FAQs - Full opening guidance for schools

Updated 6 November 2020



  • All schools and education settings are expected to remain open for all pupils in all year groups - at all Local COVID Alert Levels
  • All schools must follow the DfE guidance and the Public Health England(PHE) system of controls to reduce risk of transmission
  • There is some flexibility for implementation but there should be no rotas or part-time provision, but staff can be deployed flexibly to aid opening
  • Extra-curricular provision and wrap-around care should resume, where possible, from the beginning of the Autumn term (see guidance)
  • Premises may be hired out for external use - in accordance with government guidance and local Alert status
  • Schools will not be reimbursed for additional costs incurred for September opening
  • Protective measures should be put in place, with an emphasis on regular cleaning and hand and respiratory hygiene (Face coverings and shields should worn in accordance with school risk assessments where recommended)
  • Schools are asked to keep pupils in class or year group 'bubbles' but not at expense of accessing the full curriculum
  • Pupils may need to come out of their 'bubbles' for specialist teaching, wrap-around care or transport (but should return to their 'bubble' as soon/often as possible)
  • Schools must have clear processes for responding to confirmed cases of infection as advised by PHE, Plymouth City Council and the DFE Helpline 0800 047 8687(Please see FAQ and Public Health sections)
  • Schools must be actively engaged with NHS Test and Trace

System of Controls - updated from the protective measures

Following their risk assessment, schools must work through the system of controls and make every effort to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum, including full educational and care support for those who have SEND.


All schools must:

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 school

2)      Where recommended, use face coverings in schools

3)      Clean hands thoroughly and 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 detergent

All schools should:

5)      Minimise contact between individuals and maintain social distancing wherever possible

6)      In specific circumstances, wear appropriate personal protective equipment

7       In specific circumstances, and where necessary, wear appropriate personal protective equipment

8)      Always keep occupied spaces well ventilated

Response to any infection

All schools must:

9)      Engage with NHS Test and Trace process

10)      Manage confirmed cases of COVID-19 amongst the school community

11)      Contain any outbreak by following local health protection team advice

All schools must:

  • Update risk assessments, implement proportionate controls and monitor ongoing arrangements
  • Ensure those who have symptoms or live with someone who has, do not attend school
  • Enhanced hand and respiratory hygiene, and cleaning of frequently touched surfaces

All schools should:

  • Minimise contact by grouping the children into the smallest ''bubbles'' (class or year group) and avoid mixing where possible but not at the expense of curriculum
  • Avoid all activities with large groupings, for example Assemblies limited to year group/class bubbles
  • Use seating plans with pupils sitting side by side, with forward facing desks 
  • Staff should try to maintain 2m or 1m+ distance from pupils and each other
  • Avoid touching people, objects and surfaces wherever possible 
  • Avoid sharing resources wherever possible - if impossible, implement cleaning or set-aside
  • Consider staggered starts, breaks, lunch and finish to avoid 'pinch points'
  • Continue to implement regular and thorough cleaning of all areas

Prevention, Response and Containing Outbreaks of Covid-19


All schools must follow DFE/PHE system of controls to reduce risk of spread

Schools must:

  • Have a robust risk assessment process and system for monitoring the controls
  • Ensure pupils, parents, staff and visitors are aware of the school's processes for hand and respiratory hygiene (see posters)
  • Have a system in place for preventing symptomatic children and staff coming to school and managing those who develop symptoms during the school day
  • Ensure that all parents are aware of symptoms and how to get tested 
  • Have systems and processes in place for enhanced cleaning
  • Review processes to reduce contacts and maximise distancing
  • Supply PPE for specific purposes (intimate care, managing a child with symptoms)
  • If anyone in school becomes unwell with COVID-19 symptoms, they must be sent home and isolate for at least 10 days. Staff who have helped someone with symptoms do not need to self-isolate unless they develop symptoms
  • If someone tests positive whilst not experiencing symptoms but then subsequently develop symptoms during the isolation period, they should restart the 10 day isolation period from the day that they develop symptoms.  Other members of the household (including siblings) should self-isolate for 14 days from when the symptomatic person first had symptoms.
  • In boarding schools, the child should initially self-isolate in their residential setting household
  • Those supporting people with symptoms should clean their hands for 20+ seconds and the area should be cleaned thoroughly after the unwell person has left to reduce the risk of passing the infection

Use of face-coverings in schools

  • Government is NOT recommending universal use of face coverings in all schools.
  • Schools teaching Y7 and above (not under local restrictions) have discretion to require the use of face coverings in communal or confined areas; if local restrictions apply face coverings in communal and confined areas is required.
  • Primary school children do NOT need to wear a face covering.
  • Primary schools may ask staff and visitors to wear face coverings in communal or confined areas
  • At this time, face coverings are NOT required in the classroom
  • When an area moves to Local COVID Alert Level: high or very high, face covering should be worn by adults and pupils when moving around the premises and in communal areas (this does not apply to younger children in primary schools and early years settings)

Exemptions - applies to individuals who:

  • cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment or disability
  • speak or provide assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate. (Educational settings are expected to be sensitive to these exemptions)

Access to face coverings

  • Face coverings are now readily available in wider society
  • Education settings should take steps to have a small contingency supply (in case of emergency/damage)
  • No-one should be excluded from education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering

Safe Management of Face Coverings

  • Schools must have a process for safe removal, storage and/or disposal of face covering (see guidance)

Minimising contact

  • Staff and pupils must stay at home if they have symptoms or tested positive in the past 10 days
  • Anyone who develops symptoms during the school day must be sent home and should isolate, have a test and isolate family members (including siblings) for 14 days
  • If following a negative test, during the isolation period symptoms develop, you must restart the 10 day isolation period
  • Where possible, pupils with symptoms should be moved to a room, isolated behind a closed door with an open window, and use separate bathroom facilities (which must be cleaned and disinfected before use by anyone else) whilst awaiting collection
  • Pupils in boarding schools with symptoms should normally self-isolate in their boarding house
  • Staff and pupils who have been in close contact with a pupil with symptoms, should wash hands/use sanitiser but do not need to self-isolate unless they show symptoms themselves, the pupil subsequently tests positive or have they been requested to do so by NHS Test and Trace
  • Routine temperature taking of pupils in not recommended.

Hand, respiratory and general hygiene

  • All schools must establish a culture of comprehensive hand washing/hand sanitisation, with supervision if required (skin friendly skin cleaning wipes can be used as an alternative for young children or pupils with complex needs)
  • Behaviour expectations should encompass hand and respiratory safety
  • Pupils with complex needs who spit or use saliva as a sensory stimulant should not be denied face to face education
  • In primary schools, headteachers can ask staff and visitors to wear face coverings in communal areas.
  • Children aged 12 years and over should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, if 1m distance is not possible and if in a wide transmission area (WHO)
  • Face coverings are not globally required in schools due to the 'System of Controls' and not normally in classrooms (as they may inhibit teaching)
  • School and College leaders can require face coverings in indoor communal areas - e.g.. corridors, and where face coverings for staff, pupils and visitors provides additional confidence
  • Where face coverings are required - schools should provide clear instructions for safe use and safe removal and disposal (See Guidance)
  • If schools are in an area of national government intervention, face coverings will be required in corridors and other communal and / or confined areas
  • Schools should not normally provide face coverings, but should have a supply for contingencies (if a mask gets soiled or damaged)
  • Pupils should not be excluded from education for not wearing a face covering
  • Some pupils will be exempt from wearing face coverings - in a school scenario: children under 11; physical, mental impairment or disability; where putting on or wearing a face covering would cause extreme distress; speaking or providing assistance to someone who requires lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate; or to avoid harm, or the risk of harm to self or others.
  • Staff, pupils and visitors who are exempt are not required by law to carry an exemption card - government templates can be used (see templates)
  • Staff, pupils and visitors of faith schools can be asked to remove face coverings if having lessons in a place of worship as part of the core curriculum
  • Schools should implement an enhanced cleaning schedule (with different groups being allocated their own toilet blocks if school buildings allow)  See PHE Guidance

