Schools and exams

Department for Education COVID-19 guidance for schools and other educational settings

Detailed government guidance on education and childcare can be found here.

***Please find below a summary of the key points from government guidance. However, be aware this information was last updated on Tuesday 19th May. While it will be updated as and when there is new information, please bear in mind that it may be out of date by the time of reading and you should always check the government's live guidance.***

This is a national effort. We are grateful for the work of teachers - and all working in education - for serving our country by providing home learning for all children, and continuing to teach the children of key workers.

School reopening

The government recovery strategy is available here.

The government has now set out its plan for recovery, which includes the following (emphasis added):

"The current planning assumption for England is that the second step may include as many of the following measures as possible, consistent with the five tests. Organisations should prepare accordingly.

A phased return for early years settings and schools. Schools should prepare to begin to open for more children from 1 June.

The Government expects children to be able to return to early years settings, and for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to be back in school in smaller sizes, from this point.

This aims to ensure that the youngest children, and those preparing for the transition to secondary school, have maximum time with their teachers. Secondary schools and further education colleges should also prepare to begin some face to face contact with Year 10 and 12 pupils who have key exams next year, in support of their continued remote, home learning.

The Government’s ambition is for all primary school children to return to school before the summer for a month if feasible, though this will be kept under review.

The Department of Education will engage closely with schools and early years providers to develop further detail and guidance on how schools should facilitate this."


School closures

Detailed government guidance around the closure of schools and other education settings can be read here.

  • From 20th March, schools have been largely closed and every child who can be safely cared for at home should be.
  • Parents have a responsibility to make sure their children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus. Children should observe the same social distancing principles as adults.
  • Whilst I appreciate it may be difficult, please do not ask older relatives to help with childcare.


Resources for teaching at home


Children of key workers

A full list of critical workers and further information is available.

  • Children with at least one parent or carer who are identified as critical workers by the government can send their children to school if required.
  • However, the government has asked parents to keep their children at home, wherever possible, and asked schools to remain open only for those children who absolutely need to attend.
  • In other words, if both parents’ work is critical to the COVID-19 response, or one parent is a ‘key worker’ and there is no-one at home that can look after your child safely, then your child can go to school.
  • This is an offer to parents and carers and there is no requirement for parents and carers to send their children to school if they do not need or wish to do so.
  • Critical workers include NHS staff, police, farmers and food retail workers, who need to be able to go out to work in order to continue to offer critical services as part of the country’s ongoing response to the virus. 


Exams and qualifications

Further information on exams is available here and here.

  • This year’s summer exam series, including A levels, GCSEs and other qualifications, and all primary assessments, have been cancelled as we fight to stop the spread of coronavirus.
  • Exams will not take place in May/June, but the government will make sure that students still get their qualifications.
  • The government’s priority is now to ensure affected students can move on as planned to the next stage of their lives, including going into employment, starting university, college or sixth form courses, or an apprenticeship in the autumn.
  • This means ensuring GCSE, A and AS level students are awarded a grade which fairly reflects the work that they have put in.
  • Ofqual will develop and set out a process that will provide a calculated grade to each student which reflects their performance as fairly as possible, and will work with the exam boards to ensure this is consistently applied for all students.
  • The exam boards will be asking teachers, who know their students well, to submit their judgement about the grade that they believe the student would have received if exams had gone ahead. To produce this, teachers will take into account a range of evidence and data including performance on mock exams and non-exam assessment – clear guidance on how to do this fairly and robustly will be provided to schools and colleges. The exam boards will then combine this information with other relevant data, including prior attainment, and use this information to produce a calculated grade for each student, which will be a best assessment of the work they have put in.
  • Ofqual and exam boards will be discussing with teachers’ representatives before finalising an approach, to ensure that it is as fair as possible.
  • The aim is to provide these calculated grades to students before the end of July.
  • There will also be an option to sit an exam early in the next academic year for students who wish to.
  • In terms of a permanent record, the grades will be indistinguishable from those provided in other years.
  • The government will also aim to ensure that the distribution of grades follows a similar pattern to that in other years, so that this year’s students do not face a systematic disadvantage as a consequence of these extraordinary circumstances.
  • University representatives have confirmed that they expect universities to be flexible and do all they can to support students and ensure they can progress to higher education.


Other issues

  • Vulnerable children: for vulnerable children, your child’s social worker will work with you to assess the best option for your child.
  • Residential special schools and residential specialist colleges: the government is encouraging local authorities to keep open both residential special schools and residential specialist colleges wherever possible.
  • Universities and other higher education providers: universities and other higher education providers should make their own judgements.
  • Free school meals: the Minister understands this may have a financial impact on families, so support will be available for those who get free school meals - provision will be made to supply meals and vouchers. Where schools do this, they will be reimbursed.


Page last updated 19th May 2020.