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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-full-opening-special-schools-and-other-specialist-settings/guidance-for-full-opening-special-schools-and-other-specialist-settings
Main changes since this guidance was last updated
The following information has been updated:
- changes to SEND legislation
- use of face coverings in settings
- the framework for supporting transport to and from settings
- pupils who are shielding or self-isolating
- actions for all schools and local authorities with regards to recording attendance and absence
- employer health and safety and equalities duties
- support available for schools with regard to supply teachers
- performance management and appraisal for teachers
- health and safety
- music, dance and drama in school
- wraparound provision and extra-curricular activity
- physical activity in schools
- new resources available for pupil wellbeing and support
- behaviour expectations
- primary assessment
- additional resources available for delivering remote education
- risk assessments for those with an education, health and care (EHC) plan
All children and young people, in all year groups and setting types, will return to education settings full time from the beginning of the autumn term.
This guidance is for leaders and staff of:
- special schools
- special post-16 institutions (SPIs)
- other specialist education settings, such as hospital schools
It provides further information on the steps needed to ensure children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) can return to full time provision.
Separate guidance is available for:
The first section sets out the actions leaders should take to minimise the risk of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) in their setting, highlighting additional or different considerations for special education settings, compared to mainstream. This is public health advice, endorsed by Public Health England (PHE), and is relevant for all specialist settings.
The rest of this guidance is focused on how the Department for Education (DfE) expects settings, including special schools, to operate in this new context. This includes:
- school operations
- curriculum, behaviour and pastoral support
- assessment and accountability
- contingency planning in the case of a local outbreak
SPIs may prefer to refer to the general guidance for further education (FE) colleges and providers.
We produced this guidance with input from school leaders, unions and sector bodies and in consultation with PHE and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). We will keep the guidance under review and update as necessary.
Welcoming children and young people back to education
Returning to school or college is vital for children and young people’s education and for their wellbeing. Time out of an education setting is detrimental to cognitive and academic development, particularly for disadvantaged children and young people. This impact can affect both current levels of learning and children and young people’s future ability to learn, and therefore we need to ensure all pupils and students can return to their setting sooner rather than later.
The risk to children and young people themselves of becoming severely ill from coronavirus (COVID-19) is very low and there are negative health impacts of being out of school or college. We know that education settings are a vital point of contact for public health and safeguarding services that are critical to the wellbeing of children, young people and families.
A child or young person’s time spent in education is key to their preparation for adulthood. This affects the standard of living that today’s pupils and students will have over the course of their entire life. For many households, the closure of education settings has also affected their ability to work. As the economy begins to recover, we need to remove this barrier so parents and carers can return to work.
In relation to working in education settings, whilst it is not possible to ensure a totally risk-free environment, the Office for National Statistics analysis on coronavirus (COVID-19) related deaths linked to occupations, suggests that staff in educational settings tend not to be at any greater risk from the disease than many other occupations. There is no evidence that children transmit the disease any more than adults.
Given the improved position, the balance of risk is now overwhelmingly in favour of children and young people returning to school or college. The Chief Medical Officers and Deputy Chief Medical Officers of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales recently set out the evidence of risks and benefits to health from schools opening, concluding that the risk of long-term harm from coronavirus (COVID-19) due solely to attending school is low while the risk of long-term harm from not attending school is high. Therefore for the vast majority of children and young people, the benefits of being back in an education setting far outweigh the very low risk from coronavirus (COVID-19), and this guidance explains the steps settings need to take to reduce that risk still further. As a result, we can plan for all children and young people to return and start to reverse the enormous costs of missed education. This will be an important move back towards normal life for many children, young people and families.
We are therefore asking all education settings to prepare to welcome all children and young people back this autumn. While coronavirus (COVID-19) remains in the community, this means making judgements at a setting level about how to balance and minimise any risks from coronavirus (COVID-19) with providing a full educational experience for children and young people. Settings should use their existing resources to welcome children and young people back. There are no plans at present to reimburse additional costs incurred as part of that process.
The measures set out in this guidance provide a framework for education leaders to put in place proportionate protective measures for children, young people and staff, which also ensure that all pupils and students receive a high quality education that enables them to thrive and progress. In welcoming all children and young people back this autumn, settings will be asked to minimise the number of contacts that a pupil or student has during the day as part of implementing the system of controls to reduce the risk of transmission. If settings follow the guidance set out here, they can be confident they are managing risk effectively.
While our aim is to have all children and young people back to their education setting in the autumn, every school and college will also need to plan for the possibility of a local restrictions and how they will ensure continuity of education.
Purpose of this guidance
The first section of this guidance sets out the public health advice which special educational settings must follow to minimise the risks of coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission. It also includes the process which should be followed if anyone develops coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms while at their setting. This guidance has been developed with advice from PHE. In developing this guidance for special settings, our partners have been clear that special education settings face some specific challenges, with social distancing and the use of consistent groups (bubbles). Coproduction and consultation with families is crucial.
This includes the PHE-endorsed ‘system of controls’, building on the hierarchy of protective measures that have been in use throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. When implemented in line with a revised setting-based risk assessment, these measures create an inherently safer environment for children, young people and staff where in which the risk of transmission of infection of coronavirus (COVID-19) is substantially reduced.
The system of controls provides a set of principles and if settings follow this advice effectively, they will effectively minimise risks. All elements of the system of controls are essential. All settings must cover them all, but the way they implement some of the requirements will differ based on individual circumstances. If something is essential for public health reasons, as advised by PHE, we use the word ‘must’. If there is a legal requirement, we have made that clear. This guidance does not create any new legal obligations.
There cannot be a ‘one size fits all’ approach where the system of controls describes every scenario. Education setting leaders are best placed to understand the needs of their settings and communities, and to make informed judgements about how to balance delivering a broad and balanced curriculum with the measures needed to manage risk. The system of controls provides a set of principles to help them do this and, if they follow this advice, they will effectively minimise risks.
We expect special settings, trusts and local authorities to work closely with parents, staff and unions, as they normally would when agreeing the best approaches for their circumstances and discuss any concerns. We want all children, young people and staff to be back in settings, and believe the conditions are right for this, but some people will understandably have worries that should be heard and addressed.
Risk assessments for children and young people with education, health and care plans
Following the partial closure of educational and childcare settings from 20 March 2020, we asked local authorities to consider the needs of all children and young people with EHC plan and to carry out a risk assessment. These risk assessments may prove useful now and over the autumn term to help identify any additional support that children and young people with EHC plans need in order to make a successful return to full-time education. We know that they help reassure pupils, families, and staff that it is safe for the pupil to be welcomed back to their setting. Risk assessments may also prove useful in the event that:
- children and young people have to self-isolate
- there is a local outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19)
Risk assessments should inform a plan of action which focuses on supporting attendance and engagement and should incorporate the views of the child or young person. Where a child or young person with an EHC plan has a social worker, the social worker should also be involved in the risk assessment, along with the local authority virtual school head if the child is in care. Local authorities and educational settings should decide together who is best placed to undertake the risk assessment, noting that the duty to secure provision remains with the local authority.
Whether individual risk assessments are used to help plan for the autumn term or not, settings should, in the spirit of co-production, contact parents and involve them in planning for their child’s return to their setting from September. They should also contact and involve young people over 16 who have EHC plans. That might include visits to the setting, social stories, and other approaches that specialist settings normally use to enable a child or young person with SEND, who has spent some time out of education, to return to full provision.
From 1 May to 31 July, Section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014 was modified by a notice issued under the Coronavirus Act 2020. Local authorities and health commissioners were required to use their ‘reasonable endeavours’ to secure or arrange the specified special educational and health care provision within EHC plans. To ensure that children and young people receive the support they need to return to school, we will not be issuing further notices to modify this duty unless the evidence changes. Our focus is now on supporting local authorities, health commissioning bodies and education settings to restore full provision for all children and young people with EHC plans.
The temporary changes to the law on the timescales for EHC needs assessments and plans, which give local authorities and others who contribute to the relevant processes more flexibility in responding to the demands placed on them by coronavirus (COVID-19), will expire as planned on 25 September 2020. Further information on the temporary changes to the law on EHC needs assessment and plan processes is available at changes to the law on education, health and care needs assessments and plans due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
We remain committed to listening to and working with local authorities, parent carer representatives and specialist SEND organisations, to ensure that the lifting of the temporary changes is managed in a way that supports the needs of children and young people with SEND.
Many children and young people will have found lockdown exceptionally difficult socially and emotionally. Settings should consider any challenging behaviours or social or emotional challenges arising as a response to the lockdown (following discussion with the parents or young person) and offer additional support and phased returns where needed.
Section 1: public health advice to minimise coronavirus (COVID-19) risks
We are asking all education settings to prepare for all children and young people to make a full return from the start of the autumn term. Special schools and other specialist settings should not put in place rotas.
Settings must comply with health and safety law, which requires them to:
- thoroughly review health and safety risk assessments
- draw up plans for the autumn term that address the risks identified using the system of controls
The system of controls is an adapted form of the system of protective measures that will be familiar from the summer term. Essential measures include:
- the requirement that people who are ill should stay at home
- robust hand and respiratory hygiene
- enhanced cleaning arrangements
- active engagement with NHS Test and Trace
- formal consideration of how to reduce contacts and maximise distancing between those in the setting and, wherever possible, minimise the potential for contamination as much as is reasonably practicable
Reducing contact will depend on individual circumstances and will include, as much as possible:
- grouping children and young people together
- avoiding contact between groups
- arranging classrooms with forward facing desks
- staff maintaining distance from pupils and other staff as much as possible
Health and safety risk assessments
Employers must protect people from harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect staff, pupils and others from coronavirus (COVID-19) within the education setting.
Special schools and other specialist settings have remained open to some children, young people and staff and will therefore have already assessed the risks and implemented proportionate control measures to limit the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) for a limited number of pupils or students.
As part of planning for a full return in the autumn term, it is a legal requirement that settings revisit and update existing risk assessments (building on the learning to date and the practices already developed), to consider the additional risks and control measures needed to enable a return to full capacity. They should also review and update their wider risk assessments and consider the need for relevant revised controls in respect of their conventional risk profile, considering the implications of coronavirus (COVID-19). Special education settings should ensure that they implement sensible and proportionate control measures which follow the health and safety hierarchy of control, to reduce the risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level.
Employers should have active arrangements in place to monitor whether the controls are effective, working as planned, and update them appropriately if any issues are identified and if changes in public health advice are announced.
The system of controls: protective measures
Having assessed risk, settings must work through this system of controls. They should adopt protective measures in a way that:
- addresses the risks identified in the assessment
- works for the setting and the individual, often complex, needs of the children and young people they teach
- allows settings to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum, including full educational and care support for pupils and students
System of controls
This is the set of actions education settings must take. They are grouped into ‘prevention’ and ‘response to any infection’.
1) Minimise contact with individuals who are unwell by ensuring that those who have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, or who have someone in their household who does, do not attend the setting.
2) Where recommended, use of face coverings in schools.
3) Clean hands thoroughly more often than usual.
4) Ensure good respiratory hygiene by promoting the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach.
5) Introduce enhanced cleaning, including cleaning frequently touched surfaces often, using standard products such as detergents and bleach.
6) Minimise contact between individuals and maintain social distancing wherever possible.
7) Where necessary, wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Numbers 1 to 5 must be in place in all settings, all the time.
Number 6 must be properly considered, and settings must put in place measures that suit their particular circumstances.
Number 7 applies in specific circumstances.
Response to any infection
8) Engage with the NHS Test and Trace process.
9) Manage confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) amongst the setting’s community.
10) Contain any outbreak by following local health protection team advice.
Numbers 8 to 10 must be followed in every case where they are relevant.
1. Minimise contact with individuals who are unwell by ensuring that those who have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, or who have someone in their household who does, do not attend the setting
Ensuring that pupils, students, staff and other adults do not come into the setting if they have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, or have tested positive in the last 10 days, and ensuring anyone developing those symptoms during the day is sent home, are essential actions to reduce the risk in settings and further drive down transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). All settings must follow this process and ensure all staff are aware of it.
If anyone in the setting becomes unwell with a new and persistent cough or a high temperature, or has a loss of, or change in, their normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia), they must be sent home and advised to follow guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, which sets out that they must self-isolate for at least 10 days and should arrange to have a test to see if they have coronavirus (COVID-19).
If they have tested positive whilst not experiencing symptoms but develop symptoms during the isolation period, they should restart the 10 day isolation period from the day they develop symptoms.
Other members of their household (including any siblings) should self-isolate for 14 days from when the symptomatic person first had symptoms.
If a child is awaiting collection, they should be moved, if possible, to a room where they can be isolated behind a closed door, depending on the age and needs of the child, with appropriate adult supervision if required. Ideally, a window should be opened for ventilation. If it is not possible to isolate them, move them to an area which is at least 2 metres away from other people.
If they need to go to the bathroom while waiting to be collected, they should use a separate bathroom if possible. The bathroom must be cleaned and disinfected using standard cleaning products before being used by anyone else.
