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
Definition of vulnerable children and young people

Definition of vulnerable children and young people


Local authorities (including through joint working between Chief Social Work Officers and Directors of Education) should ensure and prioritise continued care and support for these learners during the period until secondary schools reopen more fully. The definition in place of vulnerable children and young people since the start of January continues to apply (see below).  In doing so, they should consider how best to accommodate these children and young people safely, and in keeping with the mitigations set out below, alongside other learners now returning to school.

Vulnerable children and young people - definition

The definition in place since the start of January continues to apply.  Children and young people may be vulnerable because of factors related to their personal development, features of their family life, or because of wider influences that impact on them within their community.

Those children and young people who were considered to be vulnerable prior to the pandemic should have been known to services, and are likely to have had a child’s plan. The pandemic has brought others into this category, for example through loss of family income.

Where a child or young person requires co-ordinated support from more than one agency, this is likely to suggest greater vulnerability, and the plan would be co-ordinated by a lead professional. This would include a range of children and young people, such as those:

  • at risk of significant harm, with a child protection plan;
  • looked after at home, or away from home;
  • ‘on the edge of care’, where families would benefit from additional support;
  • with additional support needs, where there are one or more factors which require significant or co-ordinated support;
  • affected by disability;
  • where they and/or their parents are experiencing poor physical or mental health;
  • experiencing adversities including domestic abuse and bereavement; and those
  • requiring support when they are involved in making transitions at critical stages in their lives.

Children ,young people and families may also experience adversity because of the impact of poverty and disadvantage (including entitlement to free school meals), and many will be facing this because of the necessary measures to respond to the pandemic.  This will include families with loss of income, experiencing social isolation, or otherwise struggling because of the lockdown



First published: 25 Mar 2021 Last updated: 25 May 2021 -