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updated on 15 May 2020
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School types: All · School phases: All

You don't need to delve into all the finer details of the government's guidance on reopening schools, but you will need clarity on the key points and what they mean for your school. Here's what you need to know about what the DfE has published so far.

Updated 15 May: we've added details on the curriculum priorities for primary schools in the fourth section, and added a link to new safe working guidance in the last section.

We'll continue to update this article as more information becomes available. Click 'Save for later' in the top-right corner to get an email alert when we've done this.

Schools should encourage more vulnerable children to come to school

From Wednesday 13 May, schools should increasingly urge children of critical workers and, in particular, vulnerable children to attend school in person if they would benefit from doing so.

The Department for Education (DfE) says it's no longer necessary for parents of children in these priority groups to keep them at home if they can.

Schools shouldn't ask any other pupils to attend at this stage.

Some year groups may return from 1 June

Alongside the priority groups you may already be open for, schools will be asked to welcome some year groups back into school from 1 June at the earliest.

Pupils in these year groups will be 'strongly encouraged' to attend, but:

  • Parents won't be fined for non-attendance
  • Schools won't be held accountable for attendance levels

We've set out below the groups the government is planning to get back into school, subject to its assessment of the risk of coronavirus.

There's no word yet on when the government will confirm that these plans are going ahead, but we'll update you as soon as we know more.

Early years settings

Settings will be asked to open to all children.

Primary schools

Schools will be asked to open for all pupils in:

  • Nursery
  • Reception
  • Year 1
  • Year 6

Infant schools can choose to prioritise nursery and reception classes over year 1 pupils if needed.

The government's ambition is that all primary school pupils will eventually return to school before summer holidays, for a month if feasible.

Secondary schools

Schools will be asked to provide some face-to-face support to pupils in:

  • Year 10
  • Year 12

This support should supplement their continuing remote education, so it won't need to be full-time provision.

Special schools

Schools will be asked to welcome back as many children as they can safely cater for.

Schools can prioritise attendance based on:

  • Key transitions
  • Impact on life chances and development

Your school may decide to create a part-time attendance rota, so that as many children as possible can benefit from attending.

Alternative provision (AP) settings

Settings will be asked to open for all pupils in:

  • Reception
  • Year 1
  • Year 6

They'll also be expected to provide some face-to-face support to pupils in:

  • Year 10 
  • Year 11

This support should supplement pupils' remote education, so it won't need to be full-time provision.

Not all staff and eligible pupils should attend

The DfE says:

  • If they're clinically extremely vulnerable (as defined here), they should continue to learn or work from home
  • If they're clinically vulnerable (as defined here) – parents should follow medical advice if their child is in this category, and staff in this category should continue to work from home wherever possible
  • If they live with someone who's clinically extremely vulnerable, they should only attend if stringent social distancing can be adhered to and, in the case of children, they're able to understand and follow those instructions
  • If they live with someone who's clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable), they can attend school
  • Anyone experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, or living with anyone experiencing symptoms, shouldn't attend

No specific curriculum requirements after reopening

School leaders will continue to decide how best to support and educate pupils. Schools won't be penalised if they can't offer a broad and balanced curriculum during this period.

However, the DfE expects all schools to:

  • Consider pupils' mental health and wellbeing, and identify any pupil who may need additional support so they're ready to learn
  • Assess where pupils are in their learning, and agree what adjustments might be needed to the curriculum
  • Identify and plan how best to support the education of high needs groups, including disadvantaged pupils, vulnerable pupils and pupils with SEND
  • Support pupils in year 6, who'll need both their primary and secondary schools to work together to support their transition to year 7 

Priorities for primary schools

The DfE has said primary schools should prioritise:

  • Resocialisation into new school routines
  • Speaking and listening
  • Regaining momentum in particular with early reading
  • For children who've had limited opportunities for exercise, opportunities to exert themselves physically with supervised non-touch running games
  • For year 1, schools should ascertain where children are against existing reading curriculum and if they're behind, help them catch up or relearn any forgotten material
  • For year 6, schools should focus on their readiness for secondary school, particularly their academic readiness in mathematics and English

Schools with EYFS provision should use reasonable endeavours to provide activities and experiences across all 7 areas of learning (see here for more details).

Schools will need to follow new safety guidelines

The DfE has published guidance on protective measures in schools and safe working ahead of reopening.

We'll be putting out resources as soon as we can, to help you monitor how effectively your school puts these measures into practice.


This article is based on the following DfE guidance:

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