Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): school re-opening arrangements for January 2021

Published: 21 Dec 2020
Last updated: 19 Jan 2021 - see all updates

Guidance for schools, local authorities and parents setting out plans for a phased start to the spring term 2021.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): school re-opening arrangements for January 2021
Residential accommodation

Annex – Supplementary guidance for residential boarding/hostel accommodation in educational facilities


All schools, including residential boarding/hostel accommodation in educational facilities, should have regard to the measures set out in the main school guidance and apply them as appropriate in their specific settings. This supplementary guidance is intended for school care accommodation services, provided for the purpose of pupils in attendance at a public, independent or grant-aided school, and consisting of the provision of residential accommodation. For clarity, this includes residential, special and secure accommodation. These include independent boarding school facilities and residence halls provided by local authority secondary schools.

Supplementary information

As set out in ‘Arrangements for the phased reopening of schools in January 2021’, local authority schools will effectively have the school holiday period extended for all children (not including those that meet the definitions of vulnerable children, or children of key workers) until Monday 11 January. All pupils will be provided with an appropriate timetable of remote learning during the week from Monday 11 January to Friday 29 January 2021.

It is anticipated that independent schools may wish to follow their own existing timetable of reopening, adapting this as needed to allow time to establish effective remote learning arrangements.  No schools are expected to commence face-to-face teaching (other than for vulnerable children, or children of key workers) before 1 February 2021, as a precautionary measure in light of the latest developments in the path of the virus.

A review of these arrangements will be undertaken on Monday 18 January, taking into account the latest evidence about the new variant and progress in reducing community transmission levels. Arrangements for the period from Monday 1 February onwards will be communicated at the earliest opportunity following this review. Further guidance on the safe return to boarding/hostel accommodation will be prepared and published in advance of this date. It is acknowledged that further consideration will be required to enable boarding school pupils, parents, host families and schools to plan their return safely, including those travelling from other UK nations, or from outside the UK, and updated guidance will be provided as soon as possible.

This means that pupils who ‘board’ at their school, whether independent, grant aided or local authority provision, should not return to school at the start of term in January 2021.  Independent schools, like those in state provision, should provide remote learning – including for boarders.  Where boarders are key worker children, they should be able to access their local school or hub. 

Where pupils are considered to be vulnerable (in line with definitions set out earlier in this guidance), particularly those attending residential special schools, schools should assess how to effectively continue to meet their needs, including, where necessary, through provision of a residential place.

With reference to the guidance letter issued on 26 November 2020 to independent schools, if support bubbles for returning children are required (for vulnerable children, or children of key workers) these 10 day bubbles would ideally be:

  • with others from similar prevalence areas
  • as small as is practically possible
  • age-specific (given the risk of spread for different age groups)
  • smaller the older the children are

Bubbles would need to endure through all the normal communal activities, including eating, recreation, transport, exercise and learning, for that 10 day period. If a child develops symptoms, then the corresponding bubble would need to isolate as per standard guidance from symptom onset.

First published: 21 Dec 2020 Last updated: 19 Jan 2021 -