PPE must be worn by staff caring for the child while they await collection if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained (such as for a very young child or a child with complex needs). More information on PPE use can be found in the safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care settings, including the use of PPE guidance.
If a child in a boarding school shows symptoms, they should initially self-isolate in their residential setting household. Most children and young people will benefit from self-isolating in their boarding house so that their usual support can continue. Others will benefit more from self-isolating in their family home. For more information on how to care for a symptomatic child while protecting the welfare of other pupils and staff, read the guidance on isolation for residential education settings.
As is usual practice in an emergency, call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk. Anyone with coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms should not visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital.
Any members of staff who have helped someone with symptoms and any pupils who have been in close contact with them, do not need to go home to self-isolate unless they develop symptoms themselves (in which case, they should arrange a test) or if the symptomatic person subsequently tests positive or they have been requested to do so by NHS Test and Trace.
Everyone must wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and running water or use hand sanitiser after any contact with someone who is unwell. The area around the person with symptoms must be cleaned with normal household disinfectant, after they have left, to reduce the risk of passing the infection on to other people. See COVID-19: cleaning of non-healthcare settings guidance.
Public Health England is clear that routinely taking the temperature of pupils is not recommended as this is an unreliable method for identifying coronavirus (COVID-19).
2. Where recommended, use of face coverings in schools
The government is not recommending universal use of face coverings in all settings. Settings that teach children in years 7 and above, and which are not under specific local restriction measures, will have the discretion to require face coverings for pupils, staff and visitors in areas outside the classroom where social distancing cannot easily be maintained. This could include areas such as corridors and communal spaces if deemed appropriate by settings for their particular circumstances. Primary-aged school children will not need to wear a face covering and, older children and young people in specialist settings may be exempt, depending on their needs.
In particular, settings that teach years 7 and above may decide to recommend the wearing of face coverings for pupils, staff or visitors in communal areas outside the classroom where the layout of the schools makes it difficult to maintain social distancing when staff and pupils are moving around the premises, for example, corridors.
In primary settings where social distancing is not possible in areas outside of classrooms between members of staff or visitors, for example in staffrooms, headteachers will have the discretion to decide whether to ask staff or visitors to wear, or agree to them wearing face coverings in these circumstances.
Based on current evidence and the measures that schools are already putting in place, such as the system of controls and consistent bubbles, face coverings will not be necessary in the classroom even where social distancing is not possible. Face coverings would have a negative impact on teaching and their use in the classroom should be avoided.
Where local restrictions apply
In areas where local restrictions are in place, face coverings should be worn by adults and pupils (in years 7 and above) in areas outside classrooms when moving around communal areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain such as corridors unless they are exempt.
In the event of new local restrictions being imposed, settings will need to communicate quickly and clearly to staff, parents, pupils that the new arrangements require the use of face coverings in certain circumstances.
Some individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings. This applies to those who:
- cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical impairment or disability, illness or mental health difficulties
- speak to or provide assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate
The same exemptions will apply in education settings, and we would expect teachers and other staff to be sensitive to those needs noting that some people are less able to wear face coverings and that the reasons for this may not be visible to others.
Access to face coverings
It is reasonable to assume that staff and young people will now have access to face coverings due to their increasing use in wider society, and Public Health England has made available resources on how to make a simple face covering.
However, where anybody is struggling to access a face covering, or where they are unable to use their face covering due to having forgotten it or it having become soiled or unsafe, education settings should take steps to have a small contingency supply available to meet such needs.
No-one should be excluded from education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering.
Safe wearing and removal of face coverings
Settings should have a process for removing face coverings when those who use face coverings arrive, and when face coverings are worn within the setting. This process should be communicated clearly to pupils and staff.
Safe wearing of face coverings requires cleaning of hands before and after touching – including to remove or put them on – and the safe storage of them in individual, sealable plastic bags between use. Where a face covering becomes damp, it should not be worn and the face covering should be replaced carefully.
Children and young people must be instructed not to touch the front of their face covering during use or when removing it and they must dispose of temporary face coverings in a ‘black bag’ waste bin (not recycling bin) or place reusable face coverings in a plastic bag they can take home with them, and then wash their hands again before heading to their classroom.
Further guidance on face coverings
Separate guidance is available on:
- face coverings in education settings
- preventing and controlling infection, including the use of PPE, in education, childcare and children’s social care settings
3. Clean hands thoroughly more often than usual
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is an easy virus to kill when it is on skin. This can be done with soap and water or hand sanitiser. Special settings must ensure that pupils clean their hands regularly, including when they arrive at the setting, when they return from breaks, when they change rooms and before and after eating.
Special education settings will want to consider what frequency of hand washing is best for which pupils, students and staff, and incorporate time for this in timetables or lesson plans. Staff working with children and young people who spit uncontrollably may want more opportunities to wash their hands than other staff, or, children and young people who use saliva as a sensory stimulant or who struggle with ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ may need more opportunities to wash their hands than children and young people who do not. Specialist settings will typically have handwash basins in or adjacent to classrooms, so may be able to use these to maximise hand washing.
Regular and thorough hand cleaning is going to be needed for the foreseeable future. Points to consider and implement:
- whether the setting has enough hand washing or hand sanitiser ‘stations’ available so that all pupils and staff can clean their hands regularly
- supervision of hand sanitiser use given risks around ingestion. Small children and pupils with complex needs should continue to be helped to clean their hands properly. Skin friendly skin cleaning wipes can be used as an alternative
- building these routines into school culture, supported by behaviour expectations and helping ensure younger children and those with complex needs understand the need to follow them
4. Ensure good respiratory hygiene by promoting the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach
The ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach continues to be very important, so settings must ensure that they have enough tissues and bins available to support pupils and staff to follow this routine. As with hand cleaning, settings must ensure younger children and those with complex needs are helped to get this right, and all pupils understand that this is now part of how the setting operates. The e-Bug coronavirus (COVID-19) website contains free resources for schools, including materials to encourage good hand and respiratory hygiene.
Some pupils with complex needs will struggle to maintain as good respiratory hygiene as their peers, for example those who spit uncontrollably or use saliva as a sensory stimulant. This should be considered in risk assessments in order to support these pupils and the staff working with them and is not a reason to deny these pupils face to face education.
5. Introduce enhanced cleaning, including cleaning frequently touched surfaces often using standard products, such as detergents and bleach
Points to consider and implement:
- putting in place a cleaning schedule that ensures cleaning is generally enhanced and includes more frequent cleaning of rooms or shared areas that are used by different groups and frequently touched surfaces being cleaned more often than normal
- toilets will need to be cleaned regularly and pupils must be encouraged to clean their hands thoroughly after using the toilet - different groups being allocated their own toilet blocks could be considered but is not a requirement if the site does not allow for it
Public Health England has published revised guidance for cleaning non-healthcare settings to advise on general cleaning required in addition to the existing advice on cleaning those settings when there is a suspected case.
6. Minimise contact between individuals and maintain social distancing wherever possible
Minimising contacts and mixing between people reduces transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). This is important in all contexts, and education settings must consider how to implement this. Special settings must do everything possible to minimise contacts and mixing while delivering a broad and balanced curriculum.
The overarching principle to apply is reducing the number of contacts between children, young people and staff. This can be achieved through keeping groups separate (in ‘bubbles’) and through maintaining distance between individuals. These are not alternative options and both measures will help, but the balance between them will change depending on children’s ability to distance, the layout of the setting, and the feasibility of keeping distinct groups separate while offering a broad curriculum.
We recognise that maintaining distance or forming bubbles could be particularly difficult in special settings, particularly given the need for staff to administer care support and provide therapies to the children and young people attending. However, the average number of pupils or students attending a special school or SPI is much lower than the average number in a mainstream school, and this in itself, will help to limit the number of contacts for any individual.
The points to consider and implement are set out in the following sections.
a. How to group children and young people
Consistent groups reduce the risk of transmission by limiting the number of children, young people and staff in contact with each other to only those within the group. They have been used in special settings in the summer term in recognition that children, and especially the youngest children and those with complex needs, cannot socially distance from staff or from each other and this provides an additional protective measure. Maintaining distinct groups or ‘bubbles’ that do not mix makes it quicker and easier in the event of a positive case to identify those who may need to self-isolate, and to keep that number as small as possible.
However, the use of small groups restricts the normal operation of education settings and presents both educational and logistical challenges, including the cleaning and use of shared spaces, such as the playgrounds, boarding houses, dining halls, and toilets, and the provision of specialist teaching and therapies. This is the case in both primary and secondary schools, but is particularly difficult in secondary schools, and special settings.
In this guidance for the autumn term, maintaining consistent groups remains important, but given the decrease in the prevalence of coronavirus (COVID-19) and the resumption of the full range of curriculum subjects, settings may need to change the emphasis on bubbles within their system of controls and increase the size of these groups.
Settings should assess their circumstances and look to implement ‘bubbles’ of an appropriate size, to achieve the greatest reduction in contact and mixing, without unduly limiting the quality or breadth of teaching, or access for support and specialist staff and therapists.
Whatever the size of the group, they should be kept apart from other groups where possible and children and young people that are able should be encouraged to keep their distance within groups. Settings with the capability to do it should take steps to limit interaction, sharing of rooms and social spaces between groups as much as possible.
When using larger groups, the other measures from the system of controls become even more important to minimise transmission risks and to minimise the numbers of pupils and staff who need to self-isolate. We recognise that younger children and those with complex needs will not be able to maintain social distancing and it is acceptable for them not to distance within their group.
Both the approaches of separating groups and maintaining distance are not ‘all or nothing’ options and will still bring benefits even if implemented partially. Some settings may keep children and young people in their class groups for the majority of the classroom time, but also allow mixing into wider groups for specialist teaching, wraparound care and transport, or for boarding pupils in one group residentially and another during the school day. Siblings may also be in different groups. Endeavouring to keep these groups at least partially separate and minimising contacts between children and young people will still offer public health benefits as it reduces the network of possible direct transmission.
All teachers and other staff can operate across different classes and year groups in order to facilitate the delivery of the timetable and specialist provision but should minimise the number of interactions or changes wherever possible.
b. Measures within the classroom
Maintaining a distance between people whilst inside and reducing the amount of time they are in face to face to contact lowers the risk of transmission. We know that this is not always possible, particularly when working with children and young people with complex needs, or those who need close contact care. Educational and care support should be provided for these children and young people as normal, with other increased hygiene protocols in place (as set out above) to minimise risk of transmission.
Where possible, for example with older children with less complex needs who are able to self-regulate their behaviours without distress, children and young people should also be supported to maintain distance and not touch staff and their peers. This will not be possible for the youngest children, and some children and young people with complex needs, and it is not feasible in some settings where space does not allow. Settings doing this where they can, and even doing this some of the time will help.
When staff, children or young people cannot maintain distancing, the risk can also be reduced by keeping pupils and students in the smaller, class-sized groups described above.
Settings should make small adaptations to the classroom to support distancing where possible. That should include seating pupils side by side and facing forwards, rather than face to face or side on, and might include moving unnecessary furniture out of classrooms to make more space.
c. Measures elsewhere
Groups should be kept apart, meaning that settings should avoid large gatherings such as assemblies or collective worship with more than one group.
When timetabling, groups should be kept apart and movement around the setting kept to a minimum. While passing briefly in the corridor or playground is low risk, settings should avoid creating busy corridors, entrances and exits. Settings should also consider staggered break times and lunch times (and time for cleaning surfaces in the dining hall between groups).
Settings should also plan how shared staff spaces are set up and used to help staff to distance from each other.
Use of staff rooms should be minimised, although staff must still have a break of a reasonable length during the day.
d. Measures for arriving at and leaving the setting
We know that travel patterns differ greatly between settings. If those patterns allow, settings should consider staggered starts or adjusting start and finish times to keep groups apart as they arrive and leave. Staggered start and finish times should not reduce the amount of overall teaching time. A staggered start may, for example, include condensing or staggering free periods or break time but retaining the same amount of teaching time, or keeping the length of the day the same but starting and finishing later to avoid rush hour. Settings should consider how to communicate this to parents and remind them about the process that has been agreed for drop off and collection, including that gathering at the gates and otherwise coming onto the site without an appointment is not allowed.
Settings should also have a process for removing face coverings when pupils, students and staff who use them arrive at the setting and communicate it clearly to them. Pupils and students must be instructed not to touch the front of their face covering during use or when removing them. They must wash their hands immediately on arrival (as is the case for all pupils and students), dispose of temporary face coverings in a ‘black bag’ bin (not recycling bin) or place reusable face coverings in a plastic bag they can take home with them, and then wash their hands again before heading to their classroom. Guidance on safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care provides more advice.
e. Other considerations
Some children and young people with SEND (whether with EHC plans or on SEN support) will need specific help and preparation for the changes to routine that these measures will involve, so staff should plan to meet these needs, for example using social stories.
