A Full Return to School

Early September heralded the full reopening of schools across England and with that, a return to some sort of normality. Whilst it may be business as usual in a sense, clearly there are many challenges ahead. The DfE has issued detailed guidance which provides a framework for schools to limit the risk of Covid transmission. Some of the things which governors may wish to consider are as follows:

Ofsted will be conducting ‘interim visits’ throughout the autumn term, with a view to returning to full inspections in January 2021. The visits are designed to support schools in their important work to welcome all pupils back full-time. School gradings will not be altered following the visits, but a letter of feedback will be published.
Section 8 emergency inspections will continue ‘as and when required’.

Free School Meals

Guidance for schools and local authorities on providing vouchers to support pupils eligible for free school meals over the summer holiday period during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Risk Assessment

This is a live operational document which schools will be using on a daily basis. It will be subject to regular updates and changes to reflect the developing situation and practices in schools.
Governing Boards should have had sight of the original document and an opportunity to feed into it. They should be made aware of any material changes and keep the document under review to reassure themselves that the risk assessment is; effective, working as planned and updated appropriately.
The risk assessment should be published on the school website.

Curriculum and Contingency Plans

Although the curriculum will likely be modified to help children recover lost learning, it should remain broad and ambitious. Schools should aim to return to their normal curriculum in all subjects by summer term 2021.
With the risk of local lockdowns, schools should have contingency plans in place. These should include the remote provision of a sequenced curriculum which can be implemented with immediate effect, including varying levels of challenge. The remote provision should be high quality, safe and closely aligned with the in school provision. Governors should be involved in the development of the remote learning strategy. They should seek to ensure that the provision put in place is adequate and aligned with the school development priorities and the board’s strategic aims.

IT Strategy

IT strategy
Many schools will need to consider their IT strategy, in light of the remote learning requirements. Governors should be involved in discussions and consider medium term goals as well as financial implications.


The Safeguarding Governor should keep in touch with the Headteacher / DSL during the term to ensure the school is fulfilling its obligations and understand any issues or concerns.
The DSL should be allowed more time to support staff and pupils with new safeguarding concerns.
The Safeguarding Governor will need to reassure themselves, and the Governing Board, that arrangements are in place for monitoring of the welfare of vulnerable children during the current period.

Pupil Progress

Schools will want to give staff and pupils an opportunity to settle back into school life before assessment and monitoring resume with any significant degree of formality.
Governors will need to work with the Headteacher to ensure that they have a solid understanding of what progress would normally look like so that they can use this as a baseline. In the absence of external data, governors will need to look carefully at internal data and understand fully how it was created.
Governors should keep in close contact with their linked class teachers and subject leaders to understand specific areas of impact.
Governors should ensure that the school development plan has been adapted to include the identification and reduction of learning gaps.
Governors will need to understand how gaps are being identified and strategies for addressing these in the coming months, including the use of the Covid-19 catch-up premium.
The EEF has published guidance on effective interventions to help schools decide how best to use the funding.


For exclusions occurring between 25 September 2020 and 24 March 2021 statutory timescales should be followed (with an extended deadline of 25 days for applications for an Independent Review) but that Governing Boards should consider whether hearings can be held remotely subject to access conditions being met and the agreement of all parties.


From the start of the autumn term, DfE expects (maintained) schools to respond to new and existing complaints. However, if a tier 4 local restriction is in place or school access is restricted due to localised cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) this may not be possible but schools should engage with parents and pupils where possible.

Virtual/blended Governor meetings

Governor meetings should be held online where possible. Where some governors wish to meet in person and where this happens, there must still be the opportunity to join, for those who prefer to remain remote.

