Catch up: Advice for the current times – Back to school

An on-demand event jointly hosted by the NAHT and Discovery Education.

Andrew Hammond and Guy Dudley discussed the issues currently facing school leaders and those teaching and working in schools.

In this particular session, we covered:

  • ‘Back to school’ – covering issues that school leaders will face in September, the beginning of a new academic year
  • ‘Quiz’ – test your knowledge of the some of the key pieces of legislation that govern the running of your school
  • ‘Statutes, Regulations and Policies’ – a tour of Pathway’s Advice Hub that touches on the information, advice and guidance we aim to cover both in the quiz and during the webinar.

Many of these topics have been supported by wider advice pieces that can be found in Pathway’s Advice Hub where you will have access to an on-line library of information, advice and guidance to support you in your professional role and your continuing professional and personal development and empowerment.

If you’re a Pathway subscriber, you can access these advice pieces in the Pathway Advice Hub.



The government has published its guidance on the reopening of schools in England here, and for special schools, here

Separate guidance is available for early years and childcare settings and further education colleges and providers

For Wales, there is separate guidance here and for Northern Ireland, here

‘The headlines’ for you, there are:

  • No more ‘bubbles’ [19 July]; schools in Northern Ireland can continue to teach in ‘bubbles’ [23 August]
  • No more ‘social distancing’ [19 July]
  • No more ‘contact tracing’ [from 18 July, this is now done by the NHS]
  • No more ‘self-isolation’ for the u18s [16 August] – if u18s have or may have been in close contact with a suspected carrier, they will be contacted by the NHS and will be asked to take a PCR [polymerase chain reaction] test [which are far more accurate than lateral flow tests].
  • No more ‘face coverings’ [still recommended however for crowded spaces such as, for example, school transport]
  • No more staggered start and finish times
  • England & Wales – secondary school staff and pupils to self-test twice a week, reviewed at the end of September
  • Northern Ireland – secondary school pupils to continue to wear face-coverings, this will be reviewed after 6 weeks
  • Exams in 2022 will resume with modifications to allow for the challenges pupils have and will continue to face
  • Estimated that children have lost 33% of their learning time throughout the pandemic
  • Kevan Collins, ex-Education Recovery Tsar estimated £15b was needed; govt has provided £1.4b [£50 per pupil]


Other news

  • Over 18s If anyone over 18 refuses to be vaccinated, they will be required to self-isolate [same as adults]
  • CEV pupils Clinically extremely vulnerable [CEV] children and young people must attend school unless they are undergoing certified paediatric care and have been advised by their clinician or medical practitioner not to attend
  • Refusing pupil attendance In most cases, parents and carers will agree that a pupil with symptoms should not attend the school, given the potential risk to others. However, if a parent or carer insists on a pupil attending your school, you can take the decision to refuse the pupil if, in your reasonable judgement, it’s necessary to protect other pupils and staff from possible infection with COVID-19. Your decision will need to be carefully considered in light of all the circumstances and current public health advice.
  • Recording absences Where a child is required to self-isolate or quarantine because of COVID-19, they should be recorded as Code X [not attending in circumstances related to coronavirus]; where they are unable to attend school because they have a confirmed case of COVID-19 they should be recorded as Code I [illness]; and for pupils abroad who are unable to return, Code Y [unable to attend due to exceptional circumstances] will apply.
  • Remote education Not all people with COVID-19 have symptoms. Where appropriate, you should support those who need to self-isolate because they have tested positive, to work or learn from home if they are well enough to do so. Schools subject to the remote education temporary continuity directionare required to provide remote education to pupils covered by the direction where their attendance would be contrary to government guidance or legislation around COVID-19.
  • Schools should maintain their capacity to deliver high-quality remote education for the next academic year, including for pupils who are abroad and facing challenges to return due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, for the period they are abroad.
  • Independent Schools [not academies] are only covered by the remote education temporary continuity direction in relation to state-funded pupils in their schools. However, they are still expected to meet the Independent School Standardsin full and at all times.
  • Remote education provided should be equivalent in length to the core teaching pupils would receive in school.
  • You should work collaboratively with families and put in place reasonable adjustments so that pupils with special educational needs and disabilities [SEND] can successfully access remote education.
  • Full expectations for remote education, support and resources can be found on the get help with remote education service
  • Recovery The DfE has announced a number of programmes and activities to support pupils to make up education missed as a result of the pandemic. Further information is available on education recovery support
  • Pupil wellbeing Some pupils may be experiencing a variety of emotions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as anxiety, stress or low mood. You can access useful links and sources of support by clicking on this link promoting and supporting mental health and wellbeing in schools
  • CEV staff Employers should be able to explain the measures they have in place to keep CEVstaff safe at work. The Health and Safety Executive [HSE] has published guidance on protecting vulnerable workers, including advice for employers and employees on how to talk about reducing risks in the workplace
  • FSM You should continue to provide free school meal support to any pupils who are eligible for benefits-related free school meals and who are learning at home during term time. More information on providing school meals during the COVID-19 pandemicis available.
  • School trips You should undertake full and thorough risk assessments in relation to all educational visits and ensure that any public health advice, such as hygiene and ventilation requirements, is included as part of that risk assessment. General guidanceabout educational visits is available and is supported by specialist advice from the Outdoor Education Advisory Panel (OEAP)

