Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on reducing the risks in schools

Guidance to help schools ensure a low-risk environment for learning and teaching.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on reducing the risks in schools


This version of the guidance has been in place since 9 August 2021, with updates made on 15 September as detailed below. It sets out that  local authorities and schools should continue to apply the mitigations that were in place at the end of last term, with the exception of some modifications as set out in this guidance.

Initial advice was that this guidance would remain in place for a period of up to 6 weeks (until the end of September) and that updated guidance would be provided following a review.

The Advisory Sub-group on Education and Children’s Issues considered the data and evidence surrounding the school return at its meeting on Tuesday 7 September. In light of high case rates and current evidence on the state of the pandemic, the sub-group recommended retaining the mitigations set out in this guidance at this time. The sub-group also recommended that some adjustments be made to the process around issuing information letters to lower risk contacts in school communities when cases occur, and that advice on LFD testing in those letters should be strengthened. Those changes, and some others to reflect the latest developments (e.g. on vaccination) have been included in this updated version of the guidance, which will apply from 15 September.

It is expected that this updated guidance will remain in place until at least the October holidays – the position thereafter will be informed by regular reviews of the data and evidence by the advisory sub-group.

The key changes that will apply from 15 September are:

  • updated information on vaccinations for 12-15 year olds
  • updated guidance on contact tracing in schools (to improve clarity and ensure alignment with Test and Protect guidance), including flow diagram (Annex B in the PDF)
  • a more targeted approach to the issuing of information letters to lower risk contacts in the school environment, as well as strengthened advice on LFD testing in those letters
  • further advice/good practice on asymptomatic testing (see Annex D in the PDF)
  • inclusion of a link to additional UK-wide guidance on pregnancy

The table below summarises the continued approach for key mitigations:



Approach (retain/ retain with modifications/ remove/ new)


Risk assessment



Encouragement of vaccination



Environmental cleaning



Hand and respiratory hygiene



PPE in specific circumstances



Face coverings in communal areas


At least until October holidays (then contingent on further review).



Face coverings in secondary classrooms


Physical distancing for adults

Retain (note change to “at least 1m”, but 2m distancing expected to remain for logistical purposes)

One-way systems


Drop-off and pick-up


Staggered start and stop times/ break and lunch times


Restrictions on assemblies


Support for people in the highest risk groups/pregnant staff

Retain (updated guidance)

2x weekly at-home asymptomatic testing

Retain (updated guidance/materials to support uptake and recording)

Outbreak management

Retain (updated guidance re: public health approach)

Self-isolation, contact tracing and testing for adults 18+

Retain with modifications (updated guidance – removal of some restrictions for double-vaccinated adult close contacts)

Align relevant school arrangements with updated approach in wider society. Amendments to guidance on information letters and advice on LFD testing.

Self-isolation, contact tracing and testing for U18s

Retain with modifications (updated guidance – removal of some restrictions for U18 close contacts)



No longer required


Retain (strengthened guidance for LAs on CO2 monitoring)


Restrictions on Drama, Music, PE and Dance

Remove (in line with previous guidance)

At least until October holidays (then contingent on further advice)


Restrictions on school visitors

Retain with modifications

School Transport

Retain with modifications (alignment with public transport).

School trips

Retain (updated guidance)

Readiness and assurance

Retain (updated guidance)


Mitigations will be kept under constant review, and if data and evidence suggest that the approach to any specific mitigations should be updated at an earlier stage advice will be provided to that effect.

Annex A sets out detailed guidance on the application of mitigations and other safety measures. It has been updated to take account of evolving knowledge and experience of dealing with the pandemic, and to remove out-of-date material. Otherwise this material remains largely in line with previous versions of the Reducing Risks guidance and schools and local authorities will be familiar with much of the content.



First published: 25 Mar 2021 Last updated: 15 Sep 2021 -