Specialists, therapists, clinicians and other support staff for pupils with SEND should provide interventions as usual. Supply teachers, peripatetic teachers or other temporary staff can move between settings. They should ensure they minimise contact and maintain as much distance as possible from other staff. Such specialists will be aware of the PPE most appropriate for their role. Settings should consider how to manage other visitors to the site, such as contractors, catering staff and deliveries, as well as cleaning staff on site who may be working throughout the setting and across different groups. This will require close cooperation between settings and the other relevant employers. Settings should have discussions with key contractors about the setting’s control measures and ways of working as part of planning for the autumn term. Settings should ensure site guidance on physical distancing and hygiene is explained to visitors on or before arrival. Where visits can happen outside of school or college hours, they should. A record should be kept of all visitors.
As normal, schools should engage with their local immunisation providers to provide immunisation programmes on site, ensuring these will be delivered in keeping with the school’s control measures. These programmes are essential for children’s health and wellbeing and can also provide benefits for staff. Where a child or young person routinely attends more than one setting on a part time basis, for example because they are dual registered at a mainstream school and a special setting, the settings should work through the system of controls collaboratively, enabling them to address any risks identified and allowing them to jointly deliver a broad and balanced curriculum for the child or young person. Pupils should be able to continue attending both settings. While some adjustment to arrangements may be required, pupils in this situation should not be isolated as a solution to the risk of greater contact.
Equipment and resources are integral to education. During the summer term, their use was minimised, many were moved out of classrooms, and there was significant extra cleaning. That position has now changed for the autumn term, because prevalence of coronavirus (COVID-19) has decreased and because they are so important for the delivery of education. For individual and very frequently used equipment, such as pencils and pens, it is recommended that staff and pupils have their own items that are not shared. Classroom based resources, such as books and games, can be used and shared within the bubble; these should be cleaned regularly, along with all frequently touched surfaces. Resources that are shared between classes or bubbles, such as sports, arts, and science equipment should be cleaned frequently and meticulously and always when moved between bubbles, or rotated to allow them to be left unused for a period of 48 hours (72 hours for plastics) between use by different bubbles.
Settings will need to make an assessment of the cleanability of equipment used in the delivery of therapies (for example, physiotherapy equipment, sensory equipment), to determine whether this equipment can withstand cleaning and disinfecting between each use (and how easy or practical it would be to do so) before it is put back into general use. Where cleaning or disinfecting is not possible or practical, resources will have to be restricted to one user, or be left unused for a period of 48 hours (72 hours for plastics) between use by different individuals.
Outdoor playground equipment should be more frequently cleaned. This would also apply to resources used inside and outside by wraparound care providers. It is still recommended that children and young people limit the amount of equipment they bring into the setting each day, to essentials such as lunch boxes, hats, coats, books, stationery and mobile phones. Bags are allowed. Pupils and teachers can take books and other shared resources home, although unnecessary sharing should be avoided, especially where this does not contribute to pupil education and development. Similar rules on hand cleaning, cleaning of the resources and rotation should apply to these resources.
7. Where necessary, wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
The majority of staff in education settings will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work. PPE is only needed in a very small number of cases, including:
- where an individual child or young person becomes ill with coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms while at settings, and only then if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained
- where a child or young person already has routine intimate care needs that involves the use of PPE, in which case the same PPE should continue to be used
When working with children and young people who cough, spit or vomit but do not have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, only any PPE that would be routinely worn, should be worn.
Read the guidance on safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care for more information about preventing and controlling infection, including when, how PPE should be used, what type of PPE to use, and how to source it.
Response to any infection
8. Engage with the NHS Test and Trace process
Settings must ensure they understand the NHS Test and Trace process. This means ensuring that staff members and parents and carers understand that they will need to be ready and willing to:
- book a test if they are displaying symptoms - staff and pupils must not come into the setting if they have symptoms, and must be sent home to self-isolate if they develop them when at the setting - all children and young people can be tested, including children under 5, but children aged 11 and under will need to be helped by their parents/carers if using a home testing kit
- provide details of anyone they have been in close contact with if they were to test positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) or if asked by NHS Test and Trace
- self-isolate if they have been in close contact with someone who develops coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms or someone who tests positive for coronavirus (COVID-19)
Anyone who displays symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) can and should get a test. Tests can be booked online through the NHS testing and tracing for coronavirus website, or ordered by telephone via NHS 119 for those without access to the internet.
The government will ensure that it is as easy as possible to get a test through a wide range of routes that are locally accessible, fast and convenient. We will release more details on new testing avenues as and when they become available and will work with settings so they understand what the quickest and easiest way is to get a test. At the start of the autumn term, settings have been provided with a small number of coronavirus (COVID-19) home testing kits that they can give directly to parents/carers collecting a child or young person who has developed symptoms at their setting, or staff who have developed symptoms at work, where they think providing one will significantly increase the likelihood of them getting tested. Advice is provided alongside these kits.
Settings should ask parents and staff to inform them immediately of the results of a test and follow this guidance.
If someone begins to self-isolate because they have symptoms similar to coronavirus (COVID-19) and they get a test which delivers a negative result, they feel well and no longer have symptoms similar to coronavirus (COVID-19), they can stop self-isolating. They could still have another virus, such as a cold or flu – in which case it is still best to avoid contact with other people until they are better - other members of their household can stop self-isolating.
If someone tests positive, they should follow the guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection and must self-isolate for at least 10 days from the onset of their symptoms and then return to the setting only if they do not have symptoms other than cough or loss of sense of smell or taste. This is because a cough or anosmia can last for several weeks once the infection has gone. The 10-day period starts from the day when they first became ill. If they still have a high temperature, they should keep self-isolating until their temperature returns to normal. Other members of their household should continue self-isolating for the full 14 days.
9. Manage confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) amongst the school and college community
You must take swift action when you become aware that someone who has attended your setting has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). You can contact the dedicated advice service introduced by Public Health England (PHE) and delivered by the NHS Business Services Authority. This can be reached by calling the DfE Helpline on 0800 046 8687 and selecting option 1 for advice on the action to take in response to a positive case. You will be put through to a team of advisers who will inform you what action is needed based on the latest public health advice. The advice service will carry out a rapid risk assessment to confirm who has been in close contact with the person during the period that they were infectious, and ensure they are asked to self-isolate.
If, following triage, further expert advice is required the adviser will escalate your call to the PHE local health protection team.
The advice service (or PHE local health protection team if escalated) will work with settings to guide them through the actions they need to take. Based on their advice, settings must send home those people who have been in close contact with the person who has tested positive, advising them to self-isolate for 14 days since they were last in close contact with that person when they were infectious. Close contact means:
- direct close contacts - face to face contact with a case for any length of time, within 1 metre, including being coughed on, a face to face conversation, or unprotected physical contact (skin to skin)
- proximity contacts - extended close contact (within 1 to 2 metres for more than 15 minutes) with an infected individual
- travelling in a small vehicle, like a car, with an infected person
The advice service (or PHE local health protection team if escalated) will provide definitive advice on who must be sent home. To support them in doing so, we recommend settings keep a record of pupils and staff in each group, and any close contact that takes place between children, young people and staff in different groups (see section 6 of the system of controls for more on grouping pupils). This should be a proportionate recording process. Settings do not need to ask pupils to record everyone they have spent time with each day or ask staff to keep definitive records in a way that is overly burdensome.
A template letter will be provided to settings, on the advice of the health protection team, to send to parents and staff if needed. Settings must not share the names of people with coronavirus (COVID-19) unless essential to protect others.
Household members of those contacts who are sent home do not need to self-isolate themselves unless the child, young person or staff member who is self-isolating subsequently develops symptoms. If someone in a class or group that has been asked to self-isolate develops symptoms themselves within their 14-day isolation period they should follow guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. They should get a test, and:
- if the test delivers a negative result, they must remain in isolation for the remainder of the 14-day isolation period - this is because they could still develop the coronavirus (COVID-19) within the remaining days
- if the test result is positive, they should inform their setting immediately, and must isolate for at least 10 days from the onset of their symptoms (which could mean the self-isolation ends before or after the original 14-day isolation period) - their household should self-isolate for at least 14 days from when the symptomatic person first had symptoms, following guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection
Settings should not request evidence of negative test results or other medical evidence before admitting children and young people or welcoming them back after a period of self-isolation.
In the vast majority of cases, settings and parents will be in agreement that a child should not attend the setting, given the potential risk to others. In the event that a parent or guardian insists on a child attending the setting, you can take the decision to refuse the child if in your reasonable judgement it is necessary to protect your pupils and staff from possible infection with coronavirus (COVID-19). Any decision would need to be carefully considered in light of all the circumstances and the current public health advice.
The health protection team will also contact settings directly if they become aware that someone who has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) attended the setting - as identified by NHS Test and Trace.
Further guidance is available on testing and tracing for coronavirus (COVID-19).
10. Contain any outbreak by following local health protection team advice
If settings have 2 or more confirmed cases within 14 days, or an overall rise in sickness absence where coronavirus (COVID-19) is suspected, they may have an outbreak, and must continue to work with their local health protection team who will be able to advise if additional action is required.
In some cases, health protection teams may recommend that a larger number of other pupils self-isolate at home as a precautionary measure – perhaps the whole site or year group. If settings are implementing controls from this list, addressing the risks they have identified and therefore reducing transmission risks, whole setting closure based on cases within the setting will not generally be necessary, and should not be considered except on the advice of health protection teams.
In consultation with the local Director of Public Health, where an outbreak in a setting is confirmed, a mobile testing unit may be dispatched to test others who may have been in contact with the person who has tested positive. Testing will first focus on the person’s class, followed by their year group, then the whole setting if necessary, in line with routine published health outbreak control practice.
Supporting children and young people in special residential settings
We have produced guidance on isolation for residential education settings. This applies to residential special schools and colleges. It contains advice on how to manage self-isolation in these settings in the event of a confirmed or possible case.
In the case of any localised outbreaks, we expect them to keep the residential provision open if necessary. Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis. They will need to remain open to those who:
- have particular needs that cannot be accommodated safely at home
- do not have suitable alternative accommodation
Supporting children and young people receiving hospital education on hospital sites
It is our intention that all pupils in hospital schools will return to their setting full time from the beginning of the autumn term:
- if it is safe and feasible
- in line with hospital infection prevention and control (IPC) measures
They should work with your local NHS trusts to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum for all patients as far as their health permits. We expect local NHS trusts to continue to work collaboratively with headteachers to enable students to receive their education, including through access to classrooms and space in which to teach.
Mainstream schools should continue to support their pupils in hospital, including through remote learning support, to minimise the impact of their hospital stay on their education.
It is our intention that all pupils in alternative provision (AP) settings (including pupil referral units, AP academies and AP free schools) will return to school full-time from the start of the autumn term. To support this return, AP settings must comply with health and safety law which requires employers to assess risks and put in place proportionate control measures. They should work through the system of controls outlined above, adopting measures that help them meet each control to the fullest extent possible, in a way that addresses the risk identified in their assessment, works for their setting, and allows them to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum for pupils.
When working through the system of controls, APs should take steps to minimise social contact and mixing as far as is practicable. All APs, especially larger AP schools, should consider whether pupils can be placed into smaller groups and still receive a broad and balanced curriculum. Due to the smaller size of many AP settings, and because APs are not typically organised by year groups, APs may wish to adopt whole school bubbles as part of their system of control and in order to best meet the needs of their students.
Section 2: school operations
If you are a specialist post-16 provider, you can also read the FE guidance for information relating to the following school operations.
Social distancing has significantly reduced available transport capacity. This guidance sets out a new framework for supporting transport to and from schools from the autumn term. Further information is set out in the transport to school and other places of education: autumn term 2020 guidance.
We are making a distinction between dedicated school transport and wider public transport:
- by dedicated school transport, we mean services that are used only to carry pupils to school - this includes statutory home to school transport, but may also include some existing or new commercial travel routes, where they carry school pupils only
- by public transport services, we mean routes which are also used by the general public
Settings should encourage staff, parents and pupils to walk or cycle to school if at all possible. The government has announced a £2 billion package to promote cycling and walking, including to support pop-up bicycle lanes and widened pavements. For some families, driving children to school will also be an option.
Where children and young people rely on public transport to get to school or college, and cannot walk or cycle, the coronavirus (COVID-19): safer travel guidance for passengers will apply.
Children and young people must not board home to school transport if they, or a member of their household, has symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Dedicated school transport, including statutory provision
Local authorities remain under a statutory duty to provide free home to school transport for all eligible children and young people. Local authorities will need to work with special settings to ensure that children and young people can get to their setting. If a child or young person needs transport to get to the setting named in his or her EHC plan, the local authority will normally have to pay for it.1
Although the provision of transport for post-16 students is not a statutory duty for local authorities, it is often critical to those learners being able to access college provision. We ask local authorities to continue to provide transport if they had been doing so previously.
Pupils and students on dedicated school services do not mix with the general public on those journeys and tend to be consistent. From the autumn term, local authorities will not be required to uniformly apply the social distancing guidelines for public transport, on dedicated school or college transport. However, distancing should still be put in place within vehicles wherever possible. This will help to both minimise disease transmission risks and maintain consistent reinforcement of public health messaging to children and staff, particularly at the point where they are leaving school and heading back into the community each day. What is practicable is likely to vary according to local circumstances.
