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 9th August, with updates made on 15 September and 30 September. It sets out that  local authorities and schools should continue to apply the mitigations that are currently in place, with the exception of some modifications as set out in this guidance.

The Advisory Sub-group on Education and Children’s Issues as well as senior clinicians have continued to review that position on an ongoing basis. Following those discussions, Ministers decided that the existing mitigations should remain unchanged and that we should monitor case rates and levels of seroprevalence in children and young people on a weekly basis, with a view to lifting restrictions at the earliest possible time.

All children, young people and staff should continue to implement and strictly observe these mitigations. 

The updated guidance on school visitors, including for spectators at schools sports, parental visits, parent councils, and use of community facilities that was introduced on 30 September will continue to apply. 

Other changes to the guidance that will be introduced are:

  • the re-commencement of oral health programmes in education settings 
  • revised guidance for pregnant staff
  • updated guidance relating to children and young people with Additional Support Needs
  • updated guidance on the use of taxis and private hire vehicles 
  • updated guidance on school uniform policy 
  • a link to revised guidance on international trips
  • updated text on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (Annex A, paras 95-105)

This revised guidance will apply from 22 November. Local authorities and schools should implement changes as soon as is practicable in line with local circumstances.

The table below summarises the continued approach for key mitigations:

Risk assessment


Encouragement of vaccination


Environmental cleaning


Hand and respiratory hygiene


PPE in specific circumstances


Face coverings in communal areas


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


Staggered 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

Retain (updated, with minor edits in November)

Support for pregnant staff

Retain (updated in November)

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 fully-vaccinated adult contacts)

Self-isolation, contact tracing and testing for U18s

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




Retain (strengthened guidance for LAs on CO2 monitoring)

Restrictions on school visitors

Remove (but with some ongoing requirements)

Restrictions on Drama, Music, PE and Dance

Remove (in line with previous guidance)

School Transport

Retain with modifications (alignment with public transport).

School trips

Retain (updated guidance)

Readiness and assurance

Retain (updated guidance)

In the event of a significant outbreak, schools may be expected and supported by their local health protection teams to reintroduce additional mitigations, such as face coverings, for a temporary basis and while that outbreak is managed.  Where that is the case, local HPTs will support schools in that process and help ensure that any temporary mitigations are necessary and proportionate dependent upon local circumstances.

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.

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

Risk assessment

It is a legal requirement that local authorities and headteachers ensure that risk assessments are conducted and regularly reviewed and updated.  In implementing this guidance, it is imperative that schools and local authorities continue to take a balanced approach, and take every appropriate step to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children, young people and staff in schools.  Full guidance on the risk assessment process is in Annex A.



First published: 25 Mar 2021 Last updated: 22 Nov 2021 -