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Actions for schools during the coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus COVID-19

What schools need to do during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Actions for schools during the coronavirus outbreak

What all schools will need to do during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak from the start of the autumn term.


Actions for schools during the coronavirus outbreak

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This guidance applies to all schools in England, including:

  • primary schools
  • secondary schools (including sixth forms)
  • special schools, special post-16 providers and alternative provision
  • 16 to 19 academies
  • infant, junior, middle, upper schools
  • boarding schools

DfE coronavirus helpline

Telephone 0800 046 8687

If you have a query about coronavirus (COVID-19) relating to schools and other educational establishments, and children’s social care, in England contact our helpline.

Christmas opening times:
20 to 23 December – 8am to 6pm
24 December – 10am to 4pm
25 to 28 December – closed
29 to 30 December – 8am to 6pm
31 December – 10am to 4pm
1 to 2 January – closed
3 January – 10am to 4pm

Normal opening times:
Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm
Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 6pm

If you work in a school or college, have your unique reference number (URN or UK PRN) available when calling the helpline.

Published 2 July 2020
Last updated 14 December 2021 – hide all updates

  1. 14 December 2021Updated to reflect that daily rapid testing is now recommended for contacts of COVID-19.
  2. 9 December 2021Following the Prime Ministers announcement on 8 December 2021, we have updated guidance on tracing close contacts and isolation, ventilation, asymptomatic testing, mandatory certification, recommendation to work from home if you can and clinically extremely vulnerable children and adults.
  3. 2 December 2021Converted to HTML to improve accessibility. Added clarification on the use of face visors and face shields by those who are exempt from wearing face coverings and what guidance children and staff must follow when travelling to England from abroad.
  4. 29 November 2021Updated guidance on contact tracing and isolation, travel and quarantine, face coverings and vaccination of under 18 year olds to reflect new measures announced on 27 November 2021.
  5. 27 September 2021We have updated the guidance on asymptomatic testing and accountability arrangements for this academic year. We’ve also updated the advice around clinically extremely vulnerable pupils and staff and added information on the vaccination of 12 to 17 year olds.
  6. 27 August 2021Updated information on CO2 monitors in the ‘Control measures: Keep occupied spaces well ventilated’ section.
  7. 17 August 2021We have made updates to the ‘tracing close contacts and isolation’, ‘face coverings’, ‘stepping measures up and down’ and ‘travel and quarantine’ sections.
  8. 19 July 2021We have updated the schools COVID-19 operational guidance to reflect that we moved to Step 4 on 19 July. This includes removing the section on ‘contact tracing until Step 4’, the ‘Schools COVID-19 operational guidance (applies until Step 4)’ and ‘Annex A: health and safety risk assessment’. We have also updated sections on clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) children and CEV staff.
  9. 14 July 2021Updated to clarify that, from 19 July, government is removing the requirement to wear face coverings in law but expects and recommends that they are worn in enclosed and crowded spaces where you may come into contact with people you don’t normally meet. This includes public transport and dedicated transport to school or college.
  10. 6 July 2021We have added operational guidance for schools which applies at Step 4. This guidance removes restrictions such as keeping children in consistent groups (bubbles) and wearing face coverings in classrooms and communal areas and on dedicated school transport. It also includes information about updating your outbreak management plan and what to do when an individual in your school tests positive for COVID-19. From 16 August 2021, children under the age of 18 years old will no longer be required to self-isolate if they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace as a close contact.
  11. 24 May 2021We have converted the guidance to HTML and moved some of the paragraphs within the attendance section around to make it easier to read. We have not changed any of the guidance from the update on 10 May.
  12. 10 May 2021We have updated our guidance in line with Step 3 of the roadmap, including information on face coverings, attendance, pupils travelling to the UK from abroad, educational visits, wraparound provision and extra-curricular activity, music, dance and drama, pupil wellbeing and state-funded school inspection. We have also added further guidance on domestic residential educational visits and a section on transitional, taster and open days.