The approach to dedicated transport should align wherever possible with the principles underpinning the system of controls set out in this document and with the approach being adopted for your school. It is important, wherever it is possible, that:
- social distancing should be maximised within vehicles
- children either sit with their ‘bubble’ on school transport, or with the same constant group of children each day
- children and young people clean their hands before boarding transport and again on disembarking
- additional cleaning of vehicles is put in place
- organised queuing and boarding is put in place where possible
- ventilation of fresh air (from outside the vehicle) is maximised, particularly through opening windows and ceiling vents
Dedicated school services can take different forms and the precise approach taken will need to reflect the range of measures that are reasonable in the circumstances. It will require a partnership approach between settings, local authorities, trusts, dioceses and others. In particular, it is imperative that settings work closely with the local authorities that have statutory responsibility for ‘home to school transport’, as well as a vital role in working with local transport providers to ensure sufficient transport provision. The government has announced additional funding for local transport authorities for this purpose.
Local authorities, working with education settings and transport operators as necessary, should identify the risks arising from coronavirus (COVID-19) and must then work through the system of controls and adopt measures in a way that addresses the identified risk, works in the local circumstances, and allows children and young people to attend their educational setting. Local authorities should take account of the particular needs of children and young people with SEND and, where necessary, be informed by the views provided by the parents and the setting.
The transport guidance for schools acknowledges that implementing bubbles will still bring benefits even if implemented partially, and that settings may need to allow mixing into wider groups in certain circumstances, including on transport. However, we know that vehicle capacity and the complexity of some home to school transport arrangements mean there will often be limits to the extent to which mixing can be minimised. Where it is not possible, the other measures in the system of controls become even more important.
In order to maximise home to school transport capacity, some local authorities have asked some parents to accept personal travel budgets or mileage allowances to take their child to their school or educational institution. This is permissible with the parent’s consent but not something parents can insist on. Local authorities should not expect parents to commit to accepting a personal payment or mileage allowance for a specified period of time, particularly in the current economic climate, and participation will not impact future eligibility on dedicated school transport. The local authority will need reasonable notice to put home to school arrangements back in place for the child or young person when required again.
Face coverings and PPE on dedicated school transport
In accordance with advice from PHE, from the autumn term, we recommend that local authorities advise children and young people aged 11 and over to wear a face covering when travelling on dedicated transport. This does not apply to those who are exempt from wearing a face covering. We are adopting this new position in light of all children returning to education full time. As well as the fact that it will not always be possible to apply the same social distancing measures as apply on public transport.
A face covering is a covering of any type which covers the nose and mouth. It is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used by healthcare and other workers as part of PPE.
Face coverings should not be worn by those who may not be able to handle them as directed (for example, young children, or those with special educational needs or disabilities) as it may inadvertently increase the risk of transmission. Additionally, some children and young people may need to be able to lip-read, or see people’s faces, in order to communicate, while others may be distressed if the people around them wear face coverings.
Children and young people will need to understand how to handle their face covering properly to ensure that any additional risks associated with their use are identified.
Transport operators should conduct a risk assessment for all their operations including dedicated school transport services. This will determine the most appropriate safety measures to put in place such as for social distancing and face coverings. The guidance for operators provides further advice for staff.
Fluid-resistant surgical masks, gloves, aprons and eye protection used by healthcare and other workers as part of personal protective equipment (PPE) should continue to be reserved for people who need to wear them at work. Drivers and passenger assistants will not normally require PPE on home to school transport, even if they are not able to maintain a distance from the children and young people on the transport. However, where the care and interventions that a child or young person ordinarily receives on home to school transport requires the use of PPE, that should continue as usual. For more information, read:
- How should I care for children who regularly spit or require physical contact?
- guidance on the specific steps that should be taken to care for children with complex medical needs, such as tracheostomies (this includes aerosol generating procedures)
From September it is vital for all children and young people to return to their education setting. This is to minimise the longer-term impact of the outbreak on their education, wellbeing and wider development.
Missing out on more time in the classroom risks pupils or students falling further behind. Pupil attendance will be mandatory again from the beginning of the autumn term. The usual rules on attendance will apply, including:
- parents’ duty to ensure that their child attends the education setting where they are registered regularly at their education setting where the child is a registered pupil at school and they are of compulsory school age
- settings’ responsibilities to record attendance and follow up absence
Sanctions, including fixed penalty notices, in line with local authorities’ codes of conduct, can be issued.
Pupils who are shielding or self-isolating, or who are clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable
Now that we know more about coronavirus (COVID-19), fewer children and young people will be advised to shield whenever community transmission rates are high. Most pupils and students will be able to return to their setting. However:
- a small number of pupils and students will still be unable to attend because they are self-isolating or because they are a close contact of someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19)
- shielding advice for all adults and children paused on August 1, subject to a continued decline in the rates of community transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19)
- if rates of disease rise in local areas, children and young people or family members from that area, and that area only, may be advised to shield during the period where rates remain high and, therefore, they may be temporarily unable to attend
- some pupils and students who are no longer required to shield but who generally remain under the care of a specialist health professional may need to discuss their care with their health professional at their next planned clinical appointment - more advice is available from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
Specialists in paediatric medicine have reviewed the latest evidence on the level of risk posed to children and young people from coronavirus (COVID-19). The latest evidence indicates that the risk of serious illness for most children and young people is low. In the future, we expect fewer children and young people will be included on the shielded patient list.
Patients can only be removed from the shielding patient list by their GP or specialist, following consultation with the child and their family, and other clinicians where appropriate. If a child or young person is removed from the shielded patient list, they will no longer be advised to shield in the future if coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission increases. Discussion by a clinician with those previously advised that they were a clinically vulnerable child or young person but can now be removed from the shielded patient list, and with their families are ongoing. Since shielding advice has paused nationally, except in a very few areas where the implementation of local restrictions is ongoing, all previously affected children should be able to return to school except where individual clinical advice not to do so has been provided. Where necessary parents and carers of clinically vulnerable children should discuss this with their health professional.
If pupils or students are unable to attend their setting because they are complying with clinical or public health advice, we expect settings to immediately offer them access to remote education. Settings should monitor their engagement with this. In these cases, their absence will not be penalised.
Pupils and families who are anxious about returning to their educational setting
All other pupils must attend their setting. Support should be put in place to address the potential concerns of pupils, students and families about returning. These may include:
- pupils who were previously shielding
- those living with someone who is clinically vulnerable
- those concerned about the comparatively increased risk from coronavirus (COVID-19), such as those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds or those with certain health conditions
If parents of pupils with significant risk factors are concerned, we recommend settings discuss their concerns and provide reassurance of the measures they are putting in place to reduce the risk in school. Settings should be clear with parents that pupils of compulsory school age must be in school unless a statutory reason applies (for example, if the pupil has been granted a leave of absence, is unable to attend because of sickness, is absent for a necessary religious observance).
Some children and young people with EHC plans will need preparation for their return to full provision. This preparation might include visits to the setting, social stories, and any other approaches that they and local authorities would normally use to enable a child or young person with SEND who has spent some time out of education, to return to full time attendance.
A reasonable adjustment for a child or young person with SEND who has found lockdown exceptionally difficult socially and emotionally may involve a brief phased return to school but this decision should be taken in discussion with parents or carers and in response to the needs of an individual child, not applied as a blanket policy for all children or young people at a setting. Any phased return or part-time learning arrangements should always be temporary measures which are agreed with the family in advance, kept under review and removed as soon as possible. This will ensure that children and young people with SEND benefit as quickly as possible from a full return to school and access to the support services that they need.
Actions for all settings and local authorities
Settings and local authorities should work with families to secure regular school attendance from the start of term as this will be essential to help pupils and students catch up on missed education, make progress and promote their wellbeing and wider development.
We are asking settings and local authorities to:
i. Communicate clear and consistent expectations about attendance to families (and any other professionals who work with the family where appropriate).
ii. Identify pupils and students who are reluctant or anxious about returning or who are at risk of disengaging and develop plans for re-engaging them. This should include disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people, those who were persistently absent before the outbreak and those who have not engaged with the setting regularly during the outbreak.
iii. Use the additional catch-up funding, existing pastoral and support services, attendance staff and resources and pupil premium funding to support the families who need additional support to secure pupils’ and students’ regular attendance.
iv. Work closely with other professionals, such as social workers, as appropriate to support the return to settings including, continuing to notify the child’s social worker if they have one, of non-attendance.
There is separate school attendance guidance for advice on how to record attendance and absence including in circumstances due to coronavirus (COVID-19) for use in the 2020 to 2021 academic year.
Workforce of settings
We have worked closely with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and PHE to develop this specific guidance for school settings. The PHE and DHSC endorsed system of controls outlined in this document sets out the measures that school leaders and all school staff should follow when planning for a full return in September.
Where settings implement the system of controls outlined in this document, in line with their own workplace risk assessment, PHE and DHSC confirm that these measures create an inherently safer environment for children, young people and staff where the risk of transmission of infection is substantially reduced.
As a result, on current evidence, PHE and DHSC advise that schools are not currently considered high risk settings when compared to other workplace environments. Rates of community transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) are now reduced to levels below those seen when shielding was introduced, and shielding measures have been paused from 1 August 2020, with the exception of areas with additional local restrictions means that shielding will continue. It is therefore appropriate for teachers and other school staff to return to their workplace setting. Accordingly, we expect that staff who need to will attend school and you should consider what is feasible and appropriate with regards to home working for your individual circumstances.
All staff should follow the measures set out in the system of controls section of this guidance to minimise the risks of transmission. This includes continuing to observe good hand and respiratory hygiene and maintaining social distancing in line with the provisions as set out in part 6 of the ‘Prevention’ section.
Managers should explain to staff the measures put in place to reduce risks. We anticipate adherence to the measures in this guidance will provide the necessary reassurance for staff to return to settings. If staff are concerned, including those who may be clinically vulnerable, clinically extremely vulnerable or at increased comparative risk from coronavirus, we recommend managers discuss any concerns individuals may have around their particular circumstances and reassure staff about the protective measures in place.
Staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable
Rates of community transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) are now reduced to levels below those seen when shielding was introduced. Shielding measures have been paused from the 1 August 2020, with the exception of areas where local restrictions means that shielding will continue. Therefore, we advise that those who are clinically extremely vulnerable can return to their setting in the autumn term provided their setting has implemented the system of controls outlined in this document, in line with the school’s own workplace risk assessment.
In all respects, the clinically extremely vulnerable should now follow the same guidance as the clinically vulnerable population, taking particular care to practice frequent, thorough hand washing, and cleaning of frequently touched areas in their home or workspace.
Staff who are clinically vulnerable
Clinically vulnerable staff can return to school in the autumn term. While within the setting they should follow the sector-specific measures in this document to minimise the risks of transmission.
This includes taking particular care to observe good hand and respiratory hygiene, minimising contact and maintaining social distancing in line with the provisions set out in section 6 of the ‘Prevention’ section of this guidance. This provides that ideally, adults should maintain 2 metre distance from others, and where this is not possible, avoid close face to face contact and minimise time spent within 1 metre of others. While the risk of transmission between young children and adults is likely to be low, adults should continue to take care to socially distance from other adults including older children/adolescents.
People who live with those who are clinically extremely vulnerable or clinically vulnerable can attend the workplace.
Staff who are pregnant
Pregnant women are in the ‘clinically vulnerable’ category, and are generally advised to follow the above advice, which applies to all staff in schools. Settings should conduct a risk assessment for pregnant women in line with the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSW).
The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (RCOG) has published occupational health advice for employers and pregnant women. This document includes advice for women from 28 weeks gestation or with underlying health conditions who may be at greater risk. We advise employers and pregnant women to follow this advice and to continue to monitor for future updates to it.
Staff who may otherwise be at increased risk from coronavirus (COVID-19)
Some people with particular characteristics may be at comparatively increased risk from coronavirus (COVID-19), as set out in the COVID-19: review of disparities in risks and outcomes report, which looked at different factors including age and sex, where people live, deprivation, ethnicity, people’s occupation and care home residence. These staff can return to their setting in the autumn term as long as the system of controls set out in this guidance are in place. The reasons for the disparities are complex and there is ongoing research to understand and translate these findings for individuals in the future.
People who live with those who have comparatively increased risk from coronavirus (COVID-19) can attend the workplace.
Employer health and safety and equalities duties
Employers have a legal obligation to protect your employees and others from harm. They should continue to assess health and safety risks and consider how to meet equalities duties in the usual way. Following the steps in this guidance will mitigate the risks of coronavirus (COVID-19) to pupils and staff and help settings to meet their legal duties to protect employees and others from harm.
The Health and Safety Executive published guidance on first aid during coronavirus (COVID-19) which will support local risk assessments and provides guidance for first aiders. It is clear that treating any casualty properly should be the first concern. Where it is necessary for first aid provision to be administered in close proximity, those administering it should pay particular attention to sanitation measures immediately afterwards including washing hands.