And finally

  • Outbreak management plans – the government’s Contingency Framework for schools can be found here
  • Risk assessments – these should and can be updated at agreed intervals
  • Outbreak areas – where there are localised COVID-19 outbreaks, schools will be required to work with local public health teams

If you have a query about coronavirus [COVID-19] relating to schools in England, please contact the DfE coronavirus helpline on 0800 046 8687 [open Monday – Friday 8am to 6pm and weekends 10am to 6pm]. If you work in a school or college, please have your unique reference number [URN or UK PRN] available when calling the helpline.



Keeping Children Safe in Education

The latest version of ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ has been released. This guidance will come into force on the 1 September 2021.

Sexual violence and sexual harassment

The Department for Education has also updated its sexual violence and sexual harassment advice which is also effective from 1 September 2021.

Single Central Record

Take a little time to ensure that the Single Central Record is brought up to date – pupils’ circumstances may have changed over the summer break and it’s really important that the Single Central Record records any changes without any delay.

Regulated activity

Regulated activity is work that a barred person must not do. This statutory note applies to England, Wales and Northern Ireland and provides information on the scope of Regulated Activity in relation to children.



Risk assessments [health and safety and premises]

Refreshing your COVID-19 risk assessment will be particularly important for staff, pupils and parents alike – by the time you read this, you may have already completed your initial risk assessment but it will be important to keep this refreshed at regular intervals to ensure the health and safety of all those in the school and visitors, all of whom will be comforted and reassured by the risk assessment activities taking place continuously and at agreed intervals.

In respect of premises, nothing beats a ‘walkabout’ accompanied by your School Business Leader [if you have one], or equivalent, and a clipboard – simply make notes and ensure these are reflected in your risk assessment.

First aid, accident and medical records review

To ensure that all the school’s safeguarding arrangements are in place, it would be good to review the school’s first aid, accident and medical records – are first aid boxes located in their designated locations and are they fully equipped? – is the accident book up to date and accessible? – have you established whether there have been any summer break changes to the medical needs of pupils? All three of these areas of activity will need to be reviewed and brought up to date.

Asbestos management in schools

The DfE’s Asbestos Management Assurance Process [AMAP] portal reopened over the summer break and will remain open until 29 October 2021, to allow schools to complete or submit any outstanding information.

Budgets and funding

Check that your School Business Leader, or equivalent, has brought the school’s budget up to date and that it has captured the ‘catch-up’ and recovery premium funding that has been made available for schools to meet the costs of ensuring that pupils are able to catchup.

