Late on Friday 28th August, the DfE updated their webpage ‘Guidance for full opening: schools’. To keep you up-to-speed, we’ve summarised the major changes:


What has been updated?


Information has been added or updated on the following subjects:

  • Face coverings in schools

  • What happens if a parent or guardian insists on a child with mild symptoms attending school?

  • School transport

  • Children on the shielding patient list

  • First aid duties during coronavirus

  • Performance management and appraisal

  • Hiring out school premises

  • Teaching music, dance and drama

  • Physical activity in schools

  • Exclusions

  • Pupil wellbeing

  • Primary assessment

  • SEND legislation


Face coverings in schools


Secondary schools

Schools teaching Year 7 and above, which are not under specific local restriction measures, have discretion to require face coverings for pupils, staff and visitors in areas outside the classroom where social distancing cannot easily be maintained, for example, corridors and communal areas.


During local lockdowns

In areas where local lockdowns or restrictions are in place, face coverings should be worn by adults and pupils (in Year 7 and above) in areas outside classrooms where social distancing is difficult to maintain. Where new local restrictions are imposed, schools will need to communicate face covering requirements quickly and clearly to staff, pupils and parents.


Primary schools

Primary school children will not be required to wear face coverings; however, headteachers should decide whether to ask visitors and staff to wear face coverings where social distancing is difficult, for example, in corridors and staff rooms.


In the classroom

The DfE has stated that face coverings will not be necessary in classrooms.



The following individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings in education settings:

  • Those who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment or disability.
  • Those who speak to or provide assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate.


Access to face coverings

Schools should assume that most individuals have access to face coverings, given their wide use in society; however, anyone struggling to access a face covering, or unable to use their face covering because it has been forgotten or soiled, should be provided with one from a small contingency supply held by the school – no-one should be excluded from education because they are not wearing a face covering.


Wearing and removing face coverings safely

The process for removing face coverings on arrival should be clearly communicated to staff and pupils. Hands should be cleaned before and after touching face coverings, and face coverings should be safely stored in individual, sealable plastic bags between use. Damp face coverings should not be worn.

Pupils must be instructed not to touch the front of their face covering during use or when removing it, and they must dispose of temporary face coverings in a ‘black bag’ waste bin (not a recycling bin) or place reusable face coverings in a plastic bag they can take home, then wash their hands before moving to the classroom.

More information concerning face coverings can be found here.


What happens if a parent or guardian insists on a child with mild symptoms attending school?


Where a parent or guardian insists on a child attending school, despite the child displaying mild symptoms of coronavirus, schools can refuse to admit the child if, in their reasonable judgement, the child poses a risk of infection to pupils and staff.


School transport


The DfE has emphasised that social distancing should be put in place on school transport wherever possible. They have also added the recommendation for ventilation of fresh air to be maximised in vehicles, particularly through opening windows and ceiling vents.

They also recommend that LAs require young people aged 11 and over to wear face coverings when travelling on school transport (this does not include exempt individuals).


Children on the shielding patient list


The DfE has stated that fewer children will be included on the shielding patient list going forwards. Patients can only be removed from the list by their GP or specialist, following consultation with the child and their family, and other clinicians where appropriate.

Those removed from the shielding patient list will no longer be advised to shield if coronavirus transmission increases.

Except in a small minority of areas where the implementation of local restrictions is ongoing, all previously affected children should be able to return to school (unless individual clinical advice states otherwise).


First aid duties during coronavirus


Treating any casualty properly should be the first concern. Where first aid must be administered in close proximity, those administering it should take sanitation measures immediately afterwards, including washing their hands. Further guidance from the HSE can be found here.


Performance management and appraisal


Maintained schools must continue to adhere to the STPCD, including the duty to ensure that all pay progression for teachers is linked to performance management. Schools are expected to take pragmatic steps to adapt performance management and appraisal arrangements to account for current circumstances.

Schools must not penalise teachers during the appraisal process, or in respect of any subsequent pay progression decisions, because restricted pupil attendance has impacted their ability to fully meet their objectives.