Supporting staff wellbeing
Employers should have regard to staff (including the headteacher) work-life balance and wellbeing. They should ensure that they have explained to all staff the measures that they are proposing putting in place and involve all staff in that process.
All employers have a duty of care to their employees, and this extends to their mental health. Settings of course already have mechanisms to support staff wellbeing and these will be particularly important, as some staff may be particularly anxious about returning. We are providing additional mental health support for pupils and teachers.
The Education Support Partnership provides a free helpline for school staff and targeted support for mental health and wellbeing.
Settings may need to change the way in which they deploy and use existing staff more flexibly to welcome back all pupils at the start of the autumn term. Managers should discuss and agree any changes to staff roles with the individuals.
We recognise that special settings will need to develop plans for the deployment of staff that account for the below factors.
Education and care for many children and young people with EHC plans often involves specific ratios and specific training, for staff. Many staff in special settings provide interventions or care involving close contact to children and young people who may not be grouped together under the system of controls adopted by a setting. Furthermore, some staff will work across settings. Where possible, these interventions and care should be provided as normal, because they will be important in enabling children and young people to access and benefit from education.
Staff who deliver these interventions will need to be particularly rigorous about hand washing and respiratory hygiene (catch it, bin it, kill it), but additional PPE compared to what they would normally use for those interventions, is not recommended, unless dealing with symptomatic children or young people.
The specialisation and the peripatetic nature of much staffing in special settings also makes the flexible deployment of staff more challenging, for example in cases where only one member of staff is trained in a particular intervention, and that member of staff needs to self-isolate due to coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, it will generally not be possible to move a staff member without the training into that role.
Settings and local authorities may wish to have discussions about these circumstances - for example, whether their usual supply staff avenues are available to them, whether an additional staff member could be trained, or whether 2 settings could work together to offer each other resilience.
It is important that planning builds on the need to avoid increases in unnecessary and unmanageable workload burdens. This could include a review of existing practices in this respect and you may wish to draw on DfE’s workload reduction toolkit.
DfE has also published a range of resources, including case studies to support remote education and help address staff workload, this includes case studies on managing wellbeing.
If having pursued all the immediate options available, settings still have concerns about their staffing capacity they should talk to their local authority or trust.
Deploying support staff and accommodating visiting specialists
Settings should minimise the number of visitors where possible, however, visiting specialists such as therapists, clinicians, peripatetic teachers and other support staff for pupils with SEND should provide interventions as usual, including moving between settings as required. Such specialists will be aware of the PPE most appropriate for their role.
If support staff are available, settings may consider using them to:
- support catch-up provision or targeted interventions
- lead groups or cover lessons, under the direction and supervision of a qualified, or nominated, teacher (under the Education (Specified Work) (England) Regulations 2012 for maintained schools and non-maintained special schools and in accordance with the freedoms provided under the funding agreement for academies)
Setting leaders should be satisfied that the person has the appropriate skills and experience to carry out the work. Managers should discuss and agree any proposed changes in role or responsibility with the member of staff. This includes ensuring that:
- safe ratios are met
- specific training is undertaken if needed
- only those with appropriate checks are allowed to engage in regulated activity - full guidance is provided in part 3 of keeping children safe in education
The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has published guidance to help settings make the best use of their teaching assistants.
Recruitment should continue as usual. The government’s teaching vacancies service can help settings to list vacancies for both permanent and fixed-term teaching staff quickly. The free national service for searching and listing teaching roles will be directing newly qualified teachers (NQTs) and job seeking teachers to this service.
We recommended that settings recruit remotely over the summer period, and this may prove necessary in the event of any future local restrictions. The DfE teaching blog has information on the experience of holding interviews remotely. There is also advice for candidates on how to prepare for remote interviews.
When recruiting, settings must continue to adhere to the legal requirements regarding pre-appointment checks. We refer schools to part 3 of the statutory guidance keeping children safe in education. Initial teacher training (ITT) providers have worked flexibly to ensure this year’s NQTs are ready and prepared to enter the classroom. They will also be supported by materials DfE is making available to all schools based on the early career framework reforms to support them as they start their teaching career. Settings in the early roll-out regions (Bradford, Doncaster, Greater Manchester, and the North East) will be able to benefit from the full support package being offered to some 2,000 NQTs from the autumn. In addition, around 3,000 NQTs will be offered a one-year version of the structured support package.
Supply teachers and other temporary or peripatetic teachers
Settings can continue to use supply staff during this period. We recommend that they consider using the Crown Commercial Service’s agency supply deal, because this offers a list of preferred suppliers that must be transparent about the rates they charge. They can get direct support from Crown Commercial Services on how to use the agency supply deal by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the school’s details and contact details.
Supply staff and other temporary workers can move between settings but school leaders should minimise the number of visitors to the setting if possible. Supply staff are expected to comply with the settings arrangements for managing risk. To minimise the numbers of temporary staff entering your premises, school leaders may wish to use supply teachers for longer assignments and agree a minimum number of hours across the academic year.
This advice for supply teachers also applies to other temporary staff working in schools such as support staff working on a supply basis, peripatetic teachers such sports coaches, and those engaged to deliver before and after school clubs.
Expectation and deployment of initial teacher trainees
We strongly encourage settings to consider hosting ITT trainees. Demand for teacher training is high this year and while it is understandable that settings will have prioritised other activity, there is a risk that not enough training places will be available. ITT trainees have the potential to play a significant role in supporting schools. Settings should consider how they could host ITT trainees, and discuss with relevant ITT providers how this can be done flexibly and innovatively to help meet both the needs of the setting and the trainee. Deployment decisions will need to take into account the skills and capacity of the trainees in question.
With the usual mentor oversight, trainees could:
- take responsibility for small groups of pupils, adapting resources, creating online learning materials or delivering catch-up lessons
- engage in wider professional activity, such as addressing vulnerability, mental health problems or safeguarding issues
- develop and engage in working groups to share best practice around resilience, commitment and team working
- co-plan, co-teach and co-assess lessons with their mentors or other trainees
This is not intended to be exhaustive and ITT partnerships will need to ensure they have identified and comply with all relevant legislation and guidance including the Education (Specified Work) (England) Regulations 2012.
Performance management and appraisals
Maintained schools must continue to adhere to the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD), which includes the requirement to ensure that all pay progression for teachers is linked to performance management. We would expect schools to use their discretion and take pragmatic steps to adapt performance management and appraisal arrangements to take account of the current circumstances. Schools must ensure that teachers are not penalised during the appraisal process or in respect of any subsequent pay progression decisions as a result of the decision to restrict pupil attendance at schools and where this has impacted on the ability of the teacher to meet fully their objectives.
Appraisals and performance management for support staff should be carried out in accordance with the employee’s contract of employment. DfE does not specify pay or terms and conditions of employment for support staff.
Staff taking leave
We recognise that staff have been working extremely hard throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and worked hard to prepare for all pupils to return from the start of the autumn term. Many staff members will have taken a holiday over the summer period, this may have involved travelling abroad and could result in disruptions to return travel arrangements. The government has set a requirement for people returning from some countries to quarantine for 14 days. See the latest guidance on quarantine.
Staff will need to be available to work in their settings from the start of the autumn term. There is currently the risk that, if staff travel abroad later in the academic year, their return travel arrangements could be disrupted due to coronavirus (COVID-19) such as the potential for reinstatement of lockdown measures in the place they are visiting. If a member of staff has to quarantine during term time, school leaders should consider whether they could temporarily amend working arrangements to enable them to work from home.
Volunteers may be used to support the work of the setting, as would usually be the case. It is important that they are properly supported and given appropriate roles. Where settings are using volunteers, they should continue to follow the checking and risk assessment process as set out in the volunteer section in part 3 of keeping children safe in education. Under no circumstances should a volunteer who has not been checked be left unsupervised or allowed to work in regulated activity. Mixing of volunteers across groups should be kept to a minimum, and they should remain 2 metres from pupils and staff where possible.
Settings should consider revising their child protection policy, led by their designated safeguarding lead, to reflect the return of more pupils. They must refer to the statutory safeguarding guidance, keeping children safe in education.
Designated safeguarding leads and deputies should have sufficient time, especially in the first few weeks of term to:
- provide additional support to staff, children and young people regarding any new safeguarding and welfare concerns
- handle referrals to children’s social care and other agencies, if appropriate
Agencies and services should prepare to work together to actively look for signs of harms.
Communication with school nurses is important for safeguarding and supporting wellbeing, as they have continued virtual support to pupils who have not been in their setting.
Health and safety
Emergency treatment, for example, provision of first aid, should be prioritised and given promptly in the event of an emergency. This means that people do not have to stay 2 metres apart if emergency assistance is required. People involved in the provision of assistance of others should pay particular attention to hygiene measures immediately afterwards, including washing hands.
The guidance on safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care settings explains the strategy for infection prevention and control, including the specific circumstances in which PPE should be used, to enable safe working during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It applies to staff working in education, childcare and children’s social care settings in England as well as the children and young people who attend these settings and their parents or carers.
It includes guidance on:
- how to work safely in specific situations, including where PPE may be required
- what care should be taken in residential settings
- specific steps needed to care for children and young people with complex medical needs, including aerosol generating procedures (AGPs)
- caring for children and young people who regularly spit or require physical contact
- disposal of PPE and face coverings
We expect kitchens to be fully open from the start of the autumn term. Normal legal requirements apply about the provision of food to all pupils who want it, including for those eligible for benefits-related free school meals or universal infant free school meals.
We expect catering providers to support pupils eligible for benefits-related free school meals who have to be at home for reasons relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) by providing food parcels. The guidance on providing school meals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak explains what schools should do when providing school meals from September 2020.
Kitchens must comply with the guidance for food businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19).
Settings should look to maximise the use of their site and any associated available space, such as rooms in an associated place of worship for schools with a religious character, if feasible. We do not consider it necessary for settings to make significant adaptations to their site to enable them to welcome all children and young people back. We also do not think they will need to deliver any of their education on other sites because class sizes can return to normal and spaces used by more than one class or group can be cleaned between use. Following a risk assessment, some settings may decide to make small adaptations to their site, such as additional wash basins. This will be at the discretion of individual settings, based on their particular circumstances.
It is important that, before full opening for the autumn term, all the usual pre-term building checks are undertaken to make the school safe. If buildings have been closed or had reduced occupancy during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, water system stagnation can occur, increasing the risks of Legionnaires’ disease. Advice on this can be found in the guidance on legionella risks during the coronavirus outbreak.
Additional advice on safely reoccupying buildings can be found in the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers’ guidance on emerging from lockdown.
Once the setting is in operation, it is important to ensure good ventilation and maximising this wherever possible, for example, opening windows and propping open doors, as long as they are not fire doors, where safe to do so (bearing in mind safeguarding in particular). Advice on this can be found in Health and Safety Executive guidance on air conditioning and ventilation during the coronavirus outbreak.
We continue to advise against domestic (UK) overnight and overseas educational visits at this stage. This advice remains under review.
In the autumn term, settings can resume non-overnight domestic educational visits. These should include any trips or placements connected with a pupil or student’s preparation for adulthood, for example, workplace visits. This should be done in line with protective measures, such as keeping children and young people within their consistent group, and the coronavirus (COVID-19) secure measures in place at the destination.
Settings should make use of outdoor spaces in the local area to support the delivery of the curriculum. As normal, they should undertake full risk assessments in relation to all educational visits to ensure they can be done safely and as part of this risk assessment, they need to consider any necessary control measures. They should read the health and safety on educational visits guidance when considering visits.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has produced information on travel insurance implications following the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. If you have any further questions about your cover or would like further reassurance, you should contact your travel insurance provider.
Wraparound provision and extra-curricular activity
Settings should work to resume any breakfast and after-school provision, where possible, from the start of the autumn term. They should work closely with any external wraparound providers which their children and young people may use, to ensure that as far as possible they can be kept in a group with others from the same bubble they are in during the school day.
If it is not possible or practical to maintain the same bubbles being used during the school day (for example, if the number of bubbles in place during the school day prove impractical to adopt within the wraparound provision), then settings should maintain small, consistent groups. We recognise that they may need to respond flexibly and build this up over time. This provision will help to:
- ensure that pupils have opportunities to re-engage with their peers and with the setting
- ensure that vulnerable children and young people have a healthy breakfast and are ready to focus on their lessons
- provide enrichment activities
- support working parents
Settings can consult the guidance produced for providers who run community activities, holiday clubs, after-school clubs, tuition and other out-of-school provision for children when planning extra-curricular provision. This includes advising parents to limit the number of different wraparound providers they use as much as possible. Where parents use childcare providers or out of setting extra-curricular activities for their children, settings should encourage them to assure themselves that the providers are carefully considering their own protective measures, and only use those providers that can demonstrate this. DfE has also issued guidance for parents and carers, which they may want to circulate.