  13. 6 April 2021Updated ‘Schools coronavirus (COVID-19) operational guidance’.
  14. 31 March 2021Guidance updated to reflect the DHSC announcement that a confirmatory PCR test is required following a positive LFD test result in England.
  15. 26 March 2021We have updated the information in the operational guidance on Test and Trace support payments, the expectations for clinically extremely vulnerable pupils and staff, educational visits, wraparound provision and extra-curricular activity, physical activity in schools and inspections. We have also added guidance on year 11 to 13 exam cohort attendance and provision for the 2021 summer term.
  16. 16 March 2021We have converted the schools coronavirus (COVID-19) operational guidance to HTML to make it more accessible. It does not contain any changes to policy.
  17. 10 March 2021Updated operational guidance on face coverings and on safety for transport users.
  18. 8 March 2021Removed the guidance ‘Restricting attendance during the national lockdown: schools (applies until 8 March)’ as no longer applies.
  19. 22 February 2021Added the ‘Schools coronavirus (COVID-19) operational guidance’ which explains the actions schools will need to take from 8 March. Removed ‘What to do if a pupil is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)’ as this information is now in the operational guidance.
  20. 5 February 2021Updated ‘Introduction’ section to reflect correct position for early years provision over half-term and ‘Remote education’ section to reflect a duty for schools to publish their remote education offer on their websites by 12 February.
  21. 2 February 2021Updated with latest changes to: system of controls, attendance, recruitment, free schools meals, estates, wraparound care, physical activity in schools, remote education, catch up, assessment and accountability, and exams.
  22. 14 January 2021 Updated ‘Restricting attendance during the national lockdown: schools’ to clarify that supply teachers and other temporary staff can assist in delivering remote education as well as face to face education to pupils who continue to attend school.
  23. 7 January 2021 Added guidance for schools on restricting attendance and other actions to be followed during the national lockdown.
  24. 30 December 2020 Updated information on staff who are pregnant.
  25. 23 December 2020 Updated tier 4 guidance for use of face coverings, clinically extremely vulnerable pupils and staff, wraparound provision and extra-curricular activity and physical activity in schools.
  26. 15 December 2020 Updated the ‘Remote education expectations’ section with the requirement for schools to publish their remote education offer on their website from January 2021, and added a link to a template that schools can use to meet this expectation.
  27. 14 December 2020 Action list: updated self isolation information to 10 days from the day after contact with the individual tested positive (from 14 days).
  28. 3 December 2020 Updated sections on ‘Assessment and accountability’, ‘Contingency planning for remote education’ (with a link to the contingency framework) and ‘Self-isolation and shielding’.
  29. 26 November 2020 Updated to reflect the local restriction tiers.
  30. 26 November 2020 Updated guidance to reflect the local restriction tiers.
  31. 5 November 2020 Updated to reflect New National Restrictions guidance.
  32. 22 October 2020 Updated ‘What to do if a pupil is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)’ document to clarify that contacting the helpline is not mandatory – reporting confirmed cases can be done using the attendance form.
  33. 21 October 2020 Updated information on Prevention, Other considerations (system of controls), Response to any infection, Pupils travelling from abroad, Attendance, Workforce, Safeguarding, School uniform, Wraparound provision and extra-curricular activity, Behaviour expectations, Hospital schools and Contingency planning for outbreaks.
  34. 1 October 2020 Updated section on remote education expectations and support.
  35. 17 September 2020 Updated the section on managing confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) and what to do if a pupil is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).
  36. 10 September 2020 Added updated version of ‘What to do if a pupil is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)’.
  37. 7 September 2020 Added ‘What to do if a pupil is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)’.
  38. 28 August 2020 Updated guidance to reflect the actions schools need to take before the start of the autumn term – the changes are described within the document and cover the use of face coverings in schools.
  39. 7 August 2020 Updated ‘Remote education support’ in ‘Section 5: Contingency planning for outbreaks’.
  40. 27 July 2020 Guidance updated to provide more advice and clarity on some aspects of the return to school in the autumn.
  41. 2 July 2020 First published.

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