Minimising contact/Maintaining social distancing

  • Schools must do everything possible to minimise contacts and mixing whilst delivering a broad and balanced curriculum
  • Schools should maintain both 'bubbles' and distance between individuals (some separation is better than none)
  • 'Bubbles' are likely to increase in size to facilitate the full curriculum offer
  • Limit the number of staff and pupil contacts and use small groups if this can be achieved
  • Younger children do not have to socially distance when operating in their 'bubble'
  • All staff can operate across different classes to facilitate delivery of the school timetable
  • If a child is dual-registered, the settings should work collaboratively to identify risk and allow the delivery of the curriculum
  • Supply teachers, peripatetic teachers and other temporary staff can move between schools
  • Specialists, therapists, clinicians and other support staff for pupils with SEND should provide interventions as before
  • On site immunisation programmes should proceed

Measures within the classroom and wider school

  • Pupils should sit side-by-side and forward-facing
  • Pupils should have their own pens, pencils (and other frequently used items)
  • Classroom resources should be cleaned regularly and if used between 'bubbles'
  • Sports/Art/Science equipment should be cleaned between 'bubbles' or set-aside for (48-72 hours dependent upon the material)
  • Outdoor play equipment should be frequently cleaned
  • Avoid large gatherings - assemblies/collective worship should accommodate one group (bubble)
  • Keep movement in corridors and 'pinch-points' to a minimum
  • Consider staggered break/lunch times to allow for cleaning lunch spaces/toilets
  • School bags are allowed - and pupils and teachers can take shared resources home
  • Adults should maintain 2m distance (although not always possible with younger children)
  • Adults should avoid face to face contact and minimise time spent within 1m of anyone
  • Complex educational or care needs should be provided as normal
  • A culture of maintaining distance and not touching staff or each other should be established (where this is difficult due to age or special needs, groups should be kept small)
  • Schools should maximise their use of the site and all available space - all pre-term building checks must be completed
  • Use of staff rooms minimised - shared spaces must be set up to help staff distance from each other
  • Schools must have a published process to manage visitors on site - e.g. Contractors, deliveries, planned visitors - a full record of visitors with sufficient detail to support rapid tracing if required by NHS Test & Trace.
  • Once in operation, occupied spaces should be well ventilated and a comfortable teaching environment maintained - this can be achieved through mechanical ventilation systems or natural ventilation (opening windows and doors) - be aware that internal fire doors should not be open
  • Flexibility around school uniform, should be considered to ensure comfortable temperatures are maintained, but no extra financial pressure should be placed on parents in respect of additional clothing


Start and finish times

  • Staggered start and finish times may be introduced to help reduce contact but should not reduce overall teaching time
  • Gathering at the school gate and visits to the site without appointment are not allowed (parents must be informed)
  • Schools should have a shared process for removing face coverings on arrival (See guidance)


  • Engage with the NHS Test and Trace process, including the isolation of close contacts
  • Schools must ensure that staff and parents/carers understand that they will need to:
    • Book a test, provide details of contacts and self-isolate
    • Anyone who displays symptoms of COVID-19 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
    • Essential workers (including those involved in education) have priority access to testing.
    • Schools should ask parents to inform them immediately of the results of a test
    • Schools should notrequest evidence of a negative test result or medical evidence before re-admitting a child back into school after self-isolation
    • Schools received an initial supply of 10 home test kits and information about how to replenish their supply -  schools should determine the distribution of test kits (and these can be given to staff)

Schools should ask parents and staff to follow this guidance:

  • If someone begins to self-isolate because they have symptoms similar to COVID-19 and they get a test which delivers a negative result, they feel well and no longer have symptoms, they can stop self-isolating.  Other members of their household can also stop isolating.
  • If someone tests positive, they should follow the guidance and must continue to isolate for at least 10 days from the onset of their symptoms and then return to school, only if they do not have symptoms (other than a cough or loss of sense of smell/taste as these can persist for several weeks after the infection has gone).  If they have a high temperature they should continue to self-isolate.  Other members of the household should self-isolate for 14 days.

