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updated on 3 March 2021
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School types: All · School phases: All

Keep up to date with the latest COVID-19-related announcements that affect your school. We check this daily and update whenever there's a significant change.

This article reflects the latest government guidance as of 5pm on 3 March. The latest update is about optional sub-codes for recording non-attendance related to coronavirus (see the first section).

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What's the latest news?

Schools to reopen to all pupils from 8 March

  • All pupils will be allowed to return to face-to-face education
  • Before and after-school educational activities and wraparound childcare should resume where this provision is needed to support parents to work, attend education, seek medical care or attend a support group. Vulnerable children can attend this provision in all circumstances
  • Secondary school pupils should wear face coverings inside classrooms or during activities, unless social distancing can be maintained. Primary school children don't need to wear them, but staff and adult visitors should wear them where social distancing between adults isn't possible
  • In preparation for 8 March, the DfE has published operational guidance for all schools (where the information above comes from - read our summary here) and updated its additional guidance for special schools and alternative provision settings (available here)
  • Ofsted will pause its monitoring inspections for 'inadequate' and some ‘requires improvement’ schools for the week beginning 8 March while you focus on reopening to all pupils (see more about these inspections in the 'Ofsted' section below)
  • The DfE has published a list of optional category X and I sub-codes to record non-attendance related to coronavirus - see our article for more detail


  • In primary schools:
    • Staff will continue to take 2 rapid COVID-19 tests each week at home
    • There are no plans to test pupils when they return to school
  • In secondary schools:
    • Staff will be provided with 2 rapid COVID-19 tests to use each week at home
    • Pupils will take 3 tests as they return to school from 8 March, at existing school testing facilities. You'll have discretion on how to stagger pupils' return over that first week to enable them to be tested, but you should prioritise vulnerable children, children of critical workers and year groups 10 to 13
    • After the initial programme of 3 tests, pupils will get 2 rapid tests to use each week at home
  • Twice-weekly rapid COVID-19 testing will also be available to all people in households with school-age children or school staff (including childcare and support bubbles), and to adults who work in the wider school community, like bus drivers and after-school club leaders. You don't need to provide them with tests - see this guidance for more information
  • See our articles on what you need to know about testing and how to respond to a suspected case in your school

New guidance on awarding qualifications this summer

  • The government has confirmed that pupils taking GCSEs, AS and A Levels this summer will be awarded grades based on teacher judgements - these should only be based on what pupils have been taught (read our summary for more)

Additional funding to help pupils catch up

  • The government has announced further elements of its education recovery package, with additional funding for the new Recovery Premium for state-funded primary and secondary schools. The average primary will receive around £6,000 extra, and the average secondary around £22,000 extra

Recap of the current state of play

Partial closure and who should be in school

  • All schools are closed until 8 March, except to vulnerable pupils and children of critical workers. This includes those whose work is critical to the transition out of the EU. The DfE is encouraging critical workers to keep children at home if possible
  • In particular, children with a social worker are expected to attend provision (subject to public health advice), and it's particularly important you have conversations about reasons for non-attendance. Read more about the attendance of vulnerable children in the national lockdown guidance here (from page 28)
  • The DfE has published guidance for all schools on restricting attendance during lockdown. This replaced the former 'guidance on full opening'. See our summary of the national lockdown guidance
  • Your employer's general workplace risk assessment should consider whether adapting duties and/or facilitating home working may be appropriate to mitigate risks for staff who are pregnant
  • Early years and childcare providers should stagger start and finish times to keep groups apart as they arrive and leave school. See page 30 in this guidance

Remote learning

  • The government expects every school to have a digital education platform, to provide between 3 and 5 hours of teaching per day (depending on pupil age), and for some of this to be via video lessons (either school-led or using other providers like Oak National Academy)
  • It became a legal duty (previously it was an 'expectation') to publish information about your remote learning provision on your website from 12 February. You don't need to provide any more information than you were previously expected to. Use this template to help if you're yet to do this
  • There's more technology help available from January 2021 - in particular, free mobile data increases for disadvantaged pupils and more laptops and tablets in 2021, including a further 300,000 devices for disadvantaged children and young people
  • The DfE has published non-statutory guidance on how to review your remote education provision - use our self-evaluation form (SEF), based on this DfE guidance, to rate your school's provision
  • Schools will receive a further £300m for tutoring - the government is developing initiatives for summer schools and a 'COVID premium' to support catch-up, the prime minister has said
  • If you're an independent school, you're still expected to meet the Independent School Standards (including the requirements set out in Part 1) in full at all times (read more under 'Remote education' in the national lockdown guidance here)


  • Ofsted is enforcing the requirement for schools to provide high-quality remote learning. It'll inspect schools of any grade if it has serious concerns about the quality of remote provision
  • Non-graded monitoring inspections for 'inadequate' and some ‘requires improvement’ schools will be carried out remotely until 8 March at the earliest, and will focus on how well your pupils are being educated (they'll no longer focus on school improvement as previously planned). These inspections will normally last 1 day and involve 2 inspectors. Read more here
  • Early years assurance inspections are paused for the rest of this term (previously they were supposed to restart from 8 March at the earliest), but Ofsted will keep this under review. It'll still continue with regulatory work
  • Ofsted has published guidance on what's working well in remote education, research on remote education and an impact assessment on the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) in relation to its phased return to inspection