NQT induction funding

Following pressure from NAHT and others, the DfE has announced it will provide funding equivalent to an additional 5% time off timetable in 2021/22, for all teachers who complete their NQT induction this summer

This is a one-off, non-statutory payment that can be used to support the development of this cohort of teachers, whose first year has been disrupted by the pandemic. Schools will receive this funding in summer term of 2022.


Sport & PE premium update

Following lobbying by NAHT and other organisations, the government has confirmed that the PE and sport premium for primary schools will continue in 2021/22.

The government has also said that schools who have not been able to spend sport premium funding received in either 2019/20 or 2020/21 will not face any clawback. The government’s guidance states: “Any unspent funding at 31 July 2021 can be carried forward into the 2021/2022 academic year. This applies to funding from the 2020 to 2021 academic year, and also to any carry over funding from the academic year 2019 to 2020. All funding carried forward into the 2021 to 2022 academic year must be spent by 31 July 2022.”

Free school meals (FSM)

Ensure FSM arrangements are in place for all qualifying pupils.


Asset register

It’s a good idea to ask your School Business Leader, or equivalent, to review the school’s Asset Register – this is the list of those assets which the school is able to depreciate over each asset’s agreed lifetime – a useful tool for stocktaking and budgeting, in equal measure.


Website review

All schools are required to have a website and are also required to keep detailed information on their website – this task should not be under-estimated – not only is it a statutory requirement to have a website but it’s the shop-window of a school and what it offers, as well as being a useful repository for a great deal of useful information. 

The Academy Trust Handbook 2021 [new!]

The Academy Trust Handbook 2021 [previously known as the Academies Financial Handbook] was published on 16 June and will come into effect on 1 September 2021.

The full changes to the 2021 edition are outlined on page 9 of the handbook, including new information about:

  • a trust’s existing obligations in relation to safeguarding, health and safety and estates management
  • cybercrime
  • external reviews of governance
  • renaming the ‘Financial Notice to Improve’ [FNtI] to the ‘Notice to Improve’ [NtI]

The digital-version of the 2021 handbook will be made available on 1 September 2021.

Other dates for the school diary

Just in case, here’s a few reminders:

  • Autumn term Census Day, 7 October, for returning on 3 November [2021/22 census dates can be found here]
  • Bank holidays [Spring bank holiday is 2 June, followed by the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday on 3 June]*

*The Spring bank holiday moves from Monday 30 May to Thursday 2 June and is then immediately followed by the bank holiday to commemorate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee on Friday 3 June.


Ofsted’s School Inspection Handbook for 2021 has now been published – click here to access it.

The handbook has 3 parts:

  • Part 1 sets out how schools will be inspected – this contains information about the processes before, during and after the inspection
  • Part 2 sets out the evaluation schedule – this contains the evaluation criteria inspectors use to make the graded judgements about schools and includes examples of the kinds of evidence and activities used by inspectors to make their judgements
  • Part 3 sets out how inspectors apply the frameworkin specific contexts and provisions.



INSET days

5 INSET days are provided for during the school year, and are principally used for the development of staff – perfect for updating staff on curriculum developments, the refreshed KCSIE guidance and the developing RSHE landscape – please also remember that these are ideal occasions for absent staff to attend, such as those on maternity leave who can use one of their 10 KIT [‘keeping in touch’] days for attending an INSET event.



Make sure you’ve diarised the following:

  • Parents’ evenings
  • PTA meetings
  • Governing body meetings [and the reports needed for them and their deadlines!]



Relationships & Sex Education [RSE]

The DfE’s guidance to support the implementation of RSE can be found here The DfE took on board NAHT’s views that schools need the flexibility to have time to prepare and implement statutory RSE – you can find the DfE’s subsequent communication note to schools here

The guidance gives more detail, including on the approach Ofsted will take, but in essence, the DfE wants to reassure schools that they have flexibility over how they discharge their duty within the first year of compulsory teaching. In the meantime, schools should continue with their existing programmes of PSHE.

In addition, please ensure you are ready to deal with parental requests to withdraw their children from religious education.

