Coronavirus: Schools

Updated 17th June 2020, 13:50. For the latest medical advice, visit

Schools are now open for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to return to the classroom in smaller class sizes. This will ensure the youngest children and those preparing for the transition to secondary school have the maximum amount of time with their teachers. Early years settings may also be able to open for all children. Schools are still open for children of key workers. You can find a full list of key workers eligible to send their children to school here. 

The government has published guidance to the sector, which sets out a range of protective measures to ensure education settings remain safe places, including: 

  • reducing the size of classes and keeping children in small groups without mixing with others
  • staggered break and lunch times, as well as drop offs and pick ups
  • increasing the frequency of cleaning, reducing the used of shared items and utilising outdoor space

Read the full guidance

The Government will continue to work closely with the sector in the build-up to and following pupils’ return. Whilst there will be no penalty for families who do not send their children to school, families will be strongly encouraged to take up these places - unless the child or a family member is shielding or the child is particularly vulnerable due to an underlying condition.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies advising the Government has a high degree of confidence that the severity of the disease in children is lower than in adults and a moderately high degree of confidence that children aged up to 11 are less susceptible to it.

Everybody with coronavirus symptoms is now available for testing. This will enable children and staff to get back to school if they test negative, and if they test positive a test and trace approach can be taken. Where a setting has a positive case, Public Health England will advise on the appropriate course of action, and the relevant group of people with whom the individual has mixed closely should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days.

Devon Schools

Devon County Council and the Department of Education have been working closely together to ensure schools have the information and support they need during this testing time. Click here to learn more about how Devon County Council and Devon schools are responding to the coronavirus outbreak.  

Additional Information

If you think you are a key worker, you should confirm with your employer that, based on business continuity arrangements, their specific role is necessary for the continuation of this essential public service.

Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with Education, Health and Care Plans – a legal document that describes a child’s special educational needs and the support they require. Children who do not fall into these groups should remain at home with appropriate care.

Where schools are unable to look after these children, local authorities will work with the Department for Education’s regional teams to ensure an alternative option is available in the same area.

Registered early years providers, including childminders, private schools and sixth forms should also follow this guidance. We will provide financial support for these settings as required.

Where possible, the government encourages settings to also look after key workers’ children and vulnerable children throughout school holidays. 

Free School Meals

Low-income families whose children are eligible for free school meals will be offered vouchers, food or meals to make sure they continue receiving this support, even if they are no longer attending school due to the coronavirus outbreak. Schools can either provide meals or vouchers for supermarkets or local shops, which can be sent directly to families who are either self-isolating at home or whose schools are closed on government advice. It is up to headteachers to decide which option is best for the school. 

The Government has also confirmed that the total value of vouchers offered to each eligible child per week will exceed the rate it pays to schools for free school meals, recognising that families will not be buying food in bulk and may therefore incur higher costs.

Click here to find out whether your child is eligible for free school meals and, therefore, the voucher replacement scheme. Any child already receiving free school meals may still qualify. 

Accessing the internet from home

Those pupils who are care leavers, have a social worker, or are year 10 will receive laptops or tablets if they do not already have them. Once this coronavirus pandemic is over, schools can keep the devices for future use. 

4G routers for internet access will also be provided for families who do not have access to mobile or broadband internet to ensure children can access online resources. 

School Inspections

To lift the pressure on schools themselves and to allow them to focus on supporting those children who need it most, Ofsted will cease all inspections of schools and colleges with immediate effect.

School Summer Exams

Primary school assessments or secondary school exams will not go ahead this summer, and there will be no performance tables. These exams have been cancelled, and they will not go ahead this summer under any circumstance. 

The exam regulator, Ofqual, and exam boards will work with teachers to provide grades to students. This means ensuring GCSE, A and AS level students are awarded a grade which fairly reflects the work that they have put in. There will also be an option to sit an exam early in the next academic year for students who wish to. Ofqual has consulted on the process used to calculate grades, this can be found here. The outcome of the consultation will be provided in due course. 

To produce a calculated grade, teachers will take into account a range of evidence and data including performance on mock exams and non-exam assessment – clear guidance on how to do this fairly and robustly will be provided to schools and colleges. The exam boards will then combine this information with other relevant data, including prior attainment, and use this information to produce a calculated grade for each student, which will be a best assessment of the work they have put in. 

University representatives have confirmed that they expect universities to be flexible and do all they can to support students and ensure they can progress to higher education.

The Department for Education aim to provide these calculated grades before the end of July. In terms of a permanent record, the grades will be indistinguishable from those provided in other years. If students do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance, they will have the opportunity to sit an exam at the earliest reasonable opportunity, once schools are open again. Students will also have the option to sit their exams in summer 2021.

The Government will not publish any school or college level educational performance data based on tests, assessments or exams for 2020.

Limiting spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in educational settings

Education settings can help reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) by reminding everyone of the public health advice.

Staff, children, pupils, students and families should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently than normal.

Frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products. Posters, leaflets and other materials are available.

Cleaning and Waste

See guidance from the government on cleaning and waste disposal.

Tools for use in childcare and educational settings

There is a dedicated helpline number for educational settings – please call 0800 046 8687 for any specific question not covered on this page.

Public Health England has created resource materials that contain public health advice about how you can help stop the spread of viruses, like those that cause coronavirus (COVID-19), by practising good respiratory and hand hygiene. To access, download and share this information, you will need to register for an account which only takes a couple of minutes.

Use e-Bug resources to teach pupils about hygiene.


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