Hiring out school premises


Where a school believes it is safe to do so, they may choose to open up or hire out their premises for use by external bodies or organisations.

Schools should ensure they carefully consider how the arrangements can operate within the wider protective measures in place, and have regard to relevant government guidance.


Teaching music, dance and drama


There is some evidence to suggest that singing and playing wind and brass instruments increases the risk of coronavirus transmission. The following measures are recommended to limit the risk of transmission:


Singing and playing instruments

  • Singing and playing instruments should take place outdoors wherever possible.
  • If singing and playing instruments takes place indoors, large rooms should be used with high ceilings and numbers should be limited where appropriate.
  • Singing and playing wind and brass instruments should not take place in larger groups, such as choirs, unless significant space is available, natural airflow is assured, and strict social distancing can be maintained.
  • Schools should stick to 2-metre social distancing where these activities take place.
  • Wherever possible, pupils should be positioned back-to-back or side-to-side when playing or singing.
  • Microphones should be used where possible or singers should be encouraged to sing quietly.


Handling instruments

  • Hands should be washed before and after handling instruments.
  • Instruments should not be shared. If they must be shared, they should be disinfected regularly and always between users.
  • Instruments should be cleaned by the pupils playing them, where possible.
  • Handling of scores should be limited to the individual using them.
  • Schools should consider limiting the number of instrument hire suppliers.
  • Pick up and drop off points for equipment should be created.


Individual lessons and group performances

  • Individual lessons in music, dance and drama can resume.
  • Social distancing should be maintained and teachers should not provide physical correction.
  • Pupils and teachers should be side-by-side where possible.
  • Handling of scripts should be limited to the individual using them.


Physical activity in schools


The following additions have been made:

  • Schools must only provide team sports on the list available here.
  • If indoor sports take place, natural ventilation flows should be maximised.
  • Swim England has provided guidance on school swimming and water safety lessons.




The DfE has reiterated that headteachers should, as far as possible, avoid excluding looked-after children. Where a previously looked-after child is at risk of exclusion, the designated teacher should speak with the pupil’s parent or guardian and seek advice from their virtual school head to avoid exclusion where possible.


Pupil wellbeing


The government’s Wellbeing for Education Return programme will provide training and resources for teachers and staff in all state-funded schools to respond to the wellbeing and mental health needs of pupils.

LAs have received funding to employ skilled staff to deliver the training to schools and provide ongoing support from Autumn 2020 to March 2021.

Schools can prepare by nominating a lead to receive the training, who will then disseminate the learning and practice to staff and pupils. Training will be available in the autumn term.

The Whole School SEND (WSS) consortium has produced two leaflets to support young people with SEND and their families to have conversations with their school about successful returns to school and transition planning for post-Year 11 destinations. They have also produced a handbook to support teachers to take a whole-school approach to supporting pupils following a traumatic event. The resources can be found here.

The DfE has also emphasised in the guidance that, where there is a concern a child is in need or suffering, or likely to suffer from harm, the school (led by the DSL) should follow their child protection policy and part 1 of KCSIE, and consider referral to statutory services (such as the police) as appropriate.


Primary assessment


For 2020 to 2021 only, schools will be required to administer a past version of the phonics screening check to Year 2 pupils during the second half of the 2020 autumn term. Pupils who meet the expected standard will not be required to complete any more statutory assessments in phonics. Pupils who do not meet expectations will take the statutory check in June 2021.

As previously stated, the reception baseline assessment has been postponed until September 2021. The 2020 to 2021 academic year will be a transitionary year to allow schools time to prepare for, and start embedding, the engagement model (the new framework replacing P scales 1 to 4).

The engagement model will become statutory from September 2021.


SEND legislation


Temporary changes to SEND legislation which increased flexibility around timescales for EHC needs assessments and plans will expire on 25th September 2020.


What’s next?


  • The government has released a COVID-19 ‘contain framework’. You can get up-to-speed here.
  • Further guidance on the DfE’s ‘Guidance for full opening: schools’ can be found here.




DfE (2020) ‘Guidance for full opening: schools’ <> [Accessed: 28 August 2020]