Schools and education

This is the available national guidance for education settings during the COVID-19 pandemic and the current national roadmap.

We strongly recommend that you refer to the online versions of the national guidance using the links provided, to ensure you are using the most up to date information. The rate at which guidance is changing is rapid so can become easily outdated.

Further information can also be found on schools and education FAQs.

Statement from Cabinet Member for Children and Learning on schools opening HIDE

Last updated: 29 May 2020

Councillor Darren Paffey, Cabinet Member for Children and Learning at Southampton City Council, said:

Southampton schools have already been open for keyworker and vulnerable children, not just continuing their education but also to provide families with food and other vital support. We owe all teachers and staff in our city’s schools and early years settings a huge debt of thanks for doing an amazing job in such difficult circumstances.

Schools in Southampton will now carefully and cautiously begin to welcome back more pupils. This will not be a full or sudden return for all groups from 1 June, because our highest priority as leaders, teachers, carers and parents, is to open schools safely, not just quickly. And while we all want children to return to schools as soon as the conditions are right, we also know that every school is different and has its own set of challenges.

For these reasons we’re taking a flexible approach, which has been welcomed by schools. We’re providing support wherever plans are being made to open for the year groups proposed by the government, and we’re also supporting schools who need to take a more gradual reintroduction of pupils over a longer period.

All schools and early years settings are taking into account their specific circumstances and planning for a gradual increase in numbers, based on:

  • Detailed risk assessments, aligned with guidance from public health professionals, national and local government and trade unions
  • Consideration of the logistical demands of maintaining social distancing between pupils
  • Introduction of staggered start, finish, lesson and break times to limit contact
  • The availability of staff, some of whom are unwell or shielding
  • Existing numbers of children of critical workers and those who are vulnerable
  • Transport to and from their nursery, school, or college

Every school has contacted parents and carers to advise them of the new arrangements, including continued learning at home for those not in school.

The council has been working closely with headteachers with guidance on how they can adapt to the new situation, and we will continue to be in frequent contact with our early years and school communities in the coming days and weeks.

Helpline HIDE

The national guidance will cover many of questions that education settings and parents have, though where questions remain unanswered, there is helpline that education staff (from early years through to universities) and parents can use to seek further advice.

Helpline number: 0800 046 8687

Helpline availability: Open 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday and 10am to 4pm, Saturday to Sunday

The current roadmap for education settings in relation to a phased re-opening HIDE

Step one - from 13 May 2020


  • Local authorities and schools should urge more children who would benefit from attending schools in person to do so (children of key workers and vulnerable children)
  • The Government is amending its guidance to clarify that paid childcare, for example nannies and childminders, can take place subject to being able to meet the public health principles outlined in the strategy, enabling more parents to return to work

Step two - from 1 June

Education and early years

  • 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
  • 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

Step three - no earlier than 4 July

Education and early years

No specific mention of further requirements of schools during step three in addition to the actions already stated in step two, though schools to prepare for further children to return to school in September 2020.

More information about schools and learning HIDE

Last updated: 21 April 2020

Free school meals

Children who are eligible for free school meals will continue to be provided with food during the current period of school closures.

Schools are doing this in a variety of ways and have contacted parents and carers directly to confirm the method that applies to them. Some will continue to prepare meals or food parcels that can be delivered to or collected by families, and others will be using the Government’s voucher scheme.

If you need further information please contact your child’s school directly.

If your situation has changed and you think your child may now be eligible for free school meals, please find more information here.

Education resources

Many children are currently at home as a result of school closures due to the Coronavirus, or due to self-isolating. If you need some inspiration about what online resources are available, the Education Otherwise website lists a wide range of resources that have been recommended by families who have chosen to electively home educate their children.

In response to a significant number of requests for advice, Education Otherwise have produced a guidance document for families currently endeavouring to home educate their children.

Summer exams and grades

The Government has announced that this summer’s exam series, including A Levels, GCSEs and other qualifications, have been cancelled. The Government has set out its approach to ensuring that affected students can move on to the next stage of their lives, which will include awarding grades based on work already completed and providing an option for students to sit exams early in the academic year should they wish to do so.

Home educated students

Ofqual have issued guidance relating to Summer 2020 grades for GCSE, AS and A level, Extended Project Qualification and Advanced Extension Award in maths.

How will this affect private candidates and home educated students?

We know that private candidates are anxious to know how these arrangements apply to them. Where centres have accepted entries from private candidates (students who they have not taught themselves, because they have been home-schooled, following distance-learning programmes or studying independently) those students should be included where the Head of Centre is confident that they and their staff have seen sufficient evidence of the student’s achievement to make an objective judgement. We are urgently exploring whether there are alternative options for those students who do not have an existing relationship with a centre and who need results this summer for progression purposes but unfortunately this is unlikely to be possible for all external candidates, some of whom may instead need to take exams in the autumn to get their grades.

We appreciate that this is a matter of real concern to private candidates and will provide an update as soon as possible. We have asked organisations that represent higher and further education providers to consider the steps that providers could take when making admissions decisions this summer for any private candidates who do not receive a grade. They have told us that they believe that institutions will consider a range of other evidence and information for these students to allow them to progress wherever possible.