NHS COVID-19 app

  • The app is available to anyone over the age of 16 or over - some Year 11, Year 12 and Year 13 will be eligible to use the app. 
  • Staff will be eligible to use the app and guidance is available for senior leaders in education settings for its use within schools in England.

Managing confirmed cases and containing outbreaks

  • Schools must take swift action when they are made aware of a positive case:
    • Contact the dedicated advice service by calling the DFE Helpline 0800 046 8687 option 1.
    • The advice service will undertake a rapid risk assessment to confirm who has been in close contact and ensure those people are asked to self-isolate
    • If following triage, expert advice is required, the school's call will be escalated to the PHE local protection team.
    • The PHE local health protection team or advice service will work with school to guide them on the actions they need to take (including definitive advice on who must be sent home to self-isolate for 14 days since they were last in contact with the person when they were infectious).
    • If advised, schools must send home those who have been in close contact with an infected individual (for any length of time, within 1m, being coughed upon, in face to face conversation or having had skin to skin contact)
    • Close contact includes 'direct close contact', 'proximity contact' and travelling in a small vehicle with an infected person. A template letter will be provided to schools (by PHPT)
    • The process for recording contacts should be proportionate - record keeping should not be overly burdensome for staff
  • If someone is sent home, household members of contacts do not need to self-isolate, unless the person self-isolating develops symptoms - if symptoms do develop follow the guidance
  • During the 14 day isolation period due to contact with someone who has tested positive, if the person feels unwell and a test is undertaken and is negative, the individual must continue to isolate as symptoms could still develop in remaining days of the 14 day period.
  • If the test is positive, they should inform their setting immediately, and should isolate for at least 10 days from the onset of their symptoms (which could be less than the 14 day isolation period) - their household should isolate for 14 days from when the symptomatic person had symptoms
  • Schools can refuse a child if in their reasonable judgement it is necessary to protect others from infection.
  • Schools who have two or more confirmed or a rise in suspected cases within 14 days may have an outbreak and should continue to work with the local health protection team
  • Work with PHE health protection team and Plymouth City Council to determine actions.
  • Including need for isolation of larger groups of children
  • If schools are effectively implementing the prevention controls (whole school closure will not generally be necessary, and should not be considered except on advice from health protection team)
  • A mobile test unit may be dispatched if an outbreak has been confirmed

Risk assessments

  • Revised/updated risk assessments are required
  • Plymouth City Council will provide proforma risk assessments (and support from the H&S team is available to schools who buy services from PCC)
  • Focus on sensible and proportionate control measures
  • Consult with representatives of staff required in good time
  • Share the results of risk assessments with staff and publish to parents, carers and pupils for transparency and confidence
  • Consider involving parents and pupils as this may help to reassure them regarding the precautionary steps you are taking
  • Monitor and review your preventive and protective measures regularly (always update if advice from PHE changes)

Accountability (OFSTED)

  • Routine inspections are suspended for the Autumn term
  • Assurance Visits to schools will take place in the Autumn. These will focus on the management of pupils' return; it will be a collaborative discussion and schools will receive a letter.
  • Ofsted will not publish a judgement, but can use their regulatory powers!
  • Safeguarding inspections will continue
  • Inspections will restart from January 2021

Grouping pupils

  • It is preferable for Teachers to be part of a bubble, but they can operate across different bubbles
  • Supply teachers and other specialists can work across different bubbles and different schools
  • Where specialist teaching must take place, bubbles can mix, but this should be kept to a minimum (with individuals returning to their original bubble for the majority of time)
  • All adults in secondary schools should to try and keep 2m from others and limit closer contact, and in Primary schools and Special schools distance should be maintained but not at the expense of the education and wellbeing of the child
  • Construct bubbles the size of classes or year groups (or smaller if possible)
  • Make small adaptations to classrooms and learning spaces (e.g. Seating plans, spacing in a PE lesson)
  • There is no expectation of 2m social distancing for younger children or those with complex needs
  • Avoid congestion  and 'pinch points' wherever possible for both pupils and adults
  • For wrap-around care (including breakfast clubs) if it is not possible to maintain school bubbles, small and consistent groupings should be used.  Guidance is available for external providers but is also useful for schools
  • The DFE has also issued Guidance for Parents and Carers, which schools may choose to circulate.


