Lockdown 2021 and School Attendance

During the current lockdown the government has ordered for school sites to be closed to most pupils and for education to be provided remotely. However, some children should still be able to attend school and access their education on site. This page will explain which children should be allowed to continue attending rather than being educated remotely. 

Under the new lockdown regulations, schools are closed to most pupils. The government has said only the children of critical workers and vulnerable children and young people should attend school or college for on-site learning. All other pupils and students will receive remote education.

The Department of Education has provided guidance on attendance during the lockdown titled Restricting attendance during the national lockdown: schools.

Vulnerable Children

Who is classed as a vulnerable child?

Vulnerable children and young people include those who:

  • are assessed as being in need under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, including children and young people who have a child in need plan, a child protection plan or who are a looked-after child
  • have an education, health and care (EHC) plan
  • have been identified as otherwise vulnerable by educational providers or local authorities (including children’s social care services), and who could therefore benefit from continued full-time attendance, this might include:
    • children and young people on the edge of receiving support from children’s social care services or in the process of being referred to children’s services
    • adopted children or children on a special guardianship order
    • those at risk of becoming NEET (‘not in employment, education or training’)
    • those living in temporary accommodation
    • those who are young carers
    • those who may have difficulty engaging with remote education at home (for example due to a lack of devices or quiet space to study)
    • care leavers
    • others at the provider and local authority’s discretion including pupils and students who need to attend to receive support or manage risks to their mental health

Can a school refuse a vulnerable child a place?

Schools are expected to allow and strongly encourage all vulnerable children and young people to attend.

Does a vulnerable child have to attend school?

Parents of vulnerable children and young people are strongly encouraged to take up the place. However, you can choose whether you wish to send your vulnerable child to school. Where a parent of a vulnerable child wishes for that to be absent, it is expected that schools will authorise the absence during the lockdown period. Although absences will not currently be penalised, this could change in the future.

If the school allows a vulnerable child or young person to not attend the on-site provision, the school should still speak to parents to explore the reasons for this and any concerns raised.

Schools should also work together with the local authority, and other relevant partners, to encourage the child or young person to attend educational provision.

If a vulnerable child has not been attending school, can their parent later decide they wish them to return on-site before the full re-opening of schools?

If a parent decided to not send a vulnerable child to school, following the introduction of national restrictions, they can revisit that decision at any point in time. If a parent wishes their child to attend, they should talk to the school (and social worker if applicable).

Critical Workers

Who is classed as a critical worker?

A critical worker includes those whose work is critical to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and EU transition response as well as in other key sectors. This includes critical workers who may be working from home.

Critical workers may work in the following sectors:

  • Health and social care
  • Education and childcare
  • Key public services
  • Local and national government
  • Those involved in the production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery of food and other necessary goods
  • Public safety and national security
  • Transport and border
  • Utilities, communication and essential financial services

Can the school ask for evidence that a parent is a critical worker?

Yes, schools can ask for simple evidence that the parent in question is a critical worker. Such evidence can include a work ID badge or pay slip.

Can the school refuse to allow the child of a critical worker to attend on-site education?

Although it is generally advised that parent and carers should keep their children at home if they can, children with at least one parent or carer who is a critical worker can go to school if required.

There is no limit to the number of these pupils who may attend, and schools should not limit the attendance of these groups.

The Department of Education has stressed that importance of providing an on-site provision for these pupils.

What can a parent do if the school has refused to allow their child to attend on-site?

If the school has refused to allow your child to attend on-site and you are a critical worker or your child is deemed to be vulnerable, you could make a formal complaint. How you complain depends on the type of school.

You can see more information on school complaints here: Complaints to schools

If it is an independent school, see: Independent schools

You can see more about different types of schools here: Types of school