Where settings are satisfied that it would be safe to do so, they may choose to open up or hire out their premises for use by external bodies or organisations, such as external coaches or after-school / holiday clubs or activities. In doing so, they should ensure that they are considering carefully how such arrangements can operate within their wider protective measures and should have regard to any other relevant government guidance. For example, where opening up school leisure facilities for external use, ensuring that they do so in line with government guidance on working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19).
Section 3: curriculum, behaviour and pastoral support
This section sets out the principles and expectations for curriculum planning to ensure that all pupils are given the catch-up support they need to make substantial progress by the end of the academic year. The key principles that underpin our advice on curriculum planning are:
- education is not optional - all pupils receive a high-quality education that promotes their development
- the curriculum remains broad and ambitious
- remote education, where needed, is high quality and aligns as closely as possible with in-school provision
Informed by these principles, DfE asks that special schools and other specialist settings meet the following key expectations if considering revisions to their school curriculum for the academic year 2020 to 2021.
Teach an ambitious and broad curriculum in all subjects from the start of the autumn term, but make use of existing flexibilities to create time to cover the most important missed content
Up to and including key stage 3, prioritising the most important components for pupils’ progress within subjects is likely to be more effective than removing subjects that pupils may struggle to pick up again later. In particular, settings should consider how all subjects can contribute to filling gaps in core knowledge, for example through an emphasis on reading.
Aim to return to the normal curriculum in all subjects by summer term 2021
Substantial modification of the curriculum may be needed at the start of the year to address gaps in pupils’ knowledge so teaching time should be prioritised to these. The aim should be to return to the normal curriculum content by no later than the summer term 2021.
Plan on the basis of the educational needs of pupils
Curriculum planning should be informed by an assessment of pupils’ starting points and addressing the gaps in their knowledge. Avoid introducing unnecessary tracking systems and instead make effective use of regular formative assessment, such as quizzes, observing pupils in class, talking to pupils to assess understanding and scrutiny of pupils’ work.
Integrate remote education into school curriculum planning
Remote education may be an essential component in the delivery of the school curriculum for some pupils alongside classroom teaching, or in the case of a local restrictions.
All settings are therefore expected to plan to ensure any pupils educated at home for some of the time are given the support they need to master the curriculum and so make good progress.
They may consider it appropriate to suspend some subjects for some pupils in exceptional circumstances. They should be able to show that this is in the best the interests of these pupils and this should be subject to discussion with parents during the autumn term. There should also be a coherent plan for returning to their normal curriculum for all pupils by the summer term 2021.
Relationships and health education (RHE) for primary aged pupils and relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) for secondary aged pupils become compulsory from September 2020. Settings are expected to start teaching them by at least the start of the summer term 2021.
Specific points for early years foundation stage to key stage 3
For children in nursery settings, teachers should focus on the prime areas of learning, including:
- communication and language
- personal, social and emotional development
- physical development
For pupils in reception, teachers should also address gaps in language, early reading, mathematics, phonics knowledge and vocabulary. Staff should follow updates to the early years foundation stage (EYFS) disapplication guidance.
For pupils in key stages 1 and 2, staff should prioritise identifying gaps and re-establishing good progress in the essentials (phonics and reading, increasing vocabulary, writing and mathematics), identifying opportunities across the curriculum so children read widely and develop their knowledge and vocabulary. The curriculum should remain broad so that most pupils are taught a full range of subjects over the year, including sciences, humanities, the arts, physical education, religious education and relationships and health education.
For pupils in key stage 3, the curriculum should also remain broad from year 7 to year 9 so that most pupils are taught a full range of subjects over the year, including sciences, languages, humanities, the arts, physical education, religious education and relationship, health and sex education.
Specific points for key stages 4 and 5
As with earlier key stages, it is likely that pupils in key stage 4 and 5 will need extra support to catch up on any content they have missed, but the school curriculum is less flexible because of the qualification specifications.
To ensure exams and assessments next summer are as fair as possible, and to take into account any public health requirements and the wellbeing of students, Ofqual has consulted on proposed adaptations to exams. Their decision is available at proposed changes to the assessment of GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2021.
We expect most pupils in years 10 and 11 to continue to study their examination subjects. In exceptional circumstances, it may be in the best interest of a year 11 pupil to discontinue an examined subject. Settings may decide that they would achieve better results in their remaining subjects, especially in English and mathematics.
School leaders should make these decisions in discussion with pupils and parents and informed by ongoing assessment of a pupil’s progress and wellbeing, using the existing discretion that they already apply on these matters
Key stage 5 has less scope than key stage 4 to drop an examined subject because students take fewer qualifications. Discontinuing a subject is likely to limit choices for further study and employment, so we expect this to be rare.
Physical activity in schools
Settings have the flexibility to decide how to provide physical education while following the measures using their system of controls.
Sports whose national governing bodies have developed guidance under the principles of the government’s guidance on team sport and been approved by the government are permitted. Schools must only provide team sports on the list available at return to recreational team sport framework.
Pupils and students should be kept in consistent groups, sports equipment thoroughly cleaned between each use by different individual groups.
Outdoor sports should be prioritised where possible, and large indoor spaces used where it is not, maximising natural ventilation flows (through opening windows and doors or using air conditioning systems wherever possible) distancing between pupils and paying scrupulous attention to cleaning and hygiene. This is particularly important in a sports setting because of the way in which people breathe during exercise. External facilities can also be used in line with government guidance for the use of, and travel to and from, those facilities.
Settings should refer to the following advice:
- guidance on the phased return of sport and recreation and guidance from Sport England for grassroot sport
- advice from organisations such as the Association for Physical Education and the Youth Sport Trust
- guidance from Swim England on school swimming and water safety lessons available at returning to pools guidance documents
Settings can work with external coaches, clubs and organisations for curricular and extra-curricular activities if they are satisfied that this is safe to do so within their wider protective measures. Where appropriate for children and young people they can support them to be physically active while maintaining physical distancing with activities such as active miles, making break times and lessons active and encouraging active travel.
Music, dance and drama
Music, dance and drama build confidence, help children and young people live happier, more enriched lives, and discover the joy of expressing themselves. There may, however, be an additional risk of infection in environments where singing, chanting, playing wind or brass instruments, dance and drama takes place.
Singing, wind and brass instrument playing can be undertaken in line with this and other guidance, in particular guidance provided by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for professionals and non-professionals in the performing arts. It is the cumulative aerosol transmission from both those performing in and attending events is likely to create risk. DCMS is continuing to develop more detailed understanding of how to mitigate this potential aggregate risk, but in that context, organisations should follow the guidance set out below.
Minimising mixing groups and volume control
Settings must do everything possible to minimise contacts and mixing. The overarching objective should be to reduce the number of contacts between pupils/students and staff. This can be achieved through keeping groups separate (in bubbles) and through maintaining a social distance between individuals where possible. These are not alternative options. Both measures will help, but the balance between them will change depending on the age and needs of pupils, the layout of the building, and the feasibility of keeping groups separate from each other while offering a broad curriculum. If staff need to move between classes and year groups, they should try and keep their distance from pupils and other staff as much as they can, ideally 2 metres from other adults.
Additionally, they should aim to keep any background or accompanying music to levels which do not encourage teachers or other performers to raise their voices unduly. If possible, using microphones to reduce the need for shouting or prolonged periods of loud speaking or singing. If possible, do not share microphones. If they are shared, it should follow the guidance below on handling equipment.
If planning an indoor or outdoor face-to-face performance in front of a live audience, settings should follow the latest advice in the DCMS performing arts guidance, implementing events in the lowest risk order as described. If planning an outdoor performance they should also give particular consideration to the guidance on delivering outdoor events.
Settings can continue to engage peripatetic teachers during this period, including staff from Music Education Hubs.
Peripatetic teachers can move between settings, for instance, but they should consider how to minimise the number of visitors where possible. Staff will be expected to comply with arrangements for managing and minimising risk, including taking particular care to maintain distance from other staff and pupils where possible. To minimise the numbers of temporary staff entering the premises, and secure best value, consider using longer assignments with peripatetic teachers and agree a minimum number of hours across the academic year.
If a teacher is operating on a peripatetic basis, and operating across multiple groups or individuals, it is important that they do not attend a lesson if they are unwell or are having any symptoms associated with coronavirus (COVID-19) such as fever, a new and sustained cough, loss of sense of taste or smell. In addition, they should:
- maintain distancing requirements with each group they teach, where appropriate
- avoid situations where distancing requirements are broken where possible, for example, demonstrating partnering work in dancing
- make efforts to reduce the number of groups taught and locations worked in, to reduce the number of contacts made
Further information on the Music Education Hubs, including contact details for local hubs, can be found at the Arts Council England Music Education Hub page.
Music teaching in special schools and other specialist settings, including singing, and playing wind and brass instruments in groups
When planning music provision for the next academic year, settings should consider additional specific safety measures. Although singing and playing wind and brass instruments do not currently appear to represent a significantly higher risk than routine speaking and breathing at the same volume, there is now some evidence that additional risk can build from aerosol transmission with volume and with the combined numbers of individuals within a confined space. This is particularly evident for singing and shouting, but with appropriate safety mitigation and consideration, singing, wind and brass teaching can still take place.
Measures to take include:
- playing instruments and singing in groups should take place outdoors wherever possible - if indoors, consider limiting the numbers in relation to the space
- if indoors, use a room with as much space as possible, for example, larger rooms; rooms with high ceilings are expected to enable dilution of aerosol transmission
- if playing indoors, limiting the numbers to account for ventilation of the space and the ability to social distance. It is important to ensure good ventilation. Advice on this can be found in Health and Safety Executive guidance on air conditioning and ventilation during the coronavirus outbreak
- singing, wind and brass playing should not take place in larger groups such as choirs and ensembles, or assemblies unless significant space, natural airflow (at least 10l/s/person for all present, including audiences) and strict social distancing and mitigation as described below can be maintained.
- in the smaller groups where these activities can take place, settings should observe extended social distancing between each singer/player, and between singers/players and any other people such as conductors, other musicians, or accompanists - current guidance is that if the activity is face-to-face and without mitigating actions, 2 metres is appropriate
- pupils should be positioned back-to-back or side-to-side when playing or singing (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible
- position wind and brass players so that the air from their instrument does not blow into another player
- use microphones where possible or encourage singing quietly
By considering and adopting these additional risk mitigation measures, the overall risk will be reduced.
Handling equipment and instruments
Measures to take when handling equipment, including instruments, include:
- requiring increased handwashing before and after handling equipment, especially if being used by more than one person
- avoiding sharing instruments and equipment wherever possible - place name labels on equipment to help identify the designated user, for example, percussionists’ own sticks and mallets
- if instruments and equipment have to be shared, disinfect regularly (including any packing cases, handles, props, chairs, microphones and music stands) and always between users, following government guidance on cleaning and handling equipment - instruments should be cleaned by the pupils playing them, where possible
- limit the handling of music scores, parts and scripts to the individual using them
- consider limiting the number of suppliers when hiring instruments and equipment. Settings should agree whose responsibility cleaning hired instruments is with the suppliers. Cleaning hire equipment, tools or other equipment on arrival and before first use. Store equipment and instruments in a clean location if you take delivery of them before they are needed. Clean them before first use and before returning the instrument
- create picking-up and dropping-off collection points where possible, rather than passing equipment such as props, scripts, scores and microphones hand-to-hand
Individual lessons and performance in groups
Individual lessons in music, dance and drama can resume in settings and organisations providing out of school childcare. This may mean teachers interacting with pupils from multiple groups, so they will need to take particular care, in line with the measures set out above on peripatetic teachers.
Specific safety measures for individual music lessons should include:
- extend social distancing between pupil and teacher (current guidance is that if the activity is face-to-face and without mitigations, 2 metres is appropriate), accounting for ventilation of the space being used. Pupil and teacher should be positioned side by side if possible
- avoid sharing instruments and equipment wherever possible and place name labels on equipment to help identify the designated user, for example, percussionists’ own sticks and mallets
- if instruments and equipment have to be shared, regularly disinfect them (including any packing cases, handles, props, chairs, microphones and music stands) and always between users, following government guidance on cleaning and handling equipment - instruments should be cleaned by the individuals playing them, where possible
- limit the handling of music scores, parts and scripts to the person using them
- if there is no viable alternative, music lessons in private homes can resume, following the same guidelines, and additionally following the government guidance for working in homes, and the guidance for out-of-school provision
During individual lessons for music, dance and drama, social distancing should be maintained wherever possible.
We have announced a package worth £1 billion for schools to have the resources they need to help all pupils make up for lost teaching time, with extra support for those who need it most.
£650 million of universal catch-up premium will be allocated to schools to support all children and young people to catch up, with additional weighting for specialist settings, recognising the higher costs they face. It will be available for all state-funded mainstream and special schools, and alternative provision including maintained hospital schools and academies and independent special schools. Allocations will be calculated on a per pupil basis, providing each mainstream school with a total of £80 for each pupil in years reception through to year 11.
Special schools, AP schools and hospital schools will be provided with £240 for each place for the 2020 to 2021 academic year.
It will be up to school leaders to decide how to spend the money. The Education Endowment Foundation has published guidance on effective interventions to support schools.