Schools should:

  • Deliver a broad and ambitious curriculum for all - modifications may be necessary to prioritise key skills, but these should be temporary, and all pupils should receive their full entitlement by Summer 2021
  • Reinforce the basics in all subjects- reading, writing, punctuation, grammar and numeracy
  • Use existing flexibility within the curriculum to cover missed content
  • Assess and establish pupils' new starting point and plan to address gaps in knowledge and skills
  • Use regular, formative assessment and act upon findings
  • Remote education should be integrated into school curriculum planning.
  • Ensure that pupils with SEND receive their full provision and support through support staff, additional provision and specialist interventions and therapies
  • Only suspend subjects in exceptional circumstances, and only for some pupils.
  • By Summer 2021, be teaching RHE and RSHE as these are compulsory and expected by summer 2021 at the latest
  • EYFS - prioritise prime areas of learning (communication and language; personal, social and emotional development and physical development but note that original disapplications have now been lifted
  • KS1  and KS2 - prioritise the essentials (phonics and reading, vocabulary, writing and maths)
  • KS3 - the curriculum should remain broad to include sciences, humanities, arts, physical education, religious education and health education
  • KS4 - majority of pupils are expected to continue to study their examination subjects
  • Early entry in Y10 is not recommended for virtually all pupils
  • Take precautions in accordance with the updated guidance for teaching music (singing, wind and brass), dance and drama. Wherever possible, sing and play outdoors and never in a large group, always maintaining social distancing.
  • Performances, both indoor and outdoor,  should also follow the professional advice as cumulative aerosol transmission from both performing and attending an event will increase risk.  
  • In any situation, keep background noise and/or music to a level that does not require teachers or pupils to raise their voices (if loud speaking is required, use a microphone [do not share microphones without cleaning]
  • In any situation, keep background noise and/or music to a level that does not require teachers or pupils to raise their voices (if loud speaking is required, use a microphone [do not share microphones without cleaning]
  • In any situation, keep background noise and/or music to a level that does not require teachers or pupils to raise their voices (if loud speaking is required, use a microphone [do not share microphones without cleaning]
  • Schools now have flexibility to decide how PE lessons and sport will be provided within their own system of controls. See individual guidance from Sport England, Association for Physical Education, Youth Sports Trust and Swim England.
  • Schools may provide team sports detailed on the government list
  • Outdoor sport should be prioritised wherever possible, and larger indoor spaces with natural ventilation (window and vents open), enhanced cleaning and maximised social distancing if outdoors is not possible
  • External coaches, clubs and organisations may work in schools to deliver sport/PE
  • Physical activity at break times is encouraged (taking in account social distancing)
  • Shared equipment must be cleaned and/or set-aside; indoor facilities must be cleaned between bubbles
  • External coaches can return in September but must comply with school systems of control
  • Ensure there is an emphasis on pastoral - pupil wellbeing and support
  • Avoid all domestic and overseas educational visits that require an overnight stay
  • From September, most non-overnight visits and activities can resume
  • Schools are encouraged to resume their normal school uniform expectations (uniforms do not require additional/or more frequent cleaning).

Remote Education Support

  • Remote learning should align with in-school provision (see case studies to support implementation)
  • Schools must have a strong contingency plan for remote learning by end of September 2020
  • Contingency Plans should include:
    • a curriculum sequence that allows access to high quality online/offline/teaching videos linked to the school curriculum
    • access to high quality remote education resources
    • select online tools that will be consistently used across the school to promote interaction, assessment and feedback from all staff
    • provide printed resources for those without digital access
    • work with families for younger pupils or those with SEND, to access remote learning
  • When teaching pupils remotely, schools are expected to:
    • set meaningful and ambitious assignments/work in a number of different subjects
    • teach planned, well sequenced curriculum which builds skills and knowledge incrementally (with clarity about what is intended to be taught and practised in each subject)
    • provide frequent and clear explanations of new content (delivered by teacher in the school or high quality curriculum resources/videos)
    • gauge how well pupils are progressing through the curriculum, using questions/tasks - set clear expectation about how regularly teachers will check work
    • enable teachers to adjust pace/difficultly of what is being taught in response to questions/assessment (including revising and simplifying to ensure understanding)
    • plan a programme of equivalent length to the core teaching pupils would receive in school - ideally with daily contact with teachers
    • avoid over-reliance on long-term projects or internet research activities