Governor Visits

Governor visits should happen out of school hours where possible. There should be a section within the risk assessment which deals with governor visits. Careful consideration should be given to the most effective ways of protecting the health and safety of visitors, staff and pupils. Details of all visitors should be recorded. DfE Guidance on H and S educational visits

Governor Elections

The approach to governor elections should be pragmatic and inclusive. Maintained schools cannot extend governor terms. Schools should consider any upcoming vacancies and that there will be enough governors in place for the board to function effectively.
For parent governor elections, there is prescribed process but the election must be fair, transparent and accessible to all. Some schools have moved away from paper based voting systems in order to limit the risk of contact contamination but where this is the case, there should always be the opportunity to vote by post.
Where elections are due to take place in remote meetings, nominations should be sent in advance to the clerk.


From the start of the autumn term 2020 pupil attendance will be mandatory and the usual rules on attendance will apply, including:
· parents’ duty to ensure that their child of compulsory school age attends regularly at the school where the child is a registered pupil
· schools’ responsibilities to record attendance and follow up absence
· the ability to issue sanctions, including fixed penalty notices, in line with local authorities’ codes of conduct

Policy renewals

Most schools will have already adopted an addendum to their Child Protection Policy last term. Schools may need to update their Child Protection Policy further to reflect more pupils returning to school. Schools must have regard to the statutory safeguarding guidance, keeping children safe in education and should refer to the coronavirus (COVID-19): safeguarding in schools, colleges and other providers guidance.
Ø Behaviour Policy
The Behaviour Policy should be updated to reflect new challenges and practices in school. Schools should consider how to communicate rules/policies clearly and consistently to staff, pupils and parents, setting clear, reasonable and proportionate expectations of pupil behaviour.
Ø Home/Remote learning Policy
A Remote Learning Policy should be drafted to reflect the processes and strategies which will be used in school.
It is advised that a Virtual Meeting Policy is approved and appended to the Standing Orders.
Where model policies are used, it is essential that these are tailored to reflect practice in school.

Operations V Strategy

How this crisis is managed at school is an operational matter and boards must be mindful of the need to allow leaders to lead. All governors should however, remain up to date with the latest guidance and work to:
  • support their leaders,
  • understand their school’s unique response to the situation,
  • monitor impact on outcomes, well-being and budget,
  • focus on ongoing strategic direction.
Ensure leaders are balancing proportionate protective measures for children and staff with the provision of high quality full time education (incl. full educational and care support for SEND pupils).
  • Ensure risk assessments (H&S and wider) have been reviewed. It is key that governors can probe the robustness of the assessment and keep it under review. Whilst governors should trust leaders to undertake the assessment, sight of the assessment will support governors in having a strategic function of challenge and support, and furthermore support your understanding of how the operational decision was reached. Do note, if schools follow the DfE and LA guidance, governors can be confident they are managing risk effectively.
  • Has the unique context of the school has been considered in plans?
  • Did plans involve views of staff, pupils and parents?
  • Does the RA identify further improvements?
Regularly monitor that controls are effective, working as planned and updated appropriately
  • Are guidelines embedded in school culture and supported by behaviour expectations?
  • Have policies been reviewed as necessary? Do they reflect practice in school?
  • Are parent/staff worries heard and addressed?
  • Is training on Test and Trace process comprehensive (staff, parents/carers)?
  • Safeguarding reports may include school contact with the local health protection team
Monitor the implementation of curriculum for all pupils
  • Scrutinise remote learning strategy
  • Understand how the school is identifying pupils at risk of disengagement and developing plans for re-engaging (e.g. disadvantaged and vulnerable, those persistently absent prior or who have not engaged during the pandemic)
  • Understand the use of additional catch-up funding schools, existing pastoral and support services, attendance staff and pupil premium funding measures used to secure pupils’ regular attendance. Headteachers will decide how the money is spent but governors should scrutinise decisions.
  • Is the curriculum broad and ambitious?
Have regard to staff work-life balance and wellbeing.

Parental Engagement

If governors are approached by parents/carers / members of the community or press they should direct them to the school office and not offer advice or comment. Parental support is however an aspect of operations that should be monitored. The British Psychological Society (BPS) and Division of Educational and Child Psychology (DECP) have produced the following advice for schools and parents/carers.

National Guidance

Local Guidance