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
Version information

Version information

Version 1.0 (30 July 2020) -  first version of document

Version 2.0 (25 August 2020) - update to guidance on face coverings in public health measures and school transport sections (effective from 31 August 2020)

Version 3.0 (11 September 2020) - various updates for clarification of key issues, including self-isolation, testing procedures, quarantine, outbreak and case management, and links to updated guidelines on physical education and home economics.

Version 4.3 (30 October 2020) - shifting the emphasis of the guidance from 'reopening schools' to 'protective measures in schools'.

Updates to versions 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3, to take account of comments from CERG members where possible, the latest advice from the sub-group, and to align with the levels approach within the Strategic Framework.

Version 5.1 (24/03/2021Separate supplementary guidance for schools was published before Christmas to support the move to remote learning for most children and young people in January 2021.  Updated versions of that supplementary guidance were published on 21 January, 16 February and 8 March.

Key changes introduced:

  • revised introductory section
  • update on the return to school from 12 April 
  • updated text on colleges
  • additional emphasis on the need for ventilation
  • confirmation that a full-time return for secondary schools is on the basis of no physical distancing required between pupils 
  • new text on safe spaces for staff breaks 
  • new text on young people observing Ramadan 
  • confirmation that S1-S3 pupils will be included in the asymptomatic testing programm
  • new text on testing of contacts 
  • revised section on outbreak/case management
  • updated text on shielding
  • revised section on ethnic minority staff
  • expanded text on outdoor learning  
  • updated text on national qualifications 
  • updated text on boarding/residential schools

Version 5.2 (19 April 2021)  

Updated to take account of the return to a levels approach from 26 April and to make some minor updates and clarifications. 

Key changes include:

  • reference to dental/health checks and vaccination programmes in school 
  • link to updated college guidance
  • further comment from the Advisory Sub-group on ventilation 
  • updated text on shielding 
  • updated text on national qualifications 
  • link to revised school trips guidance 
  • information summarising changes as a result of the anticipated move to Level 3 from 26 April
  • revised information on residential facilities

Version 5.3 (17 May 2021)

Updated to take account of wider societal changes from 17 May and to make other updates and clarifications. 

Key changes are (please note the numbers refer to the PDF version):

  • some changes to the text on testing at paras 148-149 & 154 
  • revisions to the shielding text, paras 188-206
  • a short para on school sports days, para 238
  • updated text on qualifications, para 243-244
  • updated text on school visits, para 248 and Annex A
  • additional info on reporting to parents, para 314
  • annex A – a new section on transition from ELC-P1 and P7-S1
  • annex A – a new table on PE and expressive arts at different Levels
  • annex C – some revised text on boarding schools given the changes to international travel requirements

Version 5.4 (25 May 2021)

Two amendments were made to Annex A:

  • revised text on transition to primary school
  • minor change to the table re music in Level 2 areas

Version 6.0 (3 August 2021)

Update in time for the 2021/22 school session. This included a summary of the key changes being introduced in the main section.

Version 6.1 (15 September 2021)

Update following review and further advice from advisory sub-group that the majority of mitigations should continue in place until at least the October break.

Version 6.2 (30 September 2021)

Minor update following advice from the Advisory Sub-Group regarding school visitors (paras 76-80)

Version 6.3 (22 November 2021)

Minor revisions to ensure the guidance remains up to date.  Key changes resulting from this are updated guidance on:

  • dental checks (para 25)
  • revised guidance for pregnant staff (paras 26-38)
  • young people with Additional Support Needs (para 39)
  • school transport and taxis (para 40)
  • updated school uniform guidance (para 41)
  • updated guidance on international trips (paras 42-43)
  • updated text on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (Annex A, paras 95-105)

Version 7 (17 December 2021)

Updates to reflect change to the balance of risks following the emergence of the Omicron variant. Changes include:

  • new context regarding risks associated with Omicron (para 18)
  • strengthened approach to minimising contacts (paras 25-27 + relevant section of Annex A)
  • tightened restrictions on school visitors (paras 28-35)
  • updated text on ventilation and heating (paras 36-45 + relevant section of Annex A)
  • updated text on asymptomatic testing (paras 46-52 + relevant section of Annex A)
  • strengthened approach to self-isolation for household contacts (para 53 and Annex B)
  • details on school staff eligibility for exemption from self-isolation under the Critical National Infrastructure (paras 84-93)
  • update to guidance on school visits and trips in order to reflect the ‘in school’ mitigations (paras 99-101)
  • guidance on ongoing support for particular groups (vulnerable children and young people, children of key workers etc.) in the event of local school closures (Annex A, para 192)
  • minor edits elsewhere to update material in Annex A
  • updated material in annexes D and E

Version 7.1 (20 December 2021)

Clarification re not all adults being high risk contacts.

Version 7.2 (5 January 2021)

Updates to:

  • self-isolation sections to reflect amended approach from 6 Jan, in light of latest evidence and booster programme (paras 54 to 94)
  • vaccination section to reflect latest JCVI advice (paras 115 to 120)
  • outbreak management (minor update) to reflect requirement for ongoing local prioritisation by HPTs (paras 185 and 186)

Version 7.3 (7 January 2021)


Further updates to:

  • self-isolation sections to align with wording in updated NHS guidance (paras 54, 55, 58, 59, 86, 154, 156, Annex B, Annex E)
  • Critical National Infrastructure exemption, clarifying applicability to individuals who were asked to self-isolate as close contact before 6 January 2022 (para 89)




First published: 25 Mar 2021 Last updated: 7 Jan 2022 -