Support and guidance for schools during COVID-19 (Vulnerable Pupils)


To provide advice to schools and settings about provision for vulnerable pupils. To clarify the MKC expectations and approach in relation to these pupils.

To detail further latest advice for different groups of pupils:

  • Free School Meals
  • Looked After Children – The Virtual School
  • Ethnic Minorities Achievement Network
  • Pupil Premium



The DfE message

From 8 March 2021 all pupils are expected to attend school; which includes vulnerable pupils.

In the words of the DfE, “Being at school is vital for children’s education and for their wellbeing. Time spent out of school is detrimental to children’s cognitive and academic development, particularly for disadvantaged children. This impact can affect both current levels of education, and children’s future ability to learn. It continues to be our aim that all pupils, in all year groups, remain in school full-time.”

The MKC expectation and approach

Now that schools are fully open, we are clear that we expect and should encourage all vulnerable pupils to attend school unless there are health reasons why this is not possible. This is the message that all LA colleagues are promoting with parents/ carers, school leaders and children and young people. Thank you in advance for promoting this message alongside us.

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Further considerations

It’s important to consider how you will integrate vulnerable pupils into your school or setting. Vulnerable pupils will now be taught within their normal year groups and classes, but you have the flexibility to make the right decisions about how to manage ‘bubbles’ so that provision for vulnerable pupils meets their needs.

Please see the SEND web page for links to the local offer and further information about SEND pupils.  

The attendance of the most vulnerable pupils

We know that some of you will be concerned about the attendance of your most vulnerable pupils from 8 March - including those who are disadvantaged and/or have SEND. We encourage you to put personalised reintegration and support plans in place for the pupils who may have anxiety or difficulties in returning.  

We can support in the following ways:

  • The SEN team can help you work out the best ways of securing engagement for individual pupils.
  • Your Key Education Contact (KEC) can provide more general advice and guidance.
  • The EMA Network can provide advice for pupils learning EAL and/or those from BAME communities.
  • The Virtual School can help for children in care.

If parents notify you that they are considering elective home education (EHE), you should follow the LA EHE protocols and support the parents to understand what this means: them becoming responsible for their child’s education and the child being removed from the school roll.

If a pupil has an EHCP, the SEN team should be notified as soon as you’re informed that the parent/carer is considering EHE. This is important so that the team can work with you to consider the implications of withdrawal and the statutory processes around the plan.

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Free School Meals

The DfE expect that alongside schools, kitchens will re-open from 8 March. School kitchens can continue to operate but must comply with guidance businesses on COVID-19.

Schools should provide meal options for all pupils who are in school. Meals should be available free of charge to:

  • all infant pupils
  • pupils who meet the benefits-related free school meals eligibility criteria

As school kitchens will be open, normal free school meal provision will resume. The DfE expect catering providers to support pupils eligible for benefits-related free school meals who have to be at home for reasons relating to COVID-19.  

Further guidance can be found in the DfE document Providing school meals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak updated 16 November 2020.

Looked After Children – The Virtual School

The Virtual School exists to monitor and support the academic progress of children and young people in the care of Milton Keynes. They have been working closely with Schools, Social Workers and Carers during the pandemic.

Please see the detailed Virtual School pages for links about how they can support schools and pupils.

To contact the Virtual School please phone the Virtual School Duty Line on 07881 875294 between 8.30am–3pm.

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Ethnic Minorities Achievement Network

The Ethnic Minority Achievement Network team (EMA Network) supports schools, settings and communities in raising the aspirations and attainment of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) children and young people in Milton Keynes.

Please see the detailed Ethnic Minorities Achievement Network pages for links about how they can support schools and pupils.

For more support please email the EMA Network team or call them on 01908 270409.

Pupil Premium Grant

The DfE published the following terms and conditions on which assistance is given in relation to the pupil premium grant (PPG) payable to schools and local authorities for the financial year beginning 1 April 2020.

PPG provides funding for two separate policies:

  • raising the attainment of disadvantaged pupils of all abilities to reach their potential
  • supporting children and young people with parents in the regular armed forces

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Those pupils entitled to support through the Pupil Premium Grant

Ever 6 free school meals

The pupil premium for 2020 to 2021 will include pupils recorded in the January 2020 school census who have had a recorded period of FSM eligibility since May 2014, as well as those first recorded as eligible at January 2020.

Children adopted from care or who have left care

The pupil premium for 2020 to 2021 will include pupils recorded in the January 2020 school census and alternative provision census, who were looked after by an English or Welsh local authority immediately before being adopted, or who left local authority care on a special guardianship order or child arrangements order (previously known as a residence order). These are collectively referred to as post-LAC in these conditions of grant.

Ever 6 service child

For the purposes of these grant conditions, Ever 6 service child means a pupil recorded in the January 2020 school census who was eligible for the service child premium since the January 2015 census as well as those recorded as a service child for the first time on the January 2020 school census.

Further guidance can be found in Pupil premium: conditions of grant 2020 to 2021 guidance.

For advice supporting Looked After Children, please contact the Virtual School.

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Last Updated: 8 March 2021