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Last updated on 20 March 2020
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Schools will be closed from Friday afternoon until further notice for most pupils. Here are the details on which pupils should still attend, as well as what to do if they or staff develop symptoms.

20 March 2020: More details have been published about the expectations for staying open for certain children. See the second section below.

We'll update this article further if government guidance changes again – if you're a member, click 'Save for later' (top-right) to get an email notification whenever we do.

See our coronavirus hub for advice on working with your school to handle the impact of the virus.

Most of the actions here are for your school leaders, and it's their job to talk to parents and staff. If a parent does approach you, direct them to your headteacher or designated member of staff/contact person responsible for the issue.

Schools will close for most children until further notice

From 23 March 2020 onwards, your school is being asked to try to remain open only for those children who absolutely need to attend (see the section below).

All exams due to be held this summer, including GCSEs and A-levels, have been cancelled. It's been announced that students will still receive qualifications, calculated by exam boards based on teacher judgements and prior attainment, but the system hasn't been finalised yet.

Your school will still be expected to provide free school meals -  see more about those expectations here.

If possible, stay open for certain children

Where children can be at home, they should be.

However, if your school can, you're being asked to remain open (including over the Easter holidays) for:

  • Children of 'critical workers'
  • Vulnerable children

If your school will be unable to stay open due to staff shortages, your headteacher should get in touch with your local authority who will arrange alternative provision for these pupils.

Who are children of 'critical workers'?

Any pupil with at least one parent or carer who works in one of the sectors listed below.

  • Health and social care - including:
    • Doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers and other frontline health and social care staff (including volunteers)
    • Support and specialist staff required to maintain the sector
    • Those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributors of medicines and medical and protective equipment
  • Education and childcare - any of the below who must remain active to keep schools open for certain pupils:
    • Childcare, support and teaching staff
    • Social workers
    • Specialist education professionals
  • Key public services - including:
    • Those essential to the running of the justice system
    • Religious staff
    • Charities and workers delivering frontline services
    • Those responsible for the management of the deceased
    • Journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting
  • Local and national government - administrative occupations essential to delivering:
    • The response to coronavirus
    • Essential public services, such as the payment of benefits, including in government agencies and 'arms length' bodies
  • Food and other necessary goods - including:
    • Those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery
    • Those essential to the provision of other key goods (e.g. hygienic and veterinary medicines)
  • Public safety and national security - including:
    • Police and support staff
    • Ministry of Defence civilian, contractor and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of defence and national security and essential to the coronavirus response)
    • Fire and rescue service employees, including support staff
    • National Crime Agency staff
    • Those maintaining border security
    • Prison and probation staff
    • Other national security roles, including those overseas
  • Transport - including:
    • Those who'll keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the response
    • Those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass
  • Utilities, communication and financial services - including:
    • Staff needed for:
      • Essential financial services provision (including banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure)
      • The oil, gas, electricity and water sectors, including sewerage
      • Information technology and data infrastructure sector
      • Primary industry supplies
    • Key staff working in the following sectors:
      • Civil nuclear
      • Chemicals
      • Telecommunications (including network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services)
      • Postal services and delivery
      • Payments providers
      • Waste disposal

Who are vulnerable children?


  • Who have a social worker, including:
    • Children in need
    • Children with a child protection plan
    • Children looked after by the local authority
  • With education, health and care (EHC) plans

Your school can also offer spaces to those on the edges of receiving social care support.

For children with EHC plans, your school will make case-by-case assessments on whether they should attend.

There's more guidance on how these children will be supported here.

What to do if anyone still in school develops symptoms

The most common symptoms are:

  • A new, continuous cough
  • A high temperature

Anyone with these symptoms should be sent home. Your school should advise them to follow guidance about self-isolation, which says:

  • If they live alone, they must self-isolate for 7 days
  • If they live with others, then they must again self-isolate for 7 days but anyone they live with must self-isolate for 14 days

If they need clinical advice they should:

  • Use the online NHS 111 service, or call 111 if they don't have internet access
  • If they're seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk, call 999

If a pupil has these symptoms at school

While they're waiting to get picked up, your school should:

  • Move the pupil to a room where they can be isolated behind a closed door, but with an open window for ventilation
  • If it isn't possible to isolate them, move them to an area which is at least 2 metres (about 3 steps) away from other people
  • If they need to go to the bathroom:
    • Have them use a separate one if possible
    • Clean and disinfect the bathroom with standard cleaning products before letting anyone else use it

If a member of staff has helped someone with these symptoms

The staff member doesn't need to go home unless they develop symptoms themselves.

They should wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds after any contact with someone who is unwell.

How to limit the spread for those still in school

Your school should:

  • Remind everyone to wash their hands more often than they'd normally do, for 20 seconds
  • Frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, and follow decontamination guidance if there's a potential case at school

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