  • GCSEs, AS and A Levels won't go ahead this summer. Ofqual and the DfE ran a consultation on alternative arrangements which closed on 29 January - see the outcome here
  • Statutory KS1 and KS2 assessments planned for summer 2021 won't go ahead (as explained in the national lockdown guidance here, page 62). But if you want, you can administer the optional multiplication tables check within the 3-week period from 7 June 2021
  • The DfE has added temporary disapplications to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) - as such, it won't be mandatory to complete the EYFS profile assessment in 2021 (the disapplications also mean that paediatric first aid certificates that expired on or after 1 October 2020 remain valid until 31 March if coronavirus prevents staff doing requalification training)

Free school meals

  • You'll need to provide meals for FSM-eligible children at home until those pupils return to school on 8 March, the prime minister has said
  • If you're providing food parcels to FSM-eligible pupils at home, you can claim an additional £3.50 of funding per week for each eligible pupil receiving these
  • If you're providing local shop and supermarket vouchers, you can claim to be reimbursed up to £15 per eligible pupil per week (note that you should only claim for either food parcels or local vouchers each week, not both)
  • If, between 4 January and 16 January, parents received an inadequate lunch parcel, you can claim retrospectively for a locally arranged voucher - however, you can't also claim the lunch parcel top-up funding for this period
  • The national voucher scheme has reopened. Read more about FSM provision here


If you're a secondary school...

  • The rollout of daily contact testing of pupils and staff has been paused, unless your school is involved in further evaluation. Staff should still be tested regularly (ideally twice a week), and pupils should still be tested twice upon their return to school. See our summary here
  • Confirmatory PCR tests following a positive test result with a lateral flow test are temporarily paused
  • You need to log both positive and negative test results on your individual account on the NHS Test and Trace Log Results website. See the how-to guide on the document sharing platform
  • The DfE has published conditions of grant funding to support schools with costs incurred to conduct rapid coronavirus testing from 4 January until February half term 2021 
  • The DfE has updated its definition of 'close contact' to include sexual contact and travelling in a plane (see the national lockdown guidance here, page 24)
  • The DfE has added guidance on reordering test kits on its document sharing platform - you should only a place an order when you have 2 weeks' worth of kits left
  • If you're a special school and need extra staff to carry out assisted swabbing, or general testing support, see this guidance

If you're a primary school or EYFS provider...

  • If you're a primary school, confirmatory PCR testing remains in place for staff with a positive home test result. Read more here
  • Primary schools (including school-based nurseries) and maintained nursery schools should receive home testing kits for staff which staff should self-administer twice a week. See the delivery schedules for your test kits on the document sharing platform - if you haven't received yours, fill out this contact form. Read more here
  • You need to seek consent to test staff by sharing a privacy agreement and explaining the process to them (you can use the one available here on the primary schools' document sharing platform)
  • The DfE strongly encourages primary schools to attend webinars on testing (you should've received details of dates and times in an email from the DfE). They'll be available afterwards on the DfE's YouTube page if you're unable to attend
  • The DfE has updated its definition of 'close contact' to include sexual contact and travelling in a plane (see the national lockdown guidance here, page 24)
  • If you're a special school and need extra staff to carry out assisted swabbing, or general testing support, see this guidance


Funding for staff

  • Your school can claim for some of the costs related to staff absence due to coronavirus - these absences must have taken place between 1 November 2020 and the end of the autumn term, and your school must meet other criteria in order to qualify. Applications for funding will open in the spring term
  • Self-isolating supply staff may be entitled to a £500 lump sum from their local authority through the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme - see pages 25-26 of the national lockdown guidance here

Key actions to take this week

  • Prepare for your school to reopen to all pupils from 8 March - use our articles to help you with this, including:
  • Publish information about your remote learning offer on your website, if you haven't yet done this - use our article to help
  • Make sure you have procedures in place to follow up and maintain contact with any vulnerable children not attending provision
  • If you're a secondary school, upload all test results, whether positive or negative, to NHS Test and Trace 
  • Seek consent from staff for home testing in primary schools, if you haven't yet done this - there's a privacy agreement available here that you can use
  • Attend DfE webinars on testing (you should've received details of dates and times in an email from the DfE). If you're unable to attend the webinars, they'll be available afterwards on the DfE's YouTube page
  • Review your remote education provision to make sure it's in line with the latest requirements set out in the DfE's guidance on restricting attendance during the national lockdown - you can use our SEF
  • Use the DfE's technology service to request data increases for your disadvantaged pupils and see the latest information about device allocations
  • Place an order for additional devices if your school has been allocated more
  • Visit our article on coronavirus testing to stay up to date with what you need to know and do

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