This toolkit provides a step-by-step guide for managing the coronavirus in schools. It provides links to key information and template policies on Croner-i. This information is being continually checked and updated.


The World Health Organization (WHO) explains that coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). This particular episode, which first appeared in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, has been named “COVID–19”.

Symptoms include a fever, cough and shortness of breath. Some may suffer from a mild illness and recover easily, while in other cases, infection can progress to pneumonia. Reports suggest that the elderly, those with weakened immune systems, diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease are the most susceptible to serious illness and death. Symptoms can appear in as few as two days after infection or as long as 14 days.

People who have symptoms of infection (new continuous cough and/or high temperature - however mild) and live alone are being asked to “self-isolate” by staying at home for 7 days from when the symptoms started. Those who live with others and families are being asked to self-isolate as a household for 14 days from the day that the first person became ill.

People are being asked to protect themselves and others by covering their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and by frequently washing their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds during the day. They should use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available. In addition to hand-washing and self-isolating, an effective “lockdown” is now in place throughout the UK. This means that people should stay indoors except for essential trips out to get food and medicine. Sporