encourage schools to work with their suppliers to arrange food parcels or collections for families eligible for free school meals. Where this is not possible, a national scheme was launched for schools to provide supermarket vouchers.
Contact your school to find out what they are providing.
We expect further education institutions to continue to support students who are eligible for, and usually receive, free meals in further education, or are newly eligible, whether they are continuing to attend the provider or are studying remotely due to coronavirus related issues. Institutions should continue to provide that support as they determine the most appropriate and practical actions, for example, providing vouchers for supermarkets or local shops, making payments by BACS, or other local arrangements. 16 to 19 colleges and other providers can also access the school voucher scheme where needed.
8. Vulnerable children and children of critical workers
8.1 Is my child counted as vulnerable?
During the coronavirus outbreak, vulnerable children and young people are defined as those who:
- are assessed as being in need under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, including children and young people who have a child in need plan, a child protection plan or who are a looked-after child
- have an EHC plan and it is determined, following risk assessment, that their needs can be as safely or more safely met in the educational environment
- have been assessed as otherwise vulnerable by educational providers or local authorities (including children’s social care services), and who could, therefore, benefit from continued attendance
This might include children and young people on the edge of receiving support from children’s social care services, adopted children, those at risk of becoming NEET (‘not in employment, education or training’), those living in temporary accommodation, those who are young carers and others at the provider and local authority’s discretion.
The term ‘all year groups’ in this context for attendance purposes refers to children under 5 eligible for early years entitlements and children and young people aged 5 to 18 (or aged 5 to 25 for children and young people with an EHC plan).
You can access further guidance on supporting vulnerable children and young people during the coronavirus outbreak.
8.2 Is it compulsory for parents of vulnerable children to send their children to school?
There is an expectation that vulnerable children who have a social worker will attend provision, so long as they do not have underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk than others. In circumstances where a parent does not want to bring their child to an education setting, and their child is considered vulnerable, the social worker and education provider should explore the reasons for this, directly with the parent.
Where parents are concerned about the risk of the child contracting the virus, the education provider should talk through these anxieties with the parent following the advice set out by the implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings guidance.
For those with an EHC plan, we are asking local authorities to work with educational providers, families and the child or young person to carry out a risk assessment to judge whether the child or young person’s needs cannot be met safely at home.
Where the risk assessment determines a child or young person with an EHC plan will be safer at home, our recommendation is that they stay at home. Where the risk assessment determines a child or young person with an EHC plan will be as safe or safer at an education setting, our recommendation is that they attend the education setting.
8.3 I am a critical worker or have a vulnerable child - can you guarantee that my child will attend their usual educational setting school or childcare provider?
We are expecting the majority of settings to stay open for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children so they can continue to attend their usual provider, but we acknowledge this will be impossible for some.
Where a setting is unable to stay open, we will work with local authorities, regional school commissioners and neighbouring providers to find an alternative setting for their students.
We have made temporary changes to the law to allow vulnerable children and the children of critical workers to attend another school, on only a temporary basis if their school is closed. The changes ensure they can return to their normal school once it reopens.
8.4 I am a critical worker or have a vulnerable child but my child’s educational setting has closed. What should I do?
Arrangements will be made in your local area to ensure that your child can still attend an educational setting. If your setting has not already informed you about those arrangements, please contact your local authority. They will be working with regional school commissioners and neighbouring providers to make alternative arrangements.
You can find out your local authority by entering your postcode. Contact details should be on your local authority’s website.
If your child is attending further education, you should contact your college or provider in the first instance. You are also able to contact your local authority.
8.5 If I send my child to another school temporarily whilst their normal school is closed, will they be able to go back to their normal school once it opens to more children?
We have made temporary changes to the law so that when a school is closed, children can attend another school.
Once their normal school reopens, children and young people in the priority groups (vulnerable children and the children of critical workers) should return there where their attendance is appropriate.
8.6 Will critical workers or parents of vulnerable children be penalised if they do not send their child to school?
Parents will not be penalised if their child does not attend school.
8.7 How can I report if I am worried a child or young person might be at risk of harm?
To further protect children and young people from harm, we are working with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) to expand and promote its helpline.
Parents or any adult will be able to call if they want someone to talk to, and they should get in touch if they are worried about a child or young person. Anyone with concerns should call 0808 800 5000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
8.8 My child has an EHC plan. What support will they receive?
We have made some amendments to the law around education, health and care (EHC) plans to provide some flexibility in the current circumstances. We have published detailed guidance on changes to the law on education, health and care needs assessments and plans due to coronavirus.
8.9 Will I be counted as a critical worker?
Critical workers include those who work in health and social care and in other key sectors.
Schools and local authorities should ensure that children with a parent or carer who is listed on the government’s critical worker list can continue to attend school. If the child’s school is closed, provision should be made, on a temporary basis, at a setting which remains open.