Discovery Education are currently offering primary schools free access to their Health and Relationships Programme until 31st October 2021.


Reception Baseline Assessment

In response to the 2017 primary assessment consultation, the government announced plans to introduce a statutory Reception Baseline Assessment [RBA] in the autumn term of 2020. However, because of COVID-19, the statutory introduction of the RBA was postponed to the beginning of the autumn term 2021. In short, the RBA will be a new statutory assessment tool in all primary, infant and first schools in England from September 2021. Full RBA details can be found here

Useful and abbreviated information about the RBA can be found in this short information leaflet

Performance data and accountability for 2021/22

The DfE has published accountability arrangements for the 2021/22 academic year for primary school statutory assessments, and for KS4 and post-16 qualifications

Key stage 4 and 16-18 performance measures will be published on school and college performance tables using the normal suite of accountability measures, as far as that is possible.


School trips

Ensure that any scheduled school trips are still happening, what arrangements are in place and that any risk assessments start as early as possible.



It may be prudent to draft, agree and add an appendix to the Pupil Behaviour Policy that recognises that most pupils will not have had a consistent attendance or learning routine in place for some time and are simply out of the habit and routine of attending school and learning in a structured and formal setting – this may, it could be argued, impact on their attention span, their ability to deal with distractions and, ultimately, on their behaviour.

Against this backdrop, schools may want to exercise some flexibility and pragmatism in dealing with pupil behaviour over the autumn term, notwithstanding the measures that may be necessary to safeguard children in the school’s care.

The rights to discipline, sanction and exclude have not been abolished, but it’s a matter of balance – for example, if a child misbehaves and it’s their ‘first offence’ and not particularly serious, there’s every likelihood, that with a little more time and support, the child will quickly settle into a familiar routine again.

More serious offences will need to be carefully considered in the context of a prolonged absence from school, the [perhaps unknown] impact of COVID-19 on the offending child and the likely effect of a disciplinary sanction. Professional counsel is always advised in these particular cases.



Induction of new staff

New staff will need to be settled into their new roles – it may be best to set up a ‘buddy’ system whereby a member of staff acts as the point of contact for a new member of staff and provides the support that new starters will need – orientation, pastoral and professional support.

Staff appraisal

Check that staff have settled back to work – idea for an INSET day? Put regular staff meetings in the diary so that staff have the opportunity to contribute to the ‘back to school’ arrangements and issues can be identified early on and acted upon.

Check-in on absent staff – those on maternity leave, long-term sickness absence and so on. 

The DfE’s guidance states that performance management requirements remain in force and it expects schools “to use their discretion and take pragmatic steps to adapt performance management and appraisal arrangements to take account of the current circumstances”. The DfE goes on to state “schools must ensure that teachers are not penalised during the appraisal process or in respect of any subsequent pay progression decisions as a result of partial school closures, where this has impacted on the ability of the teacher to fully meet their objectives”.

Pay progression

On 21 July 2021, the School Teachers’ Review Body [aka the STRB] released their 31st report. There will now be an 8 week consultation, which NAHT will be responding to, both individually and with the other teaching unions.

Restructuring and/or redundancy

It’s held that it may not have been possible for schools to fulfil consultation requirements associated with restructuring and the possibility of having to make redundancies in the 2020/2021 academic year. Schools are urged to pause all such procedures until they are operating normally again.

Disciplinary, capability and ill-health procedures

In a similar vein, it may not have been possible for schools to meet the timeframes associated with a fair process for disciplinary, capability and / or ill-health procedures. Again, it’s held that it’s perfectly reasonable to postpone such processes until such time as schools and their employees have re-established normal daily routines and working practices.

Working With Others

Parents and other stakeholders

Many school leaders will, in all probability, want to write to parents setting out what their children are likely to expect when they return to school, staff are likely to welcome regular staff meetings to discuss the arrangements for teaching and supporting pupils in the first weeks of school, governors will need to be briefed on the school’s return to work arrangements and the school’s suppliers [e.g. catering, gardening, security] will need to be informed of the back to school arrangements to ensure that they are able to play their part in supporting schools in September and beyond.

