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updated on 4 August 2020
Ref: 40281
School types: All · School phases: All

The government expects all schools to reopen in September. Find out how this will affect your staff, and know which measures you need to put in place to keep everyone safe.

4 August 2020: we've updated the first section of this article to reflect the updated guidance on full reopening in September, specifically the sections on clinically vulnerable and clinically extremely vulnerable staff.

Who should and shouldn’t come in?

Since 1 August, the government has paused the shielding guidance. This means you can expect all staff to come in if they can't work from home.

Staff who are clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable can come in, so long as:

  • You've implemented the necessary controls as part of your risk assessment, and so your school is 'COVID-secure'
  • These staff take particular care to:
    • Observe good hand and respiratory hygiene
    • Minimise contact and maintain social distancing
    • Keep frequently touched areas in their workspace clean (you should have an enhanced cleaning schedule in place for September, so your cleaning staff will already be cleaning rooms and frequently touched objects more regularly, but vulnerable staff may want to clean their immediate workspace more often themselves too)

Anyone who lives with someone who's clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable can come into school.

However, if there's a local lockdown in place, continue to follow any local guidance you're given about who should come in.

In any case, staff shouldn’t come in if they, or anyone they live with, are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus (see below about getting staff tested). 

Can staff get tested if they have symptoms?

Anyone involved in education is considered an essential worker, and have priority access to testing if they need to self-isolate due to:

  • Displaying symptoms 
  • Living with someone who has symptoms

Staff can apply for a test themselves here or call the NHS on 119. Employers can also book tests for their staff through an online digital portal –  find out how to register for the portal here.

In the autumn term, you’ll be given a small number of home testing kits that you can give to staff who have developed symptoms at school, if you think providing one will significantly increase the likelihood that they'll get tested.

Do we need to provide staff with personal protective equipment (PPE)?

The DfE has said the majority of staff don't require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work, such as if they conduct intimate care.

It doesn't recommend wearing face coverings or face masks in schools.

Staff coming into contact with pupils with symptoms

The exception to the above is if a child becomes unwell with coronavirus symptoms at school and needs direct personal care until they can go home.

In this case:

  • The supervising staff member should wear a fluid-resistant surgical face mask if they can't keep 2 metres away from the pupil 
  • If the staff member can't avoid contact with the child, they should wear:
    • Disposable gloves
    • A disposable apron
    • A fluid-resistant surgical face mask
    • Eye protection (if there's a risk of coughing, spitting or vomiting) 

Staff who have helped someone with symptoms don't need to go home to self-isolate unless they: 

  • Develop symptoms themselves (in which case they should arrange a test)
  • Discover that the person with symptoms has tested positive 
  • Are contacted by NHS Test and Trace  

How to get, wear and remove PPE

Use your local supply chains to obtain PPE. If this isn't possible and you urgently need it to operate safely, approach your local authority (LA). If your LA can't meet your PPE demands, it should approach the nearest local resilience forum.

Make sure any staff using PPE know how to put it on and take it off safely. There's more guidance on how to use PPE in your school here.

What if staff have to self-isolate after travelling abroad and miss the start of term?

Check what the rules are about the country they’ve visited. See the government’s list of travel corridors - these are countries that you can visit without having to self-isolate when you get back. 

Staff who are self-isolating for this reason and can’t work from home are not entitled to statutory sick pay. It’s up to you to decide on your options in this case.

Be aware that different unions will have different positions on this. 

See more from Acas about employees self-isolating upon return to the UK

Can we bring in temporary staff or visitors? 

Temporary staff

You can bring in temporary staff, including:

  • Supply teachers
  • Peripatetic teachers
  • Support staff for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities

They should minimise contact and stay as far away from other staff as possible.

Consider using longer assignments with temporary staff and agree minimum number of hours across the academic year to help you minimise the number of people coming into school.


Invite visitors outside of school hours where possible.

Make sure to clearly explain your school’s guidance on physical distancing and hygiene to visitors either before or when they arrive.

Keep a record of all visitors.

Can we run meetings and training sessions? 

If you can do this while maintaining social distancing, then yes. Otherwise, you should continue to run these remotely. 

When deciding, consider:

  • The size and layout of the room(s) available 
  • How many people will need to attend 
  • Whether the room can be thoroughly cleaned between uses 
  • If the quality of the training session will be better or worse when delivered in person but spread out (compared to over video call)

If you decide to go ahead with training sessions, make sure you’ve factored this into your risk assessment.

Thanks to Justin Smith, managing director and senior consultant at SafetyMARK, for helping us answer this. 

Do we need to give staff breaks?

Staff must have a break of reasonable length during the day. 

Rotate staggered break times 

If you’re staggering break and lunchtimes, try to rotate which classes eat when so that the same groups and teachers don’t always eat last.

Plan how your shared staff spaces will be set up to help staff distance from each other. Keep the use of staff rooms to a minimum.

Legal entitlements   

Check staff contracts to see what they say.

For teachers covered under the STPCD, they're entitled to a break of a 'reasonable length' between school sessions or between 12pm and 2pm, as we explain here.

Even if there's nothing in their contract, if staff work more than 6 hours in a day then they're legally entitled to at least one uninterrupted 20-minute rest break.

This break:

  • Must be taken in one go somewhere in the middle of the day, and
  • Can be spent away from desks/where they work

This is set out in government guidance on employment, in the overview and taking breaks sections.

What if we don't have enough staff?

Discuss options with your LA or trust – they might be able to provide a suitable person to temporarily cover positions like first aider, cleaning staff or office worker.


This article is based on the following DfE guidance:

We'd like to thank Justin Smith, managing director and senior consultant at SafetyMARK, for his advice on running meetings and training sessions. 

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