A Full Return to School - New Guidance (2/7/20)

On Thursday 2nd July the Department of Education released plans for a FULL return to school in September.  Leaders must now focus on putting plans in place for the full return AND contingency plans for partial or even full lockdown should the need arise again at any stage. Governors have a vital role to play in this process:
  • supporting leaders in the provision of a robust and effective return to full time learning for all pupils,
  • ensuring plans include work to rectify any gaps in learning that may have appeared over this period,
  • ensuring pupils who may find it hard to re-engage, get the support they need. 
All pupils, in all year groups, return to school full-time from September (separate guidance for early years, further education colleges and for special schools). There are no new legal obligations for schools but from September:-
  • attendance rules return to normal
  • school lunches and FSM return to normal (providers to comply guidance for food businesses on COVID-19)
  • school transport will resume
  • schools should consider resuming any breakfast and after-school provision, where possible
  • extra-curricular activities can resume with some restrictions on the types of activity
  • there is a recommendation for schools to return to their usual uniform policies
  • pre-appointment checks will revert to being carried out in person
  • overnight educational visits not recommended but day trips can resume
  • schools should aim to return to the school’s normal curriculum in all subjects by summer term 2021
Support for Schools
  • there are no plans to reimburse additional costs incurred/no expectation of requirement for estate changes
  • all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools will receive a one-off catch up grant for all (20-21 academic year)
  • a National Tutoring Programme will deliver tuition to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable young people
Minimise transmission (by following the principles behind the Public Health England system of controls)
  • a continuation of the systems already in place
  • reduce contact and maximise distancing – where possible
  • a legal requirement to revisit and update Risk Assessments (RA)
  • school must have active engagement with NHS Test and Trace
Provide full time quality education
  • no rotas – staggered start and finishes should not reduce teaching time
  • balance the need to manage risk with delivering an ambitious, broad and balanced curriculum
  • bubbles need to grow (distance within and separate bubbles where possible)
  • specialist teaching, wrap around care and transport are acceptable where needed
  • additional planning for SEND children likely to be required
  • Ensure staff are supported
  • staff should be involved in all measures that are being put in place
  • majority will be able to return in the usual way but flexibility should be given to those that are vulnerable or clinically vulnerable
  • provide training to deal with the return
  • consider how to meet equalities duties in the usual ways

Plan for local lockdown

  • contingency plans for outbreaks must be in place whilst ensuring continuity of education
  • plans for improving the quality of schools’ existing provision and a strong contingency for remote education provision must be in place by the end of September 2020.

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.


  • Routine inspections of schools are all still suspended.
  • Urgent inspections can still go ahead prioritising safety of children where necessary (e.g. when complaints or whistle-blowing information suggests children may be at risk of harm)
  • Inspection reports from recent inspections will not be published until schools reopen
  • Inspectors will visit a sample of schools in Autumn 2020; insights from the visits will be aggregated nationally to share.


The Department of Education have confirmed that:
  • Statutory primary assessments will take place in summer 2021.
  • Early years foundation stage profile, and all existing statutory key stage 1 and 2 assessments, should return in 2020 to 2021 in accordance with their usual timetables (the phonics screening check, key stage 1 tests and teacher assessment, the Year 4 multiplication tables check, key stage 2 tests and teacher assessment, statutory trialling).
  • Rollout of reception baseline assessment been until Sept 2021
  • The Standards and Testing Agency (STA) reviewing requirements for Y2 phonics screening check (following the cancellation of the 2020 assessment) and implementation of the engagement model (for the assessment of pupils working below the national curriculum and not engaged in subject specific study) – update before the end of the summer term.
  • There will be an opportunity for students to sit summer 2020 exams in this autumn (all subjects)
  • GCSEs and A levels will take place in summer 2021 but with adaptations.
  • Ofqual have launched a consultation


Timeframes set out in the School Discipline (Pupil Exclusions and Reviews) (England) Regulations 2012 remain in force. This applies to all exclusions, including those that were issued before 23 March 2020.
The government appreciates that it may not be possible to meet the timeframes set out in regulations for review meetings and IRPs, due to the disruption caused by coronavirus (COVID-19), and the health risks of holding meetings. The Regulations themselves envisage that the timeframes may not always be met, which is why they specify that meetings and panel hearings must still go ahead even if the relevant deadline has been missed.
It is for the governing board, or arranging authority, to assess the facts of the case, and decide whether the statutory deadlines are achievable or whether, in the circumstances, the meeting has to be delayed or alternative technology (such as telephone or video conference facilities) should be used. Governing boards and arranging authorities should continue to take reasonable steps to ensure meetings are arranged for a time when all parties are able to attend.

What should governors be doing now?

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).
  • Governors must have an opportunity to comment and ask questions about plans, at a GB meeting convened with this as a single item if necessary.
  • 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?
  • 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 online 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
  • the Education Endowment Foundation has published guidance on effective interventions to support schools.
Have regard to staff work-life balance and wellbeing.
Review relevant policies
  • Schools should consider revising their child protection policy (led by DSL) to reflect the return of more pupils.
  • 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.
  • Disengagement with education may result in increased incidences of poor behaviour . Consider updating behaviour policies with new rules/policies, and consider how to communicate rules/policies clearly and consistently to staff, pupils and parents, setting clear, reasonable and proportionate expectations of pupil behaviour.
  • Further details are available at Behaviour and discipline in schools.
  • Review IT Policy in line with revised Home Learning plans
N.B. It is for the governing body of a school (or the academy trust, in the case of academies) to make decisions regarding school uniform – DfE recommend returning to normal policy

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.
The DfE does not expect schools to handle new or existing complaints while they are closed. Schools should, however, still engage with parents and pupils where they can. Complaints can be considered once the government confirms schools can safely reopen.


National Guidance

Local Guidance