Additional Guidance and Support

  • The DFE have produced a quality assured list of remote education resources available free to schools
  • Oak National Academy will make available video lessons covering the entire National Curriculum, available free to any school.
  • Oak National Academy has specialist content for SEND
  • Google for Education and Microsoft Office 365 are government funded free-to-use education platforms accessed through The Key for School Leaders
  • EdTech Demonstrator Programme is a network of schools and colleges who support the effective use of tech for remote learning

Assessments, examinations and results


  • Primary statutory assessment will take place summer 2021 and other screening and assessments will take place as normal.
  • For 2020/21 only, schools are required to administer to Y2 pupils, a past version of the phonics screening check during the second half of the 2020 autumn term.  Those who meet the expected standard will not be required to complete any further statutory assessments in phonics.  Those who do not meet the expected standard will retake in June 2021
  • Reception baseline assessment postponed until Sept 21 (Early adopter available 2020)
  • 2020/21 will be a transitionary year for the engagement model (replacing P scales)
  • All existing statutory KS1 and KS2 assessments will return as normal after Sept 2020
  • STA reviewing phonics screening and engagement


  • KS4 and KS5 exams 2021 - there is currently an Ofqual consultation, but pupils are expected to continue to study for exams in summer 2021.
  • Some Y11 students can discontinue subjects if necessary to support focus on core
  • Schools should review any plans for early examination entry (Y10)
  • Ofqual has confirmed that the autumn exams series will take place in 2020
  • There will be no performance tables for the academic year 2019 to 2020
  • No school will be judged on data from exams and assessments for 2020

Catch-up support

  • Grant funding to support catch-up activities during 2020/21 - Headteachers can decide how the money is spent but EEF Guidance is available (See guidance)
  • National Tutoring Programme will deliver tuition to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable young people

Pupils wellbeing and support

  • Support for mental health and wellbeing is available from the DFE and Whole School SEND
  • The government has launched Wellbeing for Education Return programme
  • Plymouth is working with partners to deliver training to schools and provide ongoing support until March 2021
  • DFE has published the first of the Relationships, Sex and Health Education training modules for teachers to support them in delivering content on mental health and wellbeing.

Pupils with SEND in mainstream

  • All children are expected to start back in their usual provision from September as these children are recognised as being particularly vulnerable when not attending school.
  • Some pupils with SEND will require preparation to deal with the changes in routine.
  • Whole School SEND (WSS) have co-produced supporting leaflets to aid return of pupils with SEND; and will be providing training and ideas for mainstream teachers
  • The government 'easement' will end and Section 42 will be reinstated so that 'reasonable endeavours' no longer apply and all provision should be made available by schools.
  • Specific support may need to be put in place for some children with an EHCP, - this may require a transition plan that is co produced with parents/carers to ensure a successful transition back to school.
  • School's statutory duties, under the equalities legislation, remain in place - Children with an EHCP have protected characteristic and will have special rights which need to be considered.
  • Behaviour policies should not discriminate unfairly against children with an EHCP who by the nature of their needs may find it difficult to socially distance, may spit or behave in other challenging ways.  These types of behaviours should be anticipated within return to school planning. 

