How schools and other educational settings should plan for and deal with emergencies, including severe weather and floods.

Making an emergency plan

The aim of an emergency plan is to help staff respond effectively to an emergency at school or on an educational visit.

Your emergency plan should be generic enough to cover a range of potential incidents that could occur, including:

  • serious injury to a pupil or member of staff (eg transport accident)
  • significant damage to school property (eg fire)
  • criminal activity (eg bomb threat)
  • severe weather (eg flooding)
  • public health incidents (eg flu pandemic)
  • the effects of a disaster in the local community

Your plan should cover procedures for incidents occurring during and outside school hours, including weekends and holidays. You should also include emergency procedures for extended services, such as breakfast clubs, after-school clubs and holiday activities.

The planning process

Preparing for emergencies is an ongoing process involving:

  • risk assessment
  • planning
  • training
  • exercises
  • reviewing

Throughout each stage of this process it is important to consult members of staff and governors to gain their involvement and support.

School emergency plan template and guidance

A school emergency plan template and accompanying guidance are available to download from Nottinghamshire County Council.

Whether you adopt the template or choose to use your own, you can use the guidance to develop appropriate arrangements for your school.


Nottinghamshire County Council has also developed resources to help train staff and run exercises, including:

  • risk assessment and planning templates
  • training materials
  • tabletop exercises

You may not need to use all of these resources in order to have an effective emergency plan, and these documents shouldn’t replace any existing arrangements your school has in place.

Your local authority may have already sent emergency planning guidance to your school. If so, please contact your local authority for advice before using these resources.

Electronic storybooks, games and puzzles to use in classroom lessons on emergency planning are also available.

The Cabinet Office has developed a single point of reference for emergency planning terminology.

Severe weather

During severe weather conditions, such as flooding or snow, you should keep your school or early years setting open for as many children as possible.

However, it might be necessary to close temporarily due to inaccessibility or risk of injury. You should do all you can to reopen as soon as possible.

If flooding has significantly affected your school or early years setting, you should contact our incident alert team.

If you’re an early years provider and have had to move to temporary premises, you should check to see if you need to register with Ofsted at your new premises.

School attendance statistics

Where children are unable to get to school due to severe weather conditions, you can mark them in the register using absence code ‘Y’. This means that their absence won’t affect your school’s attendance figures.

However, if you believe that a child could have got to school, their absence should be recorded as unauthorised using code ‘O’.

Staff absence

If some of your teachers can’t get to work, you should be flexible by, for example:

  • bringing together groups and classes with teachers and support staff working together
  • using other school staff or volunteers to provide cover supervision or oversee alternative activities
  • re-arranging the curriculum

Reception and other infant classes (children aged 5, 6 or 7) should normally be groups of 30 or fewer, but having more than 30 in one class due to temporary exceptional circumstances is not a reason to close the school or the class.

Exam disruption

You should prepare for possible disruption to exams as part of your emergency planning and make sure your staff are aware of these plans. If you have to close your school, or if a child misses an exam due to an emergency, you should discuss alternative arrangements with your awarding bodies.

You are responsible for making sure parents and children know what has been agreed, for example:

  • using alternative venues
  • an exam result being generated by the awarding body, based on factors such as a child’s performance on other assessments in the same subject
  • the opportunity for children to sit any missed exam later in the year

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Further guidance is available at Coronavirus (COVID-19): education, universities and childcare.

Contact details

Incident alert team

Email[email protected]

Useful information

You may find the following links useful when considering your plan:

Published 25 March 2014
Last updated 5 February 2021 + show all updates

  1. Added link to information on coronavirus (COVID-19).

  2. Updated to include link to a school emergency plan template and guidance.

  3. First published.