Coronavirus and Schools

As the government has stated that it is imperative to reduce disruption to education whilst managing the risks caused by the coronavirus pandemic, this page summarises the main points for schools, children and parents/carers to consider including school transport, risk management, children with EHC plans and examinations. 

Actions for Schools

The government has withdrawn the previous guidance which previously focused on actions for schools during the Covid-19 outbreak. As a result, there are fewer school-specific guidance documents or requirements.

Public health advice to minimise coronavirus (Covid-19) risks

Schools must comply with health and safety law, which requires them to assess risks and put in place proportionate control measures. Schools should thoroughly review their health and safety risk assessments. guidance on emergency planning and response in education and other childcare settings can be found here.

There is also general government guidance issued to the population which schools should also give consideration to. This guidance on living safely with respiratory infections, including Covid-19, can be found here. 

This guidance recommends:

  • Ensure good hygiene for everyone

  • Maintain appropriate cleaning regimes

  • Keep occupied spaces well ventilated

Response to any infection:

There is no longer a legal requirement for those with Covid-19 or their close contacts to self-isolate. However, schools can refuse to allow a pupil or other person to attend the setting if they have an infectious disease in order to protect others. Full guidance on health protection in education and other childcare settings can be found here.

Testing

Schools are not currently required to encourage regular testing or provide Covid-19 tests for pupils or staff. Free Covid-19 tests are no longer available for the majority of the population.

Transport 

There is currently no dedicated guidance on the requirements for school transport relating to Covid-19.

Attendance

The normal rules on school attendance once more apply now that schools are  reopen full-time including:

  • parents’ duty to secure that their child attends regularly at school where the child is a registered pupil at school and they are of compulsory school age;
  • schools’ responsibilities to record attendance and follow up absence
  • the availability to issue sanctions, including fixed penalty notices in line with local authorities’ codes of conduct

Where a pupil is unable to attend school then schools should consider providing remote education to pupils in circumstances when in-person attendance is either not possible or contrary to government guidance. In these circumstances pupils should have access to remote education as soon as reasonably practicable, though in proportion to the length of absence and disruption to their learning. Remote education should only be considered as a short-term measure. There is no longer a specific legal obligation on the school to provide remote education for children with a positive Covid-19 test. Non-statutory guidance on providing remote education can be found here.

Where a child is required to self-isolate or quarantine because of Covid-19 in accordance with relevant legislation or guidance published by PHE or the DHSC they should be recorded as code X (not attending in circumstances related to coronavirus). As there is currently no longer a need for those with Covid-19 to self-isolate, schools are no longer being encouraged to record absences relating to Covid-19 with code X.

Where a child is unable to attend because they have a confirmed case of Covid-19 they should be recorded as code I (illness).

In some specific cases, code Y (unable to attend due to exceptional circumstances) may apply (for example, if a child is unable to return from a trip outside of the UK due to the restrictions in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the country to which they have travelled).

Further guidance about the use of codes is provided in the school attendance guidance.

School meals 

Schools are expected to continue to supply school meals for all eligible children.

Meals should be available free of charge to:

  • all infant pupils
  • pupils who meet the benefits-related free school meals eligibility criteria

Under normal circumstances, schools do not provide free school meals to eligible children who are not in school. During the Covid-19 outbreak, it is expected that schools will continue supporting children eligible for benefits-related free school meals who are at home during term time. As children are no longer required to self-isolate when they have Covid-19 this provision may become less relevant.

Further information on providing free school meals during the Covid-19 outbreak can be found here.

