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updated on 31 July 2020
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School types: All · School phases: All

The government has announced that it plans for all pupils to return to school in September. Find out what else has been announced, and what this means for your school.

Updates to this article

31 July 2020:
 We've added a link to another article from us about what's changing in autumn. 

We'll continue to update this article as more information becomes available. Click 'save for later' in the top-right corner to get an email alert when we do.

More details on reopening from September

There's new guidance about the expectations for full reopening in the autumn term 2020.

Take a look at our article on what's changing in autumn for all the details.

You're expected to prioritise these year groups this term

After providing places for children of critical workers and vulnerable children, you should prioritise the following groups:

Early years settings from 1 June

You're being asked to open to all children.

Primary schools from 1 June

You're being asked to open for all pupils in:

  • Nursery
  • Reception
  • Year 1
  • Year 6

Secondary schools from 15 June

You're being asked to provide some face-to-face support to pupils in:

  • Year 10
  • Year 12

This support should supplement their continuing remote education, so it won't need to be full-time provision.

Find out how other schools are using this 'face-to-face' support for pupils here. 

Special schools from 1 June

You're being asked to welcome back as many children as you can safely cater for.

You can prioritise attendance based on:

  • Key transitions
  • Impact on life chances and development

You may also want to create a part-time attendance rota, so that as many children as possible can benefit from attending.

Alternative provision (AP) settings

From 1 June, you're being asked to open for all pupils in:

  • Reception
  • Year 1
  • Year 6

From 15 June, you're also being asked to provide some face-to-face support to pupils in:

  • Year 10 
  • Year 11

This face-to-face support should supplement their remote education, so it won't need to be full-time provision.

Primary schools: you can invite additional pupils back if you have capacity

You should only welcome back additional children where:

  • You've already made provision for all pupils prioritised above and made sure as many as possible are able to attend
  • You can do so while still following protective measures guidance and your risk assessment
  • You can do so in groups of no more than 15
  • You don't require additional funding, staff or space to do so

Where you are able to welcome additional pupils back, it's up to you to decide which ones to prioritise.

If you're a middle school that's decided to invite year 8 pupils back, you have to follow the same measures which apply to primary schools.

At present, not all staff and eligible pupils should attend

The DfE says:

  • If they're clinically extremely vulnerable (as defined here), they should continue to learn or work from home
  • If they're clinically vulnerable (as defined here) – parents should follow medical advice if their child is in this category, and staff in this category should continue to work from home wherever possible
  • If they live with someone who's clinically extremely vulnerable, they should only attend if stringent social distancing can be adhered to and, in the case of children, they're able to understand and follow those instructions
  • If they live with someone who's clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable), they can attend school
  • Anyone experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, or living with anyone experiencing symptoms, shouldn't attend

We don't know yet if this advice will continue until September, but the government should be updating its guidance in the coming weeks. 

Use our individual risk assessment to determine whether specific staff can return to school. 

'Catch-up' funding will be provided 

The government has announced that a £1 billion 'catch-up' package for schools will be available for state-funded primary and secondary schools in England to help them tackle the impact of lost teaching time due to coronavirus. 

On 19 June, in response to a question in the daily briefing, Gavin Williamson suggested that schools should bring all pupils in to school before the end of term to understand their learning needs and plan their support to catch up.

However, this point was only included in response to a question so we're waiting to see if this is included in the government's upcoming guidance on wider opening. 

Exams are expected to take place in 2021 

The government expects GCSEs, A-levels and BTECs to go ahead next year. 

The government will work with Ofqual and others in the sector to make sure exams next year take into account the loss of learning during this period. 

No specific curriculum requirements for now 

At present you can decide how best to support and educate pupils. You won't be penalised if you can't offer a broad and balanced curriculum during this period.

But the government said on 9 June that it'll introduce basic curriculum expectations in the future for pupils who continue to learn from home. We don't yet know what these requirements will include.

For now, the DfE expects you to:

  • Consider your pupils' mental health and wellbeing, and identify any pupil who may need additional support so they're ready to learn
  • Assess where pupils are in their learning, and agree what adjustments might be needed to your curriculum
  • Identify and plan how best to support the education of high needs groups, including disadvantaged pupils, vulnerable pupils and pupils with SEND
  • Support pupils in year 6, who'll need both their primary and secondary schools to work together to support their transition to year 7 (see our guidance on doing this here)

Priorities for primary schools

The DfE has said you should prioritise:

  • Resocialisation into new school routines
  • Speaking and listening
  • Regaining momentum in particular with early reading
  • For children who've had limited opportunities for exercise, opportunities to exert themselves physically with supervised non-touch running games
  • For year 1, ascertain where children are against your existing reading curriculum and if they're behind help them catch up or relearn any forgotten material
  • For year 6, focus on their readiness for secondary school, particularly their academic readiness in mathematics and English

If you have EYFS provision, you should use reasonable endeavours to provide activities and experiences across all 7 areas of learning (see here for more details).

Order summer FSM vouchers at least 1 week before your term ends

The government has confirmed that the families of eligible children will continue to receive free school meals over the summer holidays. 

The COVID summer food fund will provide up to: 

  • £90 per eligible child if your summer holiday lasts 6 weeks
  • £105 per eligible child if your summer holiday lasts 7 weeks

You must order the vouchers at least 1 week before your term ends. Place your order through the same Edenred portal that you use for term-time free school meal (FSM) vouchers. 

Who's eligible? 

The government guidance says that, “any child currently in receipt of benefits-related free school meals or who becomes eligible during the summer term is eligible for the COVID summer food fund." 

This suggests that the fund covers your current year 11 and year 13 pupils who are due to leave this year (though this is not explicitly stated in the guidance). 

Read the DfE guidance on how to apply and how the vouchers work here.


This guidance is based on:

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