Coverage of this briefing

This briefing paper looks at the COVID-19 pandemic and schools. It largely focuses on England. It provides information on the winter 2020-spring 2021 school attendance restrictions (for most children), and the period since the wider reopening from 8 March 2021. It covers attendance rates, pupil coronavirus testing, operational issues for schools, and education recovery. Secondary exams including GCSEs, A Levels and equivalents are covered in a separate briefing paper, Coronavirus: GCSEs, A Levels and equivalents in 2021.

This is a fast-moving issue and this briefing should be read as correct at the time of publication.

Timeline of recent events (England)

  • 8 March 2021: most pupils begin returning to face-to-face provision. Some secondary pupils had a phased return, to allow for asymptomatic screening using lateral flow devices (LFDs).
  • From 17 May 2021: secondary pupils no longer required to wear face coverings in classrooms.
  • 2 June 2021: Department for Education announces an additional £1.4bn of education recovery funding, taking total recovery funding to over £3bn over four academic years (including 2020-21).

Impact on education, development and wellbeing

Early in the pandemic, survey evidence indicated wide disparities in young people’s home learning experiences during school closures and periods of self-isolation; there have been particular concerns about the impacts on disadvantaged children.

School funding and additional costs relating to the pandemic

The Department for Education (DfE) has made some additional funding available for free school meals, exceptional cleaning costs, catch-up funding and tutoring, laptops and digital devices, teacher training, and supply staff costs. However, concerns remain that some schools are struggling to meet pandemic-related costs, and about whether total education recovery funding announced to date is sufficient. There are also debates about how recovery funding should be spent.

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