UK-wide education updates

In this article

England

Latest update: Schools and colleges to reopen for all children and young people from 8 March

This means that attendance will be mandatory for children of compulsory school age unless that child receives a positive Covid-19 test or has to self-isolate.

Clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) children

The advice for pupils who have been confirmed as clinically extremely vulnerable is to shield and stay at home as much as possible until further notice. They are advised not to attend school while shielding advice applies nationally.

You might be asked to provide a copy of the shielding letter sent to your CEV child, to confirm that they are advised not to attend school or other educational settings whilst shielding guidance is in place.

Schools have a duty to provide remote learning to any pupil unable to attend school, whether because they’re shielding or self-isolating.

Children with Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans

It remains the duty of the local authority and health commissioning body to secure or arrange the provision specified in Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans. All therapies and support that would normally be in place for children and young people with EHC plans should be provided.

There may be times when it becomes more difficult to do so than usual. In collaboration with local authorities and health partners (where applicable), schools should work with families to co-produce alternative arrangements for delivering provision.

School transport

Local authorities must continue to provide school transport to those pupils who need it.

Testing and masks for secondary school pupils

Secondary school pupils and staff are recommended to wear face coverings in classrooms and during activities unless social distancing can be maintained. These measures will be in place until Easter. There are exceptions for those who cannot wear a mask because of a disability or illness, or because they are supporting someone with a communication need.

On-site asymptomatic testing for secondary school pupils will be available in the week beginning 8 March. This is recommended but not mandatory.

Are you anxious about your child’s return to school?

It is understandable that some parents will be worried about their child’s return to school. It’s important to be aware that a child may only remain away from school if a statutory reason applies, such as being unwell. Fixed penalty notices for non-attendance will apply as usual.

If you or your child is anxious about returning to school, the school should be able to explain what measures they’re putting in place to protect pupils and minimise risk as much as possible.

You can also get in contact with our helpline team about any concern you have, or make an appointment with our telephone Listening Ear service for an informal chat with a family support worker.

Related information

The government has updated its guidance for parents and carers.

You can read the new guidance for schools and additional guidance for special schools and alternative provision settings.

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.

You can also visit our page with top tips for home schooling, and find more tips in the government’s guidance on remote learning for parents.

Free school meals

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

Exams

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.

Guidance

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.

Vicky Ford, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, has written an open letter to children and familie with SEND.

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

Pre-school education settings, primary and post primary schools will be providing remote learning to pupils until at least 5 March 2021.

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 on the nidirect website.

More information about education

Visit nidirect.gov.uk for all the latest updates in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland has published its own guidance on vulnerable children.

Scotland

Government confirms schools to reopen to some pupils from 22 February

Children in P1 to P3 and pre-school will return to school for face-to-face teaching from Monday 22 February, the Scottish government confirmed on Tuesday 16 February.

Other age groups will continue to learn from home and are unlikely to return before 15 March at the earliest, Nicola Sturgeon said.

Some secondary school students who need to complete coursework will also return to school.

More information can be found on the gov.scot website.

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 Scotland.office@contact.org.uk 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.

Wales

Plans for phased reopening from 22 February 2021

From Monday 22 February, children aged three to seven will begin returning to schools in a phased way, while some vocational learners on courses that require practical learning, will return to college.

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

All childcare settings can remain open.

See the latest guidance on schools in Wales.

See the statement from the Education Minister Kirsty Williams on education provision for vulnerable learners, children of critical workers and pupils completing exams or assessments

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.