Other events for schools to note

Great ideas for school assemblies and other events can be found here if you subscribe to Discovery Education Espresso.

Whether you’re looking for a few ideas for this year’s Harvest Festival [3 – 31 October] or World Teachers’ Day [5 October 2021] – you’ll find a range of across-the-year ideas for school assemblies and other school events.


Christmas play and other religious festivals

Please remember to pop these dates and arrangements in your diary – easily overlooked, but for some, this is the highlight of the year!

Check out Pathway’s new Equality + Diversity Calendar for schools and colleges.


Back to school Quiz

Q1. Is FGM legal or illegal in the UK?

Legal                   Illegal                  Don’t know

FGM was outlawed in the UK by the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985, which made it an offence to perform FGM on children or adults.


Q2. Is the Prevent Duty a legal obligation for schools?

Yes                       No                        Don’t know

The Prevent duty is the duty, set out in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 on specified authorities, in the exercise of their functions, to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.


Q3. Can I reduce the school week at my school to 4½ days?

Yes                       No                        Don’t know

Yes, schools have been free to do so since 2011, subject to satisfying a few conditions.

In maintained schools in England and Wales, there must be two school sessions per school day and 380 sessions per school year. These terms are set out in the following legislation:  

  • Education (School Day and School Year) (England) Regulations 1999
  • Education (School Day and School Year) (Wales) Regulations 2003

To complete the 380 sessions, schools need to deliver 10 school sessions per week. However, the statute neither specifies the length of a school day nor the length of a school session. The length of a school session is for governors to determine.


Q4.  Is the Public Sector Equality Duty a legal obligation for schools?

Yes                       No                        Don’t know

The purpose of the duty is to ensure public bodies consider the needs of all individuals in their day-to-day work – in shaping policy, in delivering services and in relation to their employees and pupils.

Although there is no legal requirement, it is best practice to ensure the outcome and the process of any such deliberations are appropriately documented to demonstrate transparency and evidence compliance with the PSED.

The PSED requires all public organisations, including schools, to comply with two specific duties:

  1. Publish information to demonstrate how they are complying with the PSED
  2. Prepare and publish equality objectives.

It’s best practice to ensure any equality policy adopted by the school clearly references the PSED, demonstrating how the school will ensure compliance and how its approach to promoting equality reflects and supports the duty.


Q5. a] When can an employee ask for flexible working and b] do they have to provide a reason when they make their request?

a] Immediately               After 26 weeks’ service                After 52 weeks’ service

b] Yes                                No                                                    Don’t know

An employee’s entitlement to request flexible working came into effect on 30 June 2014 [Flexible Working Regulations, under the Employment Rights Act 1996]. The relevant legislation allows any employee with 26 or more weeks of continuous employment to make an application for flexible working. No specific reason is needed for the request.


Q6. Does a school have to make reasonable adjustments if requested?

Yes                       No                        Don’t know

There may be circumstances where agreeing to modifications to workplace features or practices is not reasonable. Therefore, it can be lawful to refuse to make them.

Whether an adjustment is reasonable will depend on an assessment of factors:

  • Is the adjustment practical to make?
  • Do you have the resources to pay for it?
  • Will the adjustment overcome or reduce the disadvantage for the staff member?
  • Will adjustments impact unfairly or disproportionately on others?

If you decide an adjustment is not reasonable, it’s best to review the original request, modify it and make any subsequent adjustment so that the changes you make fall into a range of reasonable actions.   

Q7. If a member of staff on sickness absence, when do they have to provide a Fit Note?

On the fifth day              On the eighth day          On the twelfth day

The Statement of Fitness to Work [aka, the sick note, aka the fit note, aka the Med3] came into practice in April 2010 and must be provided by an employee to an employer on the eighth calendar day onwards [including weekends, holidays etc].


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