Support and guidance for schools during COVID-19 (opening schools and keeping them open safely)


To provide advice and guidance to schools and settings in planning for the full re opening of schools. To outline the local authority’s approach to supporting schools during this period.


On 2 July, the DfE published Actions for schools during the COVID-19 outbreak. It was last updated on 21 February ahead of schools re-opening to all pupils from 8 March 2021. The message for schools is clear: pupils in all year groups should return to school full-time as the first phase of the government’s 2021 roadmap for leaving lockdown.

The DfE published and updated the following guidance to support you in preparing for the full opening of schools and colleges from 8 March 2021.

The LAs approach to supporting schools when they fully open from 8 March 2021

As in September 2020, the DfE guidance defines the steps that you need to take in fully re-opening. The LA will only produce supplementary guidance where it is needed, for example to add clarity or to provide a local context. Whilst many of the challenges ahead will apply to all schools and settings, each educational setting will also face its own unique issues.

These key points continue to inform our approach when support local leaders:

  1. We continue to liaise with LA partners, Improvement Partners (IPs), chairs of headteacher groups and representative MATs - to ask stakeholders what additional guidance or support they believe we need to provide. We continue to take their responses into account when shaping additional support.
  2. Where supplementary guidance is needed (to reflect the local context or to add further clarity to DfE guidance) the local authority will commission this. Local guidance will then be added to the 'Covid-19 for Schools' web pages – either on this page or the page most suitable to the theme of the supplementary guidance.
  3. Improvement Partners and Key Education Contacts continue to be schools’ first point of contact. They continue to be available via telephone or email to provide bespoke support to leaders, matched to the needs of each school’s unique context.

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Return and Recovery: a supportive planning tool for schools

Prior to September 2020 we shared with you the MKC return and recovery tool (PDF, 170KB).The questions in this tool are designed to support leaders, and those responsible for governance, to plan a full return to school for pupils and staff that is structured and safe.

The central idea of recovery is linked to three main aspects: restoring the school’s ethos, culture and ways of working; ensuring that the well-being of pupils and staff is prioritised; getting pupils back on track in their learning as quickly as possible.

The questions were designed so that they can be used flexibly. While clearly not exhaustive, hopefully they provide a useful tool to support thinking. They may also help facilitate the sharing of practice across schools. Central to each section is an emphasis on establishing and maintaining clear, effective communication with all stakeholders.

Aide-Memoire tool

In recognition of safety being a continued area of concern, we also provided an Aide-Memoire Tool (PDF, 282KB) prior to September 2020.

This was intended to help you review controls, protective measures and safeguards ahead of your school fully re-opening. It does not replace the school’s risk assessment but is an additional, optional tool.

The Aide-Memoire and Return and Recovery tools are designed to complement each other and work hand-in-hand. The Aide-Memoire tool addresses the controls, protective measures and safeguarding issues for leaders and governors in preparing for full reopening. The Return and Recovery tool supports leaders and governors in their strategic thinking and planning in the short and medium/longer term. Neither replace the need for a risk assessment as outlined below.

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Risk Assessments

In line with DfE guidance, all schools and settings should re-visit and update their existing risk assessments due to the new national lockdown.

Risk assessments should directly address the risks associated with COVID-19 and outline the control measures that leaders are putting in place to mitigate and control risk for pupils and staff.

We’ve created a risk assessment template  (XLSX, 239KB) that we hope supports you in undertaking an audit of risk. This is offered as a supportive tool: there’s no expectation that you use this specific template but we do urge to reflect on the content. You can and should feel empowered to amend it to meet your school’s specific needs.

In addition, the local authority recommends that leaders update their risk assessments for pupils with social, emotional and mental health needs.

Please see the health and safety page for more information about risk assessments.

Local outbreaks of Covid-19 and contingency planning

Central government asked all councils to produce a plan to outline how they intend to manage the spread of COVID-19. The MK Outbreak Control Plan is ours. It sets out some of our priorities to prevent local outbreaks and explains how we will respond to positive cases at speed. We’ve also set up an outbreak prevention group, made up of representatives from all ‘category one’ responders in MK, and will keep working closely with Public Health England.

As school leaders it’s important that you are aware of the MK Outbreak Control Plan. You will want to refer to it when you’re thinking about contingency planning from September - to ensure continuity of education in the case of a local outbreak.

There’s also some business continuity information for school settings under the Risk and Resilience section of the main MKC website. This includes some templates that have been designed to support you in formulating your own business continuity plans.

If you haven’t already seen it, you may find Council Leader, Pete Marland’s weekly COVID-19 update useful.

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Last Updated: 6 September 2021