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Schools during national lockdown

Updated: 8 January 2021

Information for schools during national lockdown in England

The government has announced a national lockdown in England, with schools remaining closed till at least the February half term.

Further details are provided below, but key documents in relation to the lockdown are:

Context for closures
Following much public debate, the guidance states: "Limiting attendance does not suggest that schools and colleges have become significantly less safe for young people." Rather, the closure of schools is part of reducing social contacts within the community to help reduce COVID infections. The guidance says the Government will "continue to review the restrictions on schools, colleges and universities and will ensure that children and young people return to face-to-face education as soon as possible".

Pupils who can attend school
The guidance provides additional clarity on those who can attend school during the lockdown period (with all other groups receiving remote education). It says:

  • Early years provision should continue to remain open and should continue to allow all children to attend full-time (this includes nursery classes in schools and other pre-reception provision on school sites)
  • Vulnerable children, which now includes "those who may have difficulty engaging with remote education at home (for example due to a lack of devices or quiet space to study), and the children of critical workers - "parents whose work is critical to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and EU transition response" - should attend school. Full details can be found here.

Those attending school should continue to receive "a broad and balanced curriculum" and be kept in bubbles (small where possible) to reduce social interaction.

Pupils who cannot attend school The guidance sets out clear expectations on the provision of remote education, with parents able to raise concerns to Ofsted. Importantly, the legal directive on remote education does not apply to independent schools. The focus is "state-funded, school-age children". However, it does apply to non-maintained special schools and pupils at independent schools "whose places at those schools are wholly paid for out of public funds". Schools may wish to review this section to understand the general expectations the Government has for remote education.

Please note, clinically extremely vulnerable pupils are advised not to attend school.

Staff attendance The guidance says:
- School leaders are best placed to determine the workforce required at school - with those not attending working from home where possible.
- Following the reintroduction of shielding, clinically extremely vulnerable staff are advised that they should not attend the workplace
- Clinically vulnerable staff can continue to attend school where it is not possible to work from home.

Covid testing
The rapid testing programme for secondary schools should continue for those on-site, with daily testing of close contacts available to students and staff and weekly testing available for staff. Helpful links:
- DfE guidance on the testing programme
- Registering a team leader for administering Covid tests
- DfE document sharing platform – collation of documents on testing

- School admission tests: The DfE has confirmed the following to the ISC: Tests can continue to operate for in-year admissions to selective schools. Wherever possible, such tests should be delivered remotely. If for some reason this is not possible, admission authorities should follow the protective health measures set out within the guidance on assessment processes for selective school admissions and the actions for schools during the coronavirus outbreak. Wherever possible, the use of public transport should be avoided.

  • Summer exams: Education secretary Gavin Williamson said in his statement to Parliament (6 January) : "I can confirm that GCSEs and A and AS-level exams will not go ahead this summer." He added: "This year, we are going to put our trust in teachers rather than algorithms." While the Government will work with Ofqual, exam boards and teaching organisations on the details, the secretary of state stated: "I wish to use a form of teacher-assessed grades, with training and support provided to ensure these are awarded fairly and consistently."

Further information can be found on our exams FAQ page.

  • Primary tests: The Government will cancel statutory key stage 1 and key stage 2 tests and teacher assessments planned for summer 2021, including the key stage 2 tests in reading and mathematics.

Links to further information

DfE guidance notes

Managing Covid cases