For pupils with complex needs, we strongly encourage you to spend this funding on catch-up support to address their individual needs, including:
- speech and language therapy
- travel training
- education psychologist time
- other small group and individual interventions – this could be direct, with the specialist spending time with the pupil, or indirect, with the specialist spending time with school staff to design an intervention
This funding will be provided in 3 tranches. We will provide settings with an initial part payment in autumn 2020, based on the latest available data on pupils in mainstream schools and high needs place numbers in special schools, AP settings, hospital schools and special schools not maintained by a local authority. We will then distribute a second grant payment in early 2021, based on updated pupil and place data.
For specialist settings we will use:
- 2019 to 2020 academic year place numbers from the published local authority 2019 to 2020 financial year budget returns for local authority maintained schools
- the published high needs place numbers for the 2020 to 2021 academic year for academies and special schools not maintained by a local authority
The final payment will be in the summer term 2021.
Alongside this universal offer, we will roll out a National Tutoring Programme, worth £350 million, to provide additional, targeted support for those children and young people who need the most help which will increase access to high-quality tuition for disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people, helping to accelerate their academic progress and tackling the attainment gap between them and their peers. It includes:
- a 5 to 16 programme that will make high-quality tuition available to 5 to 16-year olds in state-funded primary and secondary schools from the second half of autumn term 2020
- a 16 to 19 fund for school sixth forms, colleges and all other 16 to 19 providers to provide small group tutoring activity for disadvantaged 16 to 19 students whose studies have been disrupted as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) - guidance setting out further detail of this element will be issued shortly
- a reception year early language programme that will make training and resources available at no-cost to schools where additional targeted support for oral language would be particularly beneficial
Extending provision set out in an EHC plan
We do not anticipate that children and young people will need to repeat a year of educational provision as a consequence of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This also applies to those with EHC plans. Similarly, we do not anticipate that young people will need to remain in education any longer than originally set out in their EHC plan.
However, in a small number of individual cases, it may be appropriate for a child or young person to extend their current educational provision or have their EHC plan extended. In most cases, this would consist of an individualised programme for a term or half term.
In all circumstances, this would need to be decided by the local authority, following a review of the child or young person’s needs and EHC plan.
Parents and young people can appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) if they disagree with certain decisions made by their local authority in relation to education, health and care (EHC) needs assessments and plans.
Extending provision in a school setting for those aged 19 and over
School funding regulations do not allow for those aged over 19 to remain in a school setting unless given exceptional approval by the Secretary of State for Education.
In the exceptional circumstances that a local authority decides that a young person would be best served by remaining in a school setting after they have turned 19 years of age, the local authority must apply for a relaxation of the normal rules for continuing financial support to schools of all kinds for students aged 19 and over, under the established Education and Skills Funding Agency process.
Pupil wellbeing and support
Pupils may be experiencing a variety of emotions as a consequence of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic such as anxiety, stress or low mood. This may be particularly acute for vulnerable children and young people, including those with complex needs. It is important to contextualise these feelings as normal responses to an abnormal situation. Some may need support to re-adjust to their educational setting; others may have enjoyed being at home and be reluctant to return; a few may be showing signs of more severe anxiety or depression. Others will not be experiencing any challenges and will be keen and ready to return. The return to education settings allows social interaction with peers, carers and teachers, which benefits wellbeing.
The government has recently announced the wellbeing for education return, training and resources for teachers and staff in all state-funded schools to respond to the wellbeing and mental health needs of children and young people as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19). The training provides practical examples to support staff, children and young people within a school. Local authorities have received funding to employ skilled staff to deliver the training to schools and provide ongoing advice and support from the autumn until March 2021.
Settings can prepare by nominating a lead to receive the training, and who will then have the capability to disseminate the learning and practice to staff and pupils within your setting. The training will be available in the autumn term.
Additionally, DfE, PHE and NHS England hosted a free webinar for school and college staff in July to set out how to support returning pupils and students. This includes experts discussing the impacts of the pandemic on pupils’ mental wellbeing and recovery techniques, and education leaders discussing the actions they have been taking.
A recording of this webinar is available.
Whole School SEND (WSS) have co-produced 2 leaflets, funded by the DfE, to support young people with SEND and their families to have conversations with schools about successful returns following a period of absence such as this one, and about transition planning for post-year 11 destinations.
WSS have also produced resources to support the schools’ workforce to prepare for the return, such as the COVID-19 SEND review guide which settings can use to reflect on their provision, and a handbook to support teachers to take a whole school approach to supporting pupils following a traumatic event. They can access WSS resources on the Whole School SEND Resource page of the SEND Gateway and staff can sign up to the Community of Practice to be kept up to date with further information.
We have published the first of the relationships, sex and health education training modules to support teachers to deliver content on mental health and wellbeing. The training module on teaching about mental wellbeing, which has been developed with clinical experts and schools, will improve teacher confidence in talking and teaching about mental health and wellbeing in the classroom. It was published early given the importance of supporting pupils’ mental health and wellbeing at this time.
Settings should design pastoral and extra-curricular activities to:
- support the rebuilding of friendships and social engagement
- equip pupils to respond to issues linked to coronavirus (COVID-19)
- help pupils with approaches to improve their physical and mental wellbeing
They should provide more focused pastoral support where issues are identified, drawing on external support if necessary. They should consider the support needs of particular groups where they are already aware they need additional help, like those in need, and any newly vulnerable groups. Teachers may wish to access the free MindEd learning platform for professionals, which contains materials on peer support, stress, fear and trauma, and bereavement. MindEd have also developed a coronavirus (COVID-19) staff resilience hub with advice and tips for frontline staff. Where there is a concern a child is in need or suffering or likely to suffer from harm the setting (generally led by the Designated Safeguard lead or deputy) should follow their child protection policy and part 1 of the statutory safeguarding guidance keeping children safe in education and consider any referral to statutory services (and the police) as appropriate.
Setiings should work with school nursing services to support the health and wellbeing of pupils and students. School nurses as leaders of the Healthy Child Programme can offer support for:
- resilience, mental health and wellbeing including anxiety, bereavement and sleep issues
- pupils with additional and complex health needs
- vulnerable children and young people and keeping them safe
Settings and school nurses need to work together to ensure the delivery of the healthy child programme, which includes immunisation, working together to identify health and wellbeing needs.
Returning to education is vital for the education of all children and for their wellbeing – time out of school is detrimental for children’s development, particularly for disadvantaged and vulnerable children. All children and young people value the structure and routine of regular attendance as well as the support and strong positive relationships provided by their school or college. It is critical that all children can once again benefit from a full-time, 5 day a week, on-site education.
We recognise, though, that the prolonged period of absence from schools and colleges may contribute to disengagement with education upon return to school, resulting in anxiety which could lead to an increased incidence in poor behaviour. School leaders should be mindful that disruptive behaviour might be the result of unmet educational or other needs and whether a multiagency assessment is necessary.
We know that some pupils and students will return to school having been exposed to a range of adversity and trauma including bereavement, anxiety and in some cases increased welfare and safeguarding risks. This may lead to an increase in social, emotional and mental health concerns and some children, particularly vulnerable groups such as children with a social worker, previously looked-after children who left care through adoption or special guardianship, and young carers, will need additional support and access to services such as educational psychologists, social workers and counsellors. Additionally, provision for children who have SEND may have been disrupted during partial school closure and there may be an impact on their behaviour. Settings will need to work with local services (such as health and the local authority) to ensure the services and support are in place for a smooth return.
Settings should consider updating their behaviour policies with any new rules or policies and consider how to communicate rules/policies clearly and consistently to staff, pupils and parents, setting clear, reasonable and proportionate expectations of pupil behaviour. Further details are available in the guidance on behaviour and discipline in schools. They should set out clearly at the earliest opportunity the consequences for poor behaviour and deliberately breaking the rules and how they will enforce those rules including any sanctions. This is particularly the case when considering restrictions on movement within the school and new hygiene rules. Settings will need to work with staff, pupils and parents to ensure that behaviour expectations are clearly understood and consistently supported, taking account of individual needs and should also consider how to build new expectations into their rewards system.
It is likely that adverse experiences or lack of routines of regular attendance and classroom discipline may contribute to disengagement with education upon return to school, resulting in an increased incidence of poor behaviour. Settings should work with those pupils who may struggle to reengage in school and are at risk of being absent or persistently disruptive, including providing support for overcoming barriers to attendance and behaviour and to help them reintegrate back into school life. Some children and young people, particularly vulnerable groups such as those with a social worker and young carers, will need additional support and access to services such as educational psychologists, social workers and counsellors.
In the event that a pupil’s behaviour warrants disciplinary action, the normal rules apply and the disciplinary powers, including exclusion, that schools currently have, remain in place. Permanent exclusion should only be used as a last resort and must be lawful, reasonable, and fair. Where a child with a social worker is at risk of exclusion, their social worker should be informed and involved in relevant conversations. Any disciplinary exclusion of a pupil, even for short periods of time, must be consistent with the relevant legislation. Headteachers should, as far as possible, avoid permanently excluding any pupil with an education, health and care plan. Pre-empting that a pupil may commit a disciplinary offence, and thus not allowing a pupil to attend school is an unlawful exclusion.
Ofsted will continue to consider exclusions, including the rates, patterns and reasons for exclusion and to look for any evidence of off-rolling.
Off-rolling is never acceptable.
Ofsted is clear that schools placing pressure on parents to remove their child from the school (including to home educate their child) is a form of off-rolling. Elective home education should always be a positive choice taken following a discussion between parents the school, and the local authority about how the needs of the child might best be met. This is particularly important where vulnerable children, children in need, and those at greater risk of harm are involved.
Section 4: Assessment and accountability
Routine Ofsted inspections of state-funded settings will remain suspended for the autumn term. However, during the autumn term, inspectors will visit a sample of settings to discuss how they are managing the return to education of all their pupils. These will be collaborative discussions, taking into account the curriculum and remote education expectations set out in this document. They will not result in a judgement. Ofsted will publish a brief letter following the visit. The insights that inspectors gather will also be aggregated nationally to share learning with the sector, the government and the wider public. In addition, Ofsted has the power to inspect a setting in response to any significant concerns, such as safeguarding or a breakdown in leadership and management.
Ofsted/the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) standard inspections of independent schools also remain suspended. During the autumn term, Ofsted/ISI will undertake non-routine inspections, as commissioned by us, where appropriate. For example, this may be a pre-registration inspection or an inspection to follow up on significant safeguarding concerns. These inspections will result in a judgement and a report, as usual.
Routine Ofsted and ISI inspections are expected to restart from January 2021. The exact timing is being kept under review.
We recognise that pupils will have missed a critical period of their education due to lockdown in the 2019 to 2020 academic year. Maintaining national curriculum assessments in the 2020 to 2021 academic year (without amendment to the scope of the assessments or the expected standard) will allow the department to measure the remaining impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on this cohort of pupils nationally and help target support to local areas, settings and pupils that need it the most.
We are planning on the basis that statutory primary assessments will take place in summer 2021. The early years foundation stage profile and all existing statutory key stage 1 and 2 assessments should return in 2020 to 2021 in accordance with their usual timetables. This includes:
- the phonics screening check
- key stage 1 tests and teacher assessment
- the year 4 multiplication tables check
- key stage 2 tests and teacher assessment
- statutory trialling
The statutory rollout of the reception baseline assessment has been postponed until September 2021. Settings had the opportunity to sign up (during the summer term 2020) to our early adopter year in 2020 to 2021.
In light of the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the 2020 to 2021 academic year will be a transitionary year (subject to the necessary legislation being made) to allow settings time to prepare for, and start embedding, the engagement model. The engagement model is the new attainment framework (replacing P scales 1 to 4) for pupils working below the standard of national curriculum assessments and not engaged in subject-specific study.
The 2020 to 2021 academic year will be a transitionary year where schools that have prepared to implement the engagement model will be able to report against it and schools that need more time to implement this change will have the option to assess against P scales 1 to 4, for one final year. The engagement model will become statutory from September 2021. Further information can be found in the engagement model guidance.
For the summer 2021 exams, we recognise that pupils in years 11 and 13 will have missed a critical period of their education due to lockdown in the 2019 to 2020 academic year. It is vital that these pupils are able to catch up and access exams that lead to the qualifications they need to progress. We are planning on the basis that GCSE and A level exams will take place in summer 2021 but with adaptations, including those which will free up teaching time. Ofqual has consulted on proposed adaptations to exams and published its decisions at proposed changes to the assessment of GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2021.
On Monday 17 August 2020, Ofqual and the government confirmed that, following the cancellation of summer 2020 exams, students will be awarded the centre assessment grade submitted by their school or college for A and AS level and GCSE (except in cases where the centre assessment grade is lower than the grade calculated by the exam board, where the calculated grade will stand).
