UK-wide education updates

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Northern Ireland




Schools closed from 5 January 2021 as part of national lockdown

Primary (reception upwards) and secondary schools and colleges are closed for most pupils until February half-term. All pupils not in school will receive remote learning (see below).

Who will schools remain open for?

Schools will remain open for certain groups of children, including children with education, health and care (EHC) plans,* children who are supported by social care, those with safeguarding and welfare needs, including child in need plans and on child protection plans, 'looked after' children.

The children of critical workers are permitted to attend school - see the government website for an explanation of who counts as a critical worker - but parents and carers should keep their child at home if they can.

Children considered "vulnerable" and permitted to attend school now includes those at risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training) and those who will find remote learning particularly difficult, for example due to a lack of equipment or "quiet place to study")

Special schools and colleges can remain open, and alternative provision settings will remain open.

* Under Section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014, children are legally entitled to receive the special educational provision set out in part F of their EHC Plan. If a child cannot receive this provision at their existing school (for example, because of Covid-related staff shortages or closure), the local authority must make alternative arrangements for these children. This may mean attendance at a different education setting.

If the school are saying that their child cannot attend, we would advise parents to contact their local authority SEND team. Take a look at this recent helpful video from Special Needs Jungle for additional info.

Early years settings

Early years settings, including childminders and nurseries will remain open throughout the national lockdown.

Respite care

Respite care, where care is being provided to a person with a disability or a vulnerable person, is allowed to continue.

Clinically extremely vulnerable children

Children on the Extremely Clinically Vulnerable list are not expected to attend school and should receive remote education.

Remote learning

State-funded schools must provide remote education for children who cannot attend school because of coronavirus. The amount of education should be between three to five hours depending on a child's age. It should be suitably tailored to the needs of children with SEND. Education must include direct teaching (recorded or live) and time to complete tasks independently.

The government is supporting schools to help families whose children do not have good access to computer technology - see the guidance.

Free school meals

Children at home who normally receive free school meals will receive provision through food parcels or supermarket vouchers.


Exams taking place in the summer - for example GCSEs and A-levels - won't go ahead. Alternative arrangements will be announced at a later date.

Primary school assessment tests (SATS) are cancelled. BTECs and other vocational exams taking place in January are expected to go ahead.

Non-attendance offences disapplied

The Secretary of State for Education has issued a notice disapplying non-attendance of school during the pandemic. This means there is no penalty for your child not attending school.


The government has published guidance for parents and carers on early years providers, schools and colleges.

See also the latest guidance on children of critical workers and vulnerable children who can access schools or education settings.

The government has also published guidance for schools on restricting attendance during the national lockdown, guidance for further education settings on restricting attendance, and guidance for special schools, specialist post-16 providers and alternative provision during the national lockdown.

Children with education, health and care (EHC) plans

During the first lockdown in March 2020, temporary changes were made to the law on EHC plans to relax the rules around providing education and health support and to allow extensions to EHC timescales. 

All of these changes have now ended and have not come back into force. This means that a child or young person is entitled to the support specified in their EHC plan and local authorities and health services have a legal duty to make sure the support is provided. 

Legal timescales must be followed for EHC processes, such as carrying out EHC assessments, issuing EHC plans and holding annual reviews. 

If your child is still going to school

We have information about the latest guidance and advice for families whose child is still at school.

Northern Ireland

Education settings closed until February half-term

From Thursday 7 January, nurseries, primary and post-primary schools will carry out remote learning for most pupils, as schools plan to remain closed until the mid-February half-term break.

Special schools will remain open. Schools will remain open for face-to-face teaching for statemented children, alongside other vulnerable children, and the children of key workers.

You can read the guidance update in full at the Department of Education's website.

More information about education

Visit for all the latest updates in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland has published its own guidance on vulnerable children.


Schools closed until 1 February 2021 as part of national lockdown

First Minster for Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has announced that, as part of a national lockdown, schools will be closed for the majority of pupils until 1 February 2021.

This includes nursery as well as primary and secondary schools, with learning taking place online instead. A review of the arrangements will take place on 18 January.

From 5 January 2021 to 29 January 2021, schools will only open to in-person learning for children of key workers and vulnerable children.

Further Support

Enquire, the Scottish advice service for additional support for learning (ASL), has specific information on how coronavirus is affecting ASL in Scotland at this time including information on the Additional Support Needs Tribunal.

Mindroom is a charity dedicated to supporting those living with a learning difficulty. They have developed a back to school toolkit for children of different ages, including a printable workbook for them to fill in.

Contact in Scotland - If you have a query or would like to talk through any concerns you have about your child going back to school or need other information and support just now, then please don't hesitate to email our enquiry line or call 07458 046071 (Monday to Wednesdays).

Extra funding for additional teachers

The Scottish Government also announced that an additional £30 million will be allocated to Scottish local authorities to bring in additional teachers, building on the £45 miillion previously announced.

The total amount will be enough to recruit approximately 1,400 extra teachers to support education recovery and accelerate progress in achieving excellence and equity for Scotland's children.


School reopenings pushed back to 18 January 2021

All schools and colleges have been moved to online learning until 18 January.

Education settings will remain open for vulnerable children, the children of key workers, and children taking essential exams.

All childcare settings can remain open.

General guidelines

Who should schools inform if a learner or staff member has displayed symptoms of COVID-19?

Persons displaying symptoms of Covid-19 should be sent home, and advised to arrange a test and ensure self-isolation guidance is adhered to. For learners, parents should be advised to arrange a test for their child. If the test comes back positive, the contact tracing system will commence for that case.

Contact tracers will get in touch with the school if there is a suspected cluster or potential outbreak, where they will ask for information from the school as to who was in the classroom if needed. Pupils and staff should only request a test if they are symptomatic, not if they suspect contact with a potentially positive case.

For full details visit Welsh Government website - Schools: coronavirus. There is also specific guidance for School admission appeals: coronavirus (COVID-19)

Guidance on learning in schools and settings from the autumn term: Keep Education Safe (COVID-19)

The Childrens Commissioner for Wales has a Coronavirus Information Hub for Families and Children including information & advice, support, activities.

Help for childcare funders

Welsh Government have announced a £4 million funding pot for childcare providers. The Childcare Provider Grant will offer dedicated funding for the childcare sector to help ensure more providers re-open as the schools return in September.