Emergencies and severe weather: schools and early years settings

How headteachers and early years providers should plan for and deal with emergencies, including severe weather and floods.

You should have an up-to-date emergency plan to help you deal with a crisis or unexpected event quickly and in an organised way. You should be clear about how you will communicate information to staff, parents, children and the media, with named contacts and their responsibilities during the emergency.

Emergency plans prepared by all local authorities are available on their websites. You can use these to help you make your own plan.

Making an emergency plan

When creating your plan you should:

  • identify staff who are willing to volunteer for roles during an emergency
  • nominate a member of staff to update the plan when circumstances change eg when staff named in the plan have left
  • nominate a phone number to be given out to the public in an emergency
  • identify someone responsible for updating the school website - and for keeping it updated - during the emergency

Your plan should contain:

  • information on where to find parent contact details
  • staff contact details for out-of-hours emergencies
  • which staff members have agreed to perform which tasks during an emergency

Nominated staff should be trained to:

  • contact/work with emergency services
  • provide first aid
  • move children to a safe place
  • calm and comfort children
  • contact parents
  • deal with media interest

You should make sure you save your completed plan on computers and have paper copies in case the emergency causes a power cut. Paper copies should also be kept at nominated staff members’ homes, for out-of-hours emergencies.

You may find the following links useful when considering your plan:

Cabinet Office: preparation and planning for emergencies

Cabinet Office: pandemic flu

Health and safety: advice for schools

Met Office: severe weather warning system

During an emergency

You should:

  • assess what is happening
  • remind staff members of their emergency roles
  • move children to safety if they are in danger
  • alert emergency services if appropriate
  • administer first aid if appropriate
  • inform your local authority’s emergency team as appropriate
  • start an incident log – setting out details of the emergency and the actions taken to deal with it
  • update your website with important information, including your emergency contact number

In case of bereavements you should inform pupils in a sensitive way, in small groups if appropriate.

Contacting parents

Brief the person who has been nominated to contact parents by preparing a concise script and rehearsing the message first. Make sure your nominated person knows to:

  • make the calls quickly, to prevent the spread of misinformation among parents
  • keep a record of who has been successfully contacted, to avoid re-contacting people and wasting time
  • give parents clear information about what they should do - for example, whether parents should follow their normal collection routine or pick up their child immediately. If the premises have been evacuated, let parents know where their children are being sheltered
  • warn parents if there is a lot of media interest - journalists may try to get interviews with parents or children
  • offer help with the arrangement of transport, if necessary and feasible

Severe weather

During severe weather conditions, such as flooding or snow, you should keep your school or early years setting open for as many children as possible.

However, it might be necessary to close temporarily due to inaccessibility or risk of injury. You should do all you can to reopen as soon as possible.

If flooding has significantly affected your school or early years setting, you should contact us directly (see incident team details at the bottom of this page).

If you are an early years provider and have had to move to temporary premises, you should check to see if you need to register with Ofsted at your new premises. Find more information on when to register with Ofsted.

School attendance statistics

Where children are unable to get to school due to severe weather conditions, they can be marked in the register using absence code Y. This means that their absence won’t affect your school’s attendance figures.

However, if you believe that a child could have got to school, their absence should be recorded as unauthorised using code O.

Staff absence

If some of your teachers can’t get to work, you should be flexible, for example, by:

  • bringing together groups and classes with teachers and support staff working together
  • using other school staff or volunteers to provide cover supervision or oversee alternative activities
  • re-arranging the curriculum

Reception and other infant classes (children aged 5, 6 or 7) should normally be taught in groups of 30 or fewer, but having more than 30 in one class due to exceptional temporary circumstances is not a reason to close the school or the class.

Contact details

Incident alert team

Exam disruption

You should prepare for possible disruption to exams as part of your emergency planning and make sure your staff are aware of these plans. If you have to close your school or if a child misses an exam due to an emergency you should discuss alternative arrangements with your awarding bodies.

You are responsible for making sure parents and children know what has been agreed, for example:

  • using alternative venues
  • an exam result being generated by the awarding body, based on factors such as a child’s performance on other assessments in the same subject
  • the opportunity for children to sit any missed exam later in the year

After a crisis

Arrange debriefing meetings for staff and pupils. Depending on the nature of the crisis, the meetings could include plans for continuing lessons in the face of damage to the school and discussion about arrangements for trauma or bereavement counselling, which can be arranged through your local authority’s emergency team.