Schools opening timeline
Local authorities and schools should continue the following exceptional arrangements for a phased return to schools in January/February. An educational continuity direction has previously been issued to provide the legal basis for this approach, and will be updated in due course:
Until schools can reopen more fully, which will be at the earliest date possible, attendance in schools should be restricted to:
- vulnerable children and children of key workers only. Definitions are provided later in this supplementary guidance
- staff who, in the judgement of the local authority and schools, are required to attend in person to give effect to these revised school reopening arrangements
This may, for example, include: staff needed to ensure the safe opening and operation of the school, including senior leadership teams, facilities management staff, cleaners, etc.; and teaching and support staff required to attend to deliver in-person support to vulnerable children and children of key workers, or to deliver remote learning if they cannot do so from home. In light of the strict lockdown conditions in place at the current exceptional time, local authorities and schools should ensure that only those staff who are required to support these essential activities are requested to attend in person, and ensure that updated guidance on individuals on the shielding list is followed.
Local authorities and schools may wish to draw on lessons learnt from running childcare hubs earlier in the pandemic when putting in place the local arrangements in schools to meet the needs of vulnerable children and the children of key workers.
The role of certain in-class roles (e.g. pupil support staff) and the part they may play in supporting remote learning should be discussed locally with staff and unions.
Appropriate provision of school transport for children and young people attending school should continue. Advice on safe school travel remains in place.
All other pupils should be provided with an appropriate timetable of remote learning until schools can reopen more fully, which will be at the earliest date possible.
Regular reviews of these arrangements will be undertaken, taking into account the latest evidence about the new variant and progress in reducing community transmission levels. Arrangements following these reviews will be communicated at the earliest opportunity.
All of the above is subject to updated guidance on attendance for clinically vulnerable staff and pupils, including the enhanced protections at Levels 3 and 4.
Local authorities and schools should ensure that local risk assessments and individual risk assessments for clinically vulnerable individuals are up to date, to ensure the safe running of schools and school transport under these arrangements. Consideration may, for example, be given to any additional mitigations that could be put in place due to fewer numbers of people being in school buildings. Local decisions should be made about whether specific staff may work from home where their attendance is not required to give effect to these arrangements – for example, when delivering remote learning – and how this can be facilitated.
Local authorities should ensure that children eligible for free school meals continue to receive them (or benefit from alternative arrangements) during the period of operation of these arrangements (see below for further information on this).
Temporary lockdown guidance for colleges has also been published. This makes clear that senior phase school pupils should not attend college while schools are only providing in-person learning for a very limited number of pupils. Colleges should explore whether arrangements can be made for this learning to take place online.