Both final GCSE grades and revised A and A level grades were issued to schools and colleges in the week beginning 17 August 2020, and students will be able to use these grades to move onto their next step. There will also be an opportunity for students to sit exams in the autumn and Ofqual has confirmed these exams will be available in all subjects. Where a student wishes to sit an exam, DfE’s guidance on centre responsibility for autumn GCSE, AS and A level exam series sets out that we expect the centre that entered them for the summer series to enter them in the autumn series and take overall responsibility for ensuring that they have somewhere appropriate to sit their exams. Our Exam Support Service will launch at the start of the autumn term to support schools and colleges to manage this process.
Performance tables are suspended for the 2019 to 2020 academic year. No school or college will be judged on data based on exams and assessments from 2020. Until the new data release is available, all those working with settings, including Ofsted and DfE regional teams, should refer to the 2019 data. We will continue to use 2019 data as a starting point for any conversation about support for settings with Ofsted judgements below good. More information is set out in the school and college accountability guidance.
Section 5: contingency planning for outbreaks
Contingency plans for outbreaks
The COVID-19 contain framework sets out how national and local partners will work together to prevent, contain and manage local outbreaks. If a local area sees a spike in infection rates that result in localised community spread, relevant authorities will decide which measures to implement to help contain the spread. All decisions relating to education provision in a geographical area will be made at a national level by the Secretary of State for Education.
There may be exceptional circumstances in which some level of restriction to attendance at schools is required in a local area. The COVID-19 contain framework includes an overview of the tiers of intervention for education settings when managing local outbreaks and implementing restrictions. In the event of local restrictions on education settings being required, we will publish further operational guidance for education settings in the affected area, in order to notify them of restrictions and support them to implement their contingency plans in their local context. Within the ‘tiers of restriction’, priority is given to vulnerable children and children of critical workers for face-to-face provision in all cases.
For individuals or groups of self-isolating pupils, remote education plans should be in place. These plans should meet the same expectations as those for any pupils who cannot yet attend their setting due to coronavirus (COVID-19) (see the section on remote education support).
Remote education support
If a class, group or small number of pupils need to self-isolate or a local restrictions requires pupils to remain at home, settings should have the capacity to offer immediate remote education. They should consider how to continue to improve the quality of their existing offer and have a strong contingency plan in place for remote education provision by the end of September. This planning will be particularly important in situations that present significant logistical challenges, for example, if large numbers of pupils are required to remain at home. We recognise that some pupils with SEND may not be able to access remote education without adult support and settings should work with families to deliver a broad and ambitious curriculum.
In developing these contingency plans, settings should ensure that pupils and students can continue to engage in learning. They should explain to parents and carers the support that their children are receiving and discuss the plans for returning to settings, how they can support this and any additional help they might need.
Special schools and specialist settings have an experienced, expert workforce including:
- special educational needs co-ordinators
- education psychologists
- speech and language therapists
- qualified teachers of sensory impairments
- other therapists
- teaching assistants, often with specialist knowledge
Designing at-home learning and support for children and young people with EHC plans could involve any or all of these professionals, to design or adapt interventions or learning materials. For example, it might involve designing a speech and language intervention that parents can deliver at home or adapting or selecting online learning materials.
When developing these contingency plans expect settings to:
- use a curriculum sequence that allows access to suitable high quality online and offline resources and teaching videos, and that is linked to the school’s curriculum expectations
- give access to high quality appropriate remote education resources
- select the online tools that will be consistently used across the school in order to allow interaction, assessment and feedback, and make sure staff are trained in their use
- provide suitable printed resources, such as textbooks and workbooks, for pupils who do not have suitable online access
When teaching pupils remotely, we expect settings to:
- set assignments so that pupils have meaningful and ambitious work each day in a number of different subjects
- teach a planned and well sequenced curriculum so that knowledge and skills are built incrementally, with a good level of clarity about what is intended to be taught and practised in each subject
- provide frequent, clear explanations of new content, delivered by a teacher in the setting or through high quality curriculum resources or videos
- gauge how well pupils are progressing through the curriculum, using questions and other suitable tasks, and set a clear expectation on how regularly teachers will check work
- enable teachers to adjust the pace or difficulty of what they are teaching in response to questions or assessments, including, where necessary, revising material or simplifying explanations more to ensure pupils’ understanding
- plan a programme that is of equivalent length to the core teaching pupils would receive in their setting and would ideally include daily contact with teachers
Settings will need to consider these expectations in relation to the pupils’ age, stage of development or special educational needs, for example if this would place significant demands on parents’ help or support. They should avoid an over-reliance on long-term projects or internet research activities.
The government will also explore making a temporary continuity direction in the autumn term, to give additional clarity to settings, pupils and parents as to what remote education should be provided. We will engage with the sector before a final decision is made on this.
A range of resources to support settings in delivering remote education are available.
Schools may consider using some of their catch-up funding on remote resources in line with the access to technology section of the EEF’s COVID-19 support guide for schools.
From that start of the autumn term, Oak National Academy will make available video lessons covering the entire national curriculum, available to any school for free. These are being in developed in partnership with a wide group of teachers and school leaders to develop lessons in the popular topics. The resources will be as flexible as possible, allowing schools to reorder topics and lessons, to match their own plans and curriculum.
Oak National Academy specialist content for pupils with SEND. This covers communication and language, numeracy, creative arts, independent living, occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech and language therapy. Their provision for next academic year will include an expanded range of content for the specialist sector.
Government-funded access to one of 2 free-to-use digital education platforms: Google for Education or Microsoft Office 365 Education. Schools can apply through The Key for School Leaders. The Key also provides feature comparison and case studies on how schools are making the most of these platforms.
A network of schools and colleges for help and support on effective use of tech for remote education that can be accessed through the EdTech Demonstrator Programme.
Laptops, tablets and 4G wireless routers were made available to local authorities and academy trusts to support vulnerable and disadvantaged children (specifically, care leavers, children and young people with a social worker, and disadvantaged year 10 pupils) between May to July 2020. Local authorities and academy trusts will continue to own these devices.
Following pupils returning to school in the autumn term, laptops and tablets will be distributed directly to schools affected by a local coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. These will be available for disadvantaged pupils in years 3 to 11 and clinically extremely vulnerable children from all year groups unable to attend school. These devices will be owned by the school and provided to children and young people who would otherwise be unable to access remote education.
In addition to 4G routers provided to local authorities and academy trusts, DfE is working in partnership with BT to offer free access to BT WiFi hotspots for disadvantaged pupils. We are also working with the major telecommunications companies to expand this offer and provide access to free additional data to families who rely on a mobile internet connection while the response to coronavirus (COVID-19) requires pupils to learn from home and access social care services online. More information on increasing internet access for vulnerable and disadvantaged children is available.
Further support is available from:
- The National Cyber Security Centre, on which video conference service is right for you and using video conferencing services securely
- DfE advice on safeguarding and remote education during coronavirus (COVID-19), particularly annex C
- statutory guidance on online safety in annex C of keeping children safe in education
- expert advice at SWGfL safe remote learning and LGfL safe remote learning
Coronavirus (COVID-19) specific health and safety risk assessments
Everyone needs to assess and manage the risks from coronavirus (COVID-19). This means employers and leaders are required by law to think about the risks the staff, pupils and young people face and do everything reasonably practicable to minimise them, recognising they cannot completely eliminate the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19). Employers must therefore make sure that a risk assessment has been undertaken to identify the measures needed to reduce the risks from coronavirus (COVID-19) so far as is reasonably practicable and make the setting ‘COVID-secure.’
General information on how to make a workplace COVID-secure, including how to approach a coronavirus (COVID-19) risk assessment, is provided by the HSE guidance on working safely.
Settings should undertake a coronavirus (COVID-19) risk assessment by considering the measures in this guidance to inform their decisions and control measures. A risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in the workplace, and the role of others in supporting that. The risk assessment will help education leaders and employers decide whether they have done everything they need to.
Employers have a legal duty to consult their employees on health and safety in good time. It also makes good sense to involve pupils (where applicable), young people and parents in discussions around health and safety decisions to help them understand the reasons for the measures being put in place. Employers can do this by listening and talking to them about how the setting will manage risks from coronavirus (COVID-19) and make the setting ‘COVID-secure.’ The people who do the work are often the best people to understand the risks in the workplace and will have a view on how to work safely. Involving them in making decisions shows that the setting takes their health and safety seriously.
Sharing your risk assessment
Settings should share the results of their risk assessment with their workforce. If possible, they should consider publishing it on their website to provide transparency of approach to parents, carers and pupils (HSE would expect all employers with over 50 staff to do so).
Monitoring and review of risk controls
It is important that employers know how effective their risk controls are. They should monitor and review the preventive and protective measures regularly, to ensure the measures are working, and taking action to address any shortfalls.
Roles and responsibilities
All employers are required by law to protect their employees, and others, from harm. Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the minimum employers must do is:
Identify what could cause injury or illness in the organisation (hazards).
Decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how seriously (the risk).
Take action to eliminate the hazard, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk.
Given the employer landscape in special educational settings is varied, we have set out here what the existing DfE health and safety guidance states about the roles and responsibilities for health and safety in settings.
The employer is accountable for the health and safety of setting staff and pupils. The day-to-day running of the setting is usually delegated to the headteacher and the school management team. In most cases, they are responsible for ensuring that risks are managed effectively. This includes health and safety matters. Settings must appoint a competent person to ensure they meet their health and safety duties. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides more information on the role of headteachers and employers and a simple guide to who the employer is in each type of setting, under ‘Who is accountable for health and safety within a school?’.
References to actions by employers in this guidance may in practice be carried out by headteachers in settings, but the employer will need to assure themselves that they have been carried out, as they retain the accountability for health and safety. If not already done, employers should ensure that a coronavirus (COVID-19) risk assessment for their setting is undertaken as soon as possible. Where pupils are already attending their setting, the employer is likely to have gone through a lot of this thinking already. We recommend that those employers use this document to identify any further improvements they should make.
Wider guidance on the risk assessment process
Health and safety risk assessments identify measures to control risks during education and childcare setting activities. Health and safety law requires the employer to assess risks and put in place measures to reduce the risks so far as is reasonably practicable. The law also requires employers to record details of risk assessments and the measures taken to reduce these risks and expected outcomes. Settings need to record significant findings of the assessment by identifying:
- the hazards
- how people might be harmed by them
- what they have in place to control risk
Records of the assessment should be simple and focused on controls. Outcomes should explain to others what they are required to do and help staff with planning and monitoring.
Risk assessments consider what measures you need to protect the health and safety of all:
Settings will need to think about the risks that may arise in the course of the day. This could include anything related to the premises or delivery of its curriculum/activities, whether on-site or in relation to activities offsite.
Consulting employees (general)
It is a legal requirement that employers must consult with the health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union or, if there isn’t one, a representative chosen by staff. As an employer, you cannot decide who the representative will be.
At its most effective, full involvement of staff creates a culture where relationships between employers and staff are based on collaboration, trust and joint problem solving. As is normal practice, staff should be involved in assessing workplace risks and the development and review of workplace health and safety policies in partnership with the employer. Consultation does not remove the employer’s right to manage. They will still make the final decision but talking to employees is an important part of successfully managing health and safety.
Leaders are encouraged to ensure that consultation on any changes to risk assessments that will be in place for the start of the autumn term commences with staff before the summer break, to ensure that those that are on term-time only contracts have adequate time to contribute.
Resolving issues and raising concerns
Employers and staff should always come together to resolve issues. As providers widen their opening, any concerns in respect of the controls should be raised initially with line management and trade union representatives, and employers should recognise those concerns and give them proper consideration. If that does not resolve the issues, the concern can be raised with HSE. Where the HSE identify employers, who are not taking action to comply with the relevant public health legislation and guidance to control public health risks, they will consider taking a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks. The actions the HSE can take include the provision of specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements.
Approach to risk estimation and management
Some types of control are more effective at reducing risks than others. Risk reduction measures should be assessed in order of priority as set out below; schools should not simply adopt the easiest control measure to implement. Controls should be practical to be implemented and, ideally, should be able to be maintained easily over time. It is critical to remember that it will only rarely be feasible to eliminate individual risks completely. The combination of controls introduced should aim to reduce the risk to as low as reasonably practicable and prioritise structural, environmental interventions over individual level ones. This does not just mean considering risks of transmission, but also balancing these against risks to wider health and well-being and to education. Schools have the flexibility to respond to risks in a way that suits their circumstances whilst complying with their duties under health and safety legislation. Schools should work through the following steps to address their risks, considering for each risk whether there are measures in each step they can adopt before moving onto the next step:
Elimination: stop an activity that is not considered essential if there are risks attached.
Substitution: replace the activity with another that reduces the risk. Care is required to avoid introducing new hazards due to the substitution.
Engineering controls: design measures that help control or mitigate risk.
Administrative controls: identify and implement the procedures to improve safety (for example, markings on the floor, signage).
Having gone through this process, PPE should be used in circumstances where the guidance says it is required.
Para 9.214 of the SEND Code of Practice states that, where parents want their child or young person to go to a school or college which is further from home than a school or college which could equally meet the child’s or young person’s needs, then the local authority can come to an agreement with the parents that the parents pay all or part of the costs of the transport if the local authority agrees to name the parents’ preferred school or college. ↩