8.10 If only one parent or carer is a critical worker, can I send my children to school?
Children with at least one parent or carer who is a critical worker can attend school.
8.11 I am a critical worker but I don’t want to send my child in to school or childcare, do I have to?
Schools and local authorities should ensure that children with a parent or carer who is listed on the government’s critical worker list can continue to attend school, and they are strongly encouraged to attend. Parents will not be penalised if their child does not attend school.
8.12 What if I have to leave my children at home unattended?
There is no need to leave your child at home alone if you are a critical worker or if your child is classed as vulnerable, as they can attend school.
Read the government advice on the law on leaving children unattended.
There is no law about when you can leave your child on their own but it is an offence to leave them alone if it places them at risk. As parents, you should use your judgement on how mature your child is before you decide to leave them at home.
It is important to be aware that you can be prosecuted if you leave a child alone ‘in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health’. If you are at all unsure, the NSPCC recommends that children under 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time, children under 16 should not be left alone overnight and babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone.
8.13 Does this apply to special schools or specialist post-16 providers?
We recognise that children and young people with special educational needs and disability (SEND) and their parents and carers are facing numerous challenges as a result of coronavirus. Residential special schools and other special settings should be supported to remain open, wherever possible.
Special schools, colleges and local authorities are advised to make case by case assessments of the health and safeguarding considerations of pupils and students on an EHC plan. For some, they will be safer in an education setting. For others, they will be safer at home. We trust leaders and parents to make these decisions and will support them as required. More information can be found in the risk assessment guidance.
9. Resources and support
9.1 What support is available to parents to help them educate their children at home and to access children’s social care services?
We want to support schools and parents to ensure children and young people’s education can continue.
We also want to ensure that children with a social worker can continue to receive support from children’s social care services and that care leavers have the online access they need to keep in touch with the support and services they need.
To help young people access online learning, devices will be ordered for disadvantaged children who would otherwise not have access to one and are preparing for exams (in year 10) or receive support from a social worker, or are a care leaver.
Where care leavers, children with a social worker at secondary school and disadvantaged children in year 10, do not have internet connections, we are providing 4G routers to them so that they can learn at home. In addition, we are working with the country’s major telecommunication providers to make it easier for families to access selected educational resources by temporarily exempting these sites from data charges.
For support to access social care services, you should first contact your local authority. For year 10 children, you should contact your child’s school, who will be able to offer advice.
Other available support includes:
- a list of online educational resources which have been identified by some of the country’s leading educational experts to help pupils to learn at home
- guidance to help primary school children continue their education during the coronavirus outbreak
- enhanced education provision from the BBC including daily lessons
- an online resource from Oak National Academy with daily lessons available to both primary and secondary pupils (your child’s school is best placed to advise you regarding whether to use the academy alongside their existing offer)
For 16 to 19 year olds, education providers are able to provide support to young people who are not able to access an internet connection. Young people and parents should contact their provider if they are not able to access remote education.
Most further education providers have established remote education offers, which they have expanded to support education at home. Young people should be in regular contact with their provider around what support is available and to ensure they take full advantage of the offer.
9.2 My child qualifies for a device and connectivity at home but I don’t know how to apply for one. How can I do this?
Laptops, tablets and 4G routers will be sent to schools and children’s social care teams. They will contact you once they have the devices to let you know how to access them.
If you / your child is aged 16 to 19 you should contact your college, school, or other provider around accessing similar support if you need it.
9.3 Which children and young people are eligible for a laptop or tablet and why?
There are two groups of children and young people eligible for a laptop or tablet who currently lack access. The first is care leavers and children who receive support from a social worker (including families with pre-school children with a social worker, as well as older children), who need to keep in touch with social care services. The second group are disadvantaged students who would not otherwise have access to online learning and are preparing for exams (in year 10).
Any 16 to 19 year olds in education, without a suitable device and/or connectivity to study remotely and whose family can’t afford these costs should approach their college, school or other 16 to 19 providers to request support. Decisions on support will be made by providers. Colleges, schools and other 16 to 19 providers will be able to apply to top-up bursary funds, where necessary, to ensure that vulnerable learners receive appropriate support.
We are also working with major telecoms companies to temporarily exempt certain educational resources from data charges. More details on this will follow.
9.4 What resources are available for parents with children under 5 to help support their children’s early learning at home?
For parents with children under 5 years old who have not yet started school, the Department for Education’s Hungry Little Minds campaign features tips and practical activities that you can do at home with children to support their early learning. There are many simple ways to help your children learn and it does not have to feel like ‘learning’.
Having everyday conversations, make-believe play and reading together all make a big difference to your child’s development. You can find more ideas and content from the BBC’s Tiny Happy People campaign and the National Literacy Trust’s Family Zone. We have also published further guidance on how to help children aged 2 to 4 to learn at home during the coronavirus outbreak.
9.5 What advice is available to parents with children aged 4 to 11, to help them support their children’s education at home?
