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'.

Further changes resulting from feedback on the experience of implementing the guidance at local level. Key changes include updated guidance on:

  • ventilation as we head into autumn/winter
  • shielding and individual risk assessments
  • additional support needs

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. Majority of mitigations will now continue in place beyond initial 6-week period, until at least October break. Annex A continues to set out the detail on the mitigations that schools should still have in place, with any historical text removed. Some further updates have been set out in the main section. Key updated sections are as follows:

Amendments to (please note the paragraph numbers refer to the PDF version):

  • 29-33 – vaccination (12-15 year-olds)
  • 34-67/new Annex B – contact tracing in schools
  • 69 – ordering PCR test kits for schools
  • 80 – update re: legal duty to wear face covering on public transport
  • 89-91/new Annex D – update re: good practice note on promotion of asymptomatic testing
  • 92-105 – People in the highest risk groups – updates to reflect latest advice following move beyond level 0
  • 110 – Addition of link to UK-wide guidance on pregnancy
  • 115 – Link to updated guidance on residential boarding/hostel accommodation



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