Special Schools and Specialist Settings (see separate guidance)

  • The expectations for special schools are very similar to mainstream settings including the review of risk assessments and the provision of remote learning for those who must not attend school
  • Pupils are expected to return full time in the Autumn Term - there should not be rotas
  • The provision should offer a full educational experience supported by interventions, in accordance with the EHCP
  • Clinicians, therapists and support staff should provide interventions as usual, and can move between settings
  • Resources can be shared within a bubble, but must be cleaned and/or set-aside when using for more than one bubble - time scales differ according to the material of the item (usually between 48 and 72 hours)
  • An assessment of the 'cleanability' of specialist equipment and resources (e.g. Sensory equipment/ physiotherapy resources) to establish whether the item can be suitably cleaned and the practicalities of the required disinfection and/or set-aside
  • Special schools should plan for the possibility of a local lockdown, to ensure continuity of education and provision
  • Co-production and involvement of families and young people is expected
  • Attendance is mostly compulsory (although there are some specific exceptions  detailed in the guidance)
  • The DfE does not intend to issue any further notices to modify EHC duties , therefore full liability returned on the 01 Aug 2020 (however, consideration will be given if flexibilities are required to respond to a local outbreak)
  • Schools, LA/RSC and health professionals and other services should work together to ensure that children with medical needs receive an education in line with their peers.

Alternative Provision

  • AP settings should follow the system of controls in place for all schools, but may wish to adopt whole school bubbles due to the size and structure of the organisation

Contingency Arrangements

Remote learning

  • The Government expects schools to have the capacity to offer immediate high quality remote education, where a class, group or small number of pupils need to self-isolate, or there is a local lockdown (see case studies for remote learning)
  • Schools are expected to have strong contingency plans in place for remote education provision- details of the required elements are included in the full guidance
  • At all Local Alert Levels, education and childcare is expected to continue as normal - decisions on restricting education are taken on a case by case basis, based on local circumstances.


Schools should:

  • Review and revise their behaviour policy - you have the usual powers but consider carefully and
    • Plan for pupils who may be extremely anxious or reluctant to engage
    • Consider context and experiences (some may have experienced trauma and/or bereavement)
    • Utilise reintegration programmes for some pupils
    • Exclusion should only be used as last resort
    • Ofsted will continue to look for evidence of off-rolling
    • Elective Home Education must be a positive choice taken by parents without pressure from the school
    • Focus on pupil and staff wellbeing
    • Schools should clearly set out (for pupils and parents) the consequences for poor behaviour and deliberately breaking the rules including how they enforce the rules (including sanctions) - particularly around movement within the school and new hygiene rules.
  • There is useful checklist available following the July 2020 update


  • Attendance at school is mandatory for all pupils (shielding has changed - see guidance) however, there are recognised circumstances when pupils cannot attend; patients can only be removed from the shielding patient list by their GP or Specialist.
  • All pupils, including those who are clinically vulnerable, can continue to attend school at all Local COVID Alert Levels, unless they are in receipt of specific medical advice to the contrary
  • The usual attendance  rules apply (fines too - but check the Plymouth guidance) but parents will not be penalised if they are absent due to parents or carers adhering to clinical of public health guidance
  • There is separate guidance on recording attendance in relation to COVID-19 during 2020/21 
  • Schools and LAs should:
    • Communicate clear and consistent expectations for school attendance
    • Identify pupils who are reluctant, anxious or at risk of disengagement and develop plans for them
    • Use additional catch-up funding alongside existing school services, resources and schools' pupil premium funding to support pupils and their families secure regular attendance
    • Work closely with other professionals e.g. social workers to secure attendance
  • There have been changes to the regulations governing school attendance registers to add the new category ' not attending in circumstances related to coronavirus (COVID-19) for the academic year 2020-21' (Code X)
  • The above attendance code (Code X) must only be used where a pupil (or group of pupils in a local lockdown) do not attend because their travel to, or attendance at school would be contrary to guidance or legislation relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus. Code X should not be used for sessions after the pupil has been advised to return to school.
  • Work with PCC Education Welfare Officers for cases where you are anticipating persistent absence unrelated to COVID-19.
  • Parents have a duty to ensure that their child attends regularly at their education setting where they are a registered pupil, if they are of compulsory school age
  • It is the settings' responsibilities to record attendance and follow up absence - there is separate guidance about recording attendance 
  • If a child is unable to attend due to clinical or PHE advice, they must have immediate access to remote learning and engagement must be monitored by the school
  • Sanctions, including fixed penalty notices can be issued in line with Plymouth's codes of conduct however, where children are not able to attend school as parents and carers are following clinical or public health advice, the absence sanctions do not apply.
  • Under usual circumstances "schools must meet for at least 380 sessions or 190 days during any school year to educate their pupils. If a school is prevented from meeting for one or more sessions because of an unavoidable event, it should find a practical way of holding extra sessions. If it cannot find a practical way of doing this then it is not required to make up the lost sessions."
  • As attendance is mandatory, Plymouth advises that schools should maintain usual term dates and not to plan increases in the number of inset days beyond 5, or extend the summer closure period, unless this is unavoidable or can be made up.
  • Usual school processes apply in determining and changing term dates, but the length of the school day can be temporarily extended to make up time.