We have published guidance for parents of primary school children regarding supporting the continuation of education at home. This includes advice and guidance around:
- structuring the day
- use of digital devices
- language development
- reading and writing
- information tailored to each age group
- information for those with children reaching the end of primary school
This guidance is designed to complement support and advice provided by schools and teachers. Engaging with your child’s learning will be helpful in their continued educational development. For example, something as simple as talking to them during the day about what they are doing for school, or about anything around the home, enhances learning.
9.6 There is too much pressure on broadband connections in my area - how can my child do online learning?
The government is having regular calls with the major fixed and mobile operators, and with Ofcom, to monitor the situation and ensure that any problems on the networks are rapidly addressed and rectified.
We fully understand the importance of having reliable internet connectivity, particularly at this time, so that people can work from home wherever possible and access critical public services online, including health information.
9.7 Is my child at additional risk while spending more time online?
With children spending more time online to do schoolwork and other activities, there could be an additional risk. This is why it is more important than ever that children, parents and carers know how to stay safe online.
It is important that parents and carers talk to their children about online safety, show an interest in what they are doing online and ask what they like and dislike about the apps and services they use. Discuss age appropriate ‘ground rules’ like how much time they spend online doing different things and what games and apps are appropriate to use. Also consider setting up and reviewing age appropriate parental controls. Setting parental controls can be a quick and effective tool to help protect children online.
9.8 Where can I go to get support to help keep my child safe online?
There is support available to keep your child safe online. You can access further information on keeping children safe online.
Here are some useful links to help parents and carers.
- Thinkuknow provides advice from the National Crime Agency (NCA) to stay safe online
- to help families manage during this time, the NCA has launched Thinkuknow: home activity packs, a set of fun, engaging activities based on Thinkuknow cartoons, films, games, and advice articles
- a new activity sheet for each age group will be published on the Thinkuknow website every 2 weeks while schools are closed - these activities offer a great opportunity to help you keep up positive, supportive conversations about online safety in your home
- Parent Info is a collaboration between Parentzone and the NCA providing support and guidance for parents from leading experts and organisations
- Childnet provides a tool kit to support parents and carers of children of any age to start discussions about their online life, to set boundaries around online behaviour and technology use, and to find out where to get more help and support
- Internet Matters provides age-specific online safety checklists, guides on how to set parental controls on a range of devices and a host of practical tips to help children get the most out of their digital world
- LGfL provides support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online, including 6 top tips to keep primary aged children safe online
- Net Aware provides support for parents and carers from the NSPCC, providing a guide to social networks, apps and games
- Let’s Talk About It provides support for parents and carers to keep children safe from online radicalisation
- UK Safer Internet Centre provides tips, advice, guides and resources to help keep children safe online, including parental controls offered by home internet providers and safety tools on social networks and other online services
- staying safe online provides government guidance offering advice on parental controls, fact-checking information, communicating with family and friends while social distancing is in place and taking regular breaks
9.9 What support is available to parents to help them maintain their family’s wellbeing while their children are at home?
Social connections, alongside exercise, sleep, diet and routine, are important protective factors for mental health.
Materials to promote and support mental wellbeing are included in the list of online resources we have published to help children to learn at home. Public Health England’s Rise Above platform supports young people. The Department of Health and Social Care is providing £5 million of additional funding to support mental health charities to increase their provision for adults and children at this time.
Social isolation, reduced exercise and bereavement may affect children’s wellbeing in this period. Resources to promote and support children and young people’s mental wellbeing include:
- MindEd educational resources for adults about children and young people’s mental health which is relevant for parents and carers as well as volunteers, teachers, and other professionals working with children
- Every Mind Matters which supports looking after your own and other’s mental health
- guidance on looking after wellbeing and mental health during the coronavirus outbreak
- guidance on supporting children’s wellbeing and mental health
All NHS mental health trusts are setting up 24/7 helplines and seeking to use digital and virtual channels to continue delivering support during the coronavirus outbreak.
9.10 What support is available for children/young people in receipt of SEN support?
Pupils who would usually be in receipt of SEN support (those without EHC plans) do not automatically meet the definition of ‘vulnerable children’. Local authorities and schools/colleges have the flexibility to consider whether other children have vulnerabilities that mean they are safer at school/college than at home. However, we recommend that these decisions are taken based on risk assessment involving education settings, local authorities and parents. Further information can be found in the guidance on supporting vulnerable children and young people during the coronavirus outbreak.
Pupils on SEN support who remain at home will continue to have ongoing learning needs. Ensuring there are good communication channels between education settings and parents during this period is essential, as well as aiming to ensure that schools and colleges provide access to appropriate teaching materials wherever possible. Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators (SENCOs) in particular may be able to act as a contact point for families of children on SEN support. SENCOs will typically lead on ensuring that children and young people with SEN have access to materials they can use to learn and consolidate their learning at home. The government has also published details of remote learning resources, which includes those designed for children with SEND.