Special schools and other specialist settings: coronavirus (COVID-19)

What all special schools and other specialist settings will need to do during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

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This guidance applies to:

  • special schools
  • special post-16 institutions (SPIs)
  • other specialist settings, such as hospital schools
Published 2 July 2020
Last updated 24 February 2022 + show all updates
  1. We’ve updated the guidance to reflect new public health guidance tracing close contacts, isolation and when someone has symptoms or a positive test.

  2. Updated to reflect that asymptomatic testing in special educational needs and disability (SEND) and alternative provision (AP) settings will continue.

  3. Updated to reflect the end of the asymptomatic testing programme. References added to UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) guidance on contact tracing and isolation which comes into effect from Thursday 24 February 2022.

  4. Updated to reflect the removal of Plan B restrictions, including to update advice for tracing close contacts and isolation of under 5s, remove the recommendation to wear face coverings in classrooms and communal areas, update isolation expectations in a residential setting, remove the mandatory certification section as this will no longer be in place from 27 January, confirm that recovery programmes should continue to be delivered, and reflect that from 27 January government is no longer advising people to work from home if they can. Additionally, moved section on protection measures to the beginning to the document to enable easier comparison with other guidance documents.

  5. Updated the 'Rapid asymptomatic testing in specialist settings' guidance in line with the UKHSA announcement about confirmatory PCR tests.

  6. Updated guidance in line with the UKHSA announcement about confirmatory PCR tests and clarifying that children and young people can return to school and college after day 7 if they've had two negative LFD tests.

  7. Updated 'SEND and specialist settings: additional COVID-19 operational guidance' to include changes to the face coverings section on the use of face coverings in classrooms for year 7 and above, changes to the residential specialist settings section to clarify reporting requirements for any children and young people not in their setting, and changes to the home to school transport section to confirm the continuing option of personal travel budgets and milage allowances.

  8. Updated to reflect that daily rapid testing is now recommended for contacts of COVID-19.

  9. Following the Prime Ministers announcement on 8 December 2021, we have updated guidance on vulnerable children and young people who are self-isolating, tracing close contacts and isolation, face coverings, mandatory certification and clinically extremely vulnerable children and adults.

  10. Converted to HTML to improve accessibility. Added clarification on the use of face visors and face shields by those who are exempt from wearing face coverings and what guidance children and staff must follow when traveling to England from abroad.

  11. Updated guidance on travel and isolation, face coverings and vaccination of under 18 year olds to reflect new measures announced on 27 November 2021.

  12. Updated SEND and specialist settings guidance to align with changes to advice for those who were previously considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable, remove out of date content, add advice on vaccines, and update information about remote education, dedicated transport, the contingency framework, testing, and the temporary education directive. Updated information on asymptomatic testing and contact tracing in the 'rapid asymptomatic testing in specialist settings' guidance.

  13. 'SEND and specialist settings: additional COVID-19 operational guidance' - updated information on CO2 monitors in the 'Control measures: Keep occupied spaces well ventilated' section.

  14. Clarified the circumstances under which children, pupils, students and staff should self-isolate and updated the advice on contingency planning and taking extra action if the number of positive cases increases substantially following the changes to the contingency framework.

  15. This guidance has been updated to mirror wording in recently published guidance for CEV people, remove pre-Step 4 wording and redirected information on risk assessment to health and safety guidance. It has also been republished in HTML.

  16. We have clarified that "From 19 July, the Government is removing the requirement to wear face coverings in law but expects and recommends that they are worn in enclosed and crowded spaces where you may come into contact with people you don't normally meet. This includes public transport and dedicated transport to school or college

  17. We have updated the guidance to confirm that over the summer, staff and secondary pupils should continue to test regularly if they are attending settings that remain open. We have also confirmed advice for testing in the autumn term.

  18. Published new guidance which will come into effect from Step 4 of the roadmap. This includes updated guidance on workforce, people who are clinically extremely vulnerable, attendance, residential settings, remote education, education recovery, home to school transport and funding. It includes new guidance on protection measures such as: mixing and ‘bubbles', close contact tracing and isolation, face coverings, contingency planning, hygiene measures, ventilation, suspected or confirmed cases and testing.

  19. We have converted the guidance to HTML to make it easier to read. We have not changed any of the guidance from the update on 10 May.

  20. Guidance updated to reflect Step 3 of the Roadmap from 17 May 2021, including visits to Special residential settings (chapter 4), asymptomatic testing (chapter 11), funding (chapter 12), face coverings (System of Controls – Annex A) and confirmatory PCR tests (System of Controls – Annex A).

  21. Updated 'Rapid asymptomatic testing in specialist settings' to reflect the introduction of nasal swab only tests at asymptomatic testing sites.

  22. Updated to reflect changes in requirements for face coverings.

  23. We have updated our guidance to reflect the DHSC announcement that a confirmatory PCR test is required following a positive LFD test result in England.

  24. Guidance updated on advice for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, LFD testing in post-16 settings, Test and Trace support payments.

  25. Converted the additional operational guidance from PDF to HTML. This version clarifies previously published guidance on supporting those who are anxious about school attendance, clinically vulnerable and clinically extremely vulnerable, lateral flow device (LFD) testing in primary school and face coverings.

  26. Reformatted 'Rapid asymptomatic testing in specialist settings' guidance as a HTML document - the guidance has not changed.

  27. Updated 'Rapid asymptomatic testing in specialist settings' to include information about home testing for staff, twice-weekly testing of secondary aged pupils, and changes for on-site testing via asymptomatic test sites.

  28. Added 'Additional operational guidance for special schools, special post-16 institutions and alternative provision'. Removed 'Guidance for special schools, specialist post-16 providers and alternative provision during the national lockdown' and 'Guidance for full opening: special schools and other specialist settings'.

  29. Updated the guidance on rapid asymptomatic testing to include changes to daily contact testing advice, information on the rollout of testing to primary school staff and further guidance on the different approaches to testing.

  30. 'Guidance for special schools, specialist post-16 providers and alternative provision during the national lockdown' updated with information about attendance, recording and remote education expectations.

  31. Published additional guidance for special schools, specialist post-16 providers, and alternative provision (including hospital schools) during the national lockdown.

  32. Added 'Mass asymptomatic testing in specialist settings'.

  33. Updated section on pregnant employees.

  34. Added information about tier 4 restrictions.

  35. Updated the isolation period from 14 days to 10 days from the day after an individual tests positive for coronavirus (COVID-19).

  36. Updated sections on assessment and accountability, and contingency planning for remote education.

  37. Guidance updated to address the lifting of the national restrictions from 2 December 2020. Amendments to key policy areas have been made to reflect the local restriction tiers.

  38. Updated guidance on SEND legislation (to reflect that temporary changes have now ceased), the system of controls, residential settings, attendance, workforce, safeguarding, wraparound provision and extra-curricular activity, curriculum expectations, behaviour expectations and contingency planning for remote education.

  39. Added links to the 'Education and childcare settings: New National Restrictions from 5 November 2020'.

  40. Replaced references to “local lockdowns” with references to the local COVID alert levels.

  41. Updated the section on managing confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19).

  42. Amended the information on risk assessments for those with an education, health and care plan.

  43. Updated guidance to reflect the actions special schools and other specialist settings need to support full opening from the start of the autumn term. The main changes are listed at the start of the document.

  44. First published.