  • Guidance about transport is available
  • Special school transport - 'Dedicated transport' will be available for September
  • Children should remain in their bubble or with a constant group on school transport
  • Maximised social distancing, hand hygiene, enhanced cleaning, organised queuing and boarding and ventilation (through open windows and vents) should be employed on all school transport
  • Children and young people should wear face coverings on school and public transport
  • Children must not board school transport if they (or members of their family) show symptoms of COVID-19
  • Individual schools should plan for their own pupils in September, taking into account logistics of travel, when planning start and finish times, and methods of entry and exit to avoid 'pinch points'.
  • Where public transport routes are in jeopardy, Plymouth City Council are working with providers to find a solution to routes that are economically challenged.
  • Schools should encourage parents, staff and pupils to are encouraged to walk or cycle. 
  • Guidance on safe travel

Staffing - Workforce in Schools Sept 2020

  • Schools are not considered high risk settings compared to other work environments
  • Guidance states that virtually all staff are expected to be back at school from September 2020, but in discussion with individuals, staff deployment can change
  • Shielding measures were paused 01/08/20 and the guidance was updated on 28 October 2020
  • Staff in the clinically extremely vulnerable category and staff in the clinically vulnerable (including pregnant women) can go to work if the school has implemented the systems of control and in line with the school's workplace risk assessment e.g. individual risk assessments (available from the POD); but if the member of staff who is extremely clinically vulnerable receives new shielding notification or if formal shielding advice is brought in locally, the member of staff will be unable to go to work.  Pregnant women should be particularly attentive to social distancing in the third trimester (28 weeks+)
  • Discussion with individuals is encouraged to identify concerns/anxieties and establish if these can be mitigated to the extent necessary to keep staff in the workplace
  • Clinically extremely vulnerable and clinically vulnerable staff should practise frequent handwashing and cleansing of 'touched areas'.
  • Clinically vulnerable staff should follow sector-specific guidance - pregnant women are classed a clinically vulnerable (specific guidance available) Staff with particular characteristics such as ethnicity, age, sex, deprivation, additional occupations etc. can return to work in September if the systems of control are in place
  • Recruitment should continue as usual (but schools may consider alternatives to face to face interviews)
  • Schools are encouraged to host ITT trainees
  • Staff will need to be available for work from the start of any term (and should plan in advance for potential 14 day quarantine following trips abroad)
  • If a member of staff needs to quarantine in term time, working arrangements should be amended to allow them to work from home if possible
  • People living with individuals from all risk groups can return to school, unless advised otherwise by individual letter
  • The legal obligations in respect of health and safety must be observed
  • The HSE has published guidance on First Aid during COVID-19 (See guidance)
  • Employers are reminded of need to pay due regard to staff wellbeing and work-life balance (guidance for supporting mental health)
  • Supply teachers and peripatetic staff can move between schools
  • Volunteers may return to school 
  • Maintained schools must adhere to STPCD linking teacher's pay progression to performance management - school leaders should take pragmatic steps to take account of current circumstances
  • Appraisals for support staff should be carried out in accordance with the employee's contract of employment.
  • All school must ensure that teachers are not penalised during appraisal or subsequent pay decisions resulting from restricted pupil attendance due to COVID-19

Further information

Guidance for schools:

Other publications and announcements

If you have any questions or feedback about these pages please email childrensservicesresponse@plymouth.gov.uk

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