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Last reviewed on 15 March 2021
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Submit your claim for staff absence costs under the government's coronavirus workforce fund by 31 March 2021. See how to submit your claim, and learn about other sources of funding for your school during coronavirus.

15 March 2021: we updated this article to reflect the latest government guidance on how to submit your claim for staff absence costs, under the coronavirus workforce fund.

Note that the claims window for costs related to free school meals doesn't open until April 2021. We'll update this article as soon as we hear more - click 'save for later' to be notified when we do.

Submit your workforce fund claim by 31 March 2021

You can now submit your claim for staff absence costs that are covered by the coronavirus workforce fund. The fund is a government scheme to help cover the costs of staff absences that happened between 1 November 2020 and 31 December 2020. 

The deadline for submitting claims is 23:59 on 31 March 2021. You can submit and amend claims up until this point but you won't be able to receive an extension after the deadline has passed. Note that you can only submit a claim at school-level - your local authority (LA) or trust cannot do it on your behalf. 

How to submit your claim 

This information is based on the 2 pieces of government guidance related to the workforce fund - the guidance on submitting your claim and the eligibility criteria.

We've set out the key steps you'll need to take, but if you're responsible for submitting your school's claim, it'll be worth reading the above pieces of guidance in full before you start, to see all the finer details plus some worked examples of claimable costs.

1. Make sure you meet the eligibility criteria 

You can claim if you're a state-funded mainstream or special school, or alternative provision (AP) setting, that provides education to pupils who are required to be in compulsory education. Independent special and AP settings can also claim in some cases. See the full list here

You can only claim if: 

  • You were open to all pupils on the days in question
  • The staff absence costs you're claiming for were necessary for your school to stay open
  • You meet or exceed the absence thresholds (see here under 'Workforce absence rate criteria', and there's more on this in step 4 below)
  • You first used your existing budget and reserves to cover the costs - see the 'Financial reserves criteria' section here
  • Your school's reserves are down to no more than 4% of its annual income at the end of the funding year (March 2021 for maintained schools and August 2021 for trusts). If you're part of a multi-academy trust, this will be 4% of total trust income 
  • The costs aren't already covered by an insurance policy (e.g. a staff absence insurance policy)
  • You tried alternative options to manage absences, before claiming (such as using teaching assistants and altering the way you deploy staff)
  • You're able to provide the evidence set out here

You can only claim back costs for covering the absences of:

  • Permanent staff on your payroll 
  • Staff employed on a long-term contract (e.g. maternity cover or long-term sick cover) 

You cannot claim for costs for:

  • Covering absences of supply or agency staff
  • Training or other incidental staff-related costs
  • Increasing pro-rata pay without a clear increase in responsibilities
  • Capital costs to support staff delivering remote education
  • Maintaining your reserves above the 4% limit

2. Access the claim form

Use your DfE Sign-in account to access the claim form

If you don't have an account, register here and then request approval to access the form from one of your school's administrators for DfE Sign-in services.

3. Input/check your school's staffing data

Make sure you have the following details in front of you before you start your claim - there's no save function and if you leave the form open for a long period of time you may lose information you've already entered.

If you completed the DfE's educational setting status form between October and December 2020, you may get the option to pre-populate your school's data around staffing numbers and absence. If you do, you'll still need to check the pre-populated data is correct, and amend where necessary. 

For the period 5 October 2020* to 31 December 2020, you'll need to input/check the following details: 

1. Number of days your school was open to provide statutory provision 

The form requires the following details to calculate this number:

  • Dates your school was closed for core, statutory provision - this includes closure due to:
    • Advice from Public Health England
    • INSET days  
    • School holidays (October and December holidays)  
    • Bank holidays (25 and 28 December)
  • Whether your school was open for 1 or more weekends for core, statutory provision (e.g. for residential special schools) 

2. Number of staff you have on roll 

Total number of permanent staff you had on your payroll or you employed on a long-term contract (e.g. maternity cover or long-term sick cover) during this period. You can include: 

  • Teachers
  • Senior leaders
  • Educational support staff (like teaching assistants) 
  • Non-educational support staff (like cleaning, catering or caretaking staff) 

Don't include supply or agency staff. 

3. Number of staff absences per day 

  • Daily absence figures for teachers, including school leaders 
  • (Plus, for special schools:) Daily absence figures for support staff

*The form requires October absence rates as they count towards the long-term absence threshold criteria from 1 November 2020. 

4. Select the days you wish to claim for

The form will use your school's data to calculate which days met the required absence thresholds - see those here under 'Workforce absence rate criteria'.

You'll need to identify how many days you wish to claim for, bearing in mind the criteria for permitted expenditure. There's more detail on that here but, broadly speaking, it's where your staff absences meant that you had to:

  • Employ supply teachers or support staff to cover absences, either through agencies or directly contracting 
  • Increase the hours of part-time staff to cover absences
  • Make necessary changes to support staff terms and conditions so they could take on additional responsibilities to cover teacher absences

Note: if you're a mainstream school, you can only claim for support staff absences on an exceptional only basis. This means only where providing cover for their role was necessary to avoid closure or to meet legal duties.

Other sources of funding for your school during coronavirus

Remember that your budget funding from the government won't be affected by coronavirus - you'll still receive your: 

  • Core funding allocations
  • Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) funding
  • Funding for alternative provision 

This is explained by the DfE in the ‘Sector-specific guidance’ section here.

Tech funding


  • For government support to get set up on a remote learning platform - you can apply using our site here
  • To receive laptops and tablets for disadvantaged pupils - your school should have a nominated contact who’ll have received instructions about placing orders

Free school meals

The government is providing funding support for pupils eligible for benefits-related free school meals (FSM):

  • Who were at home during the national lockdown - see how much your school can claim for food parcels or local shop or supermarket vouchers
  • During the holidays - see more here

Coronavirus catch-up premium

This is for the 2020/21 academic year to help pupils catch up for lost learning - read our cheat sheet here.

If you claimed for exceptional costs associated with coronavirus in December 2020

The deadline to apply for the government's funding scheme for exceptional costs associated with coronavirus was 22 December 2020.

When will we get the funding we've claimed for?

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) planned to pay this funding direct to local authorities (LAs) and academies. It aimed to pay:

  • LAs at the end of February 2021 
  • Academies at the beginning of March 2021 

Keep a record of extra costs

Your headteacher or school business manager needs to keep a record of all your school's coronavirus-related costs in line with your local finance policies.

You’ll need this:

  • For local audit arrangements
  • So you can identify this income and expenditure when you report your accounts
  • In case there are individual enquiries into your claim

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