Examinations 2022

The government is currently instructing schools and students that they should be expecting to sit GCSE and A Level examinations in 2022. Due to the impacts which the COVID-19 pandemic has had on many children’s learning extra help may be given to help students to prepare for examinations and to make arrangements for non-examination assessments to be more flexible. These will include:

  • students taking GCSEs in English literature, history, ancient history and geography will not need to cover the usual range of content in the exams – the exam boards have published information on their websites on how this will work for each of their specifications in these subjects. Students taking GCSEs in all other subjects will be given advance information about the focus of the content of the exams to support their revision
  • students taking AS and A levels will be given advance information about the focus of the content of the exams to support their revision
  • students taking GCSE mathematics will be given in their exams copies of formulae they would in other years have to memorise
  • students taking GCSE physics and combined science will be given in their exams a sheet covering all the equations they might need to apply in the exams

Further information on these arrangements for examinations can be found here and for non-exam assessments (such as practical components of an exam syllabus or fieldwork) can be found here.

Although the government expects that exams will take place as normal this year schools are required to have a contingency plan n case this is not possible to allow students to be awarded Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs). It is recommended that, in order toe ensure that schools have sufficient evidence on which to base TAGs students should be assessed under exam-like conditions where ever possible throughout the year. Guidance on examinations 2022 and contingency arrangements can be found here. 

Face coverings

Face coverings are no longer advised for pupils, staff or visitors in classrooms or communal areas in schools. This applies to both primary and secondary schools.

COVID-19 Vaccinations

The Pfizer-BioNTech BNT162b2 vaccine for COVID-19 has ben approved for children aged 12 and over and the JCVI recommended that it is offered to all children in this age range.

Vaccination will often take place at school for children aged 12-16 years old. The government has issued guidance for schools on the roll-out of the vaccination programme which can be found here.

It is likely that most children will be offered the vaccine at the beginning of the Autumn term 2021.

Schools will have three primary roles which will be familiar to them from other vaccination programmes:

  • to provide information to their School Age Immunisation Service provider on which children on their roll are eligible for the vaccine
  • to share the information leaflet, consent form and invitation letter supplied by the SAIS team with parents and children
  • to provide the space within school, and the time away from the timetable, to enable vaccinations to take place

Like all school-based vaccination programmes, the vaccines will be administered by healthcare staff working closely with the school and following the usual approach to school-based immunisation. It will not be school staff deciding who will be vaccinated or administering the vaccination.

Consent will be needed for a child to be vaccinated. Parents will be asked to provide their consent; the vaccination can be given with the consent of just one parent. If a parent does not consent but the child wishes to have the vaccination then the child can consent if they are deemed to be Gillick competent. The child can also refuse to have the vaccination even if their parent has consented if they are Gillick competent.

Gillick competency is a legal concept where a child can consent to their own medical treatment if they are competent to make such a decision. When deciding whether a child is Gillick competent the medical professional will consider:

  • the child’s age, maturity and mental capacity
  • their understanding of the issue and what it involves 
  • their understanding of the risks and consequences that may arise from their decision
  • how well they understand any advice or information they have been given
  • their understanding of any alternative options, if available
  • their ability to explain a rationale around their reasoning and decision making

This is not a new concept and applies to all medical treatments, not just the COVID-19 vaccine.

A child will not be vaccinated if the necessary consent (either from a person with parental responsibility or the child if the child is Gillick competent) has not been given.

When parents cannot agree on whether the child should receive a vaccine then either parent can apply for a court order to resolve the matter. 

Schools should not use the NHS COVID Pass as a condition of entry for education or related activities such as exams, teaching, extra-curricular activities or any other day-to-day activities that are part of education or training.


 

This information is correct at the time of writing, 16th June 2022. The law in this area is subject to change.

Coram Children’s Legal Centre cannot be held responsible if changes to the law outdate this publication. Individuals may print or photocopy information in CCLC publications for their personal use.

Professionals, organisations and institutions must obtain permission from the CCLC to print or photocopy our publications in full or in part.

On this page

This information is correct at the time of writing, 16th June 2022. The law in this area is subject to change.

Coram Children’s Legal Centre cannot be held responsible if changes to the law outdate this publication. Individuals may print or photocopy information in CCLC publications for their personal use.

Professionals, organisations and institutions must obtain permission from the CCLC to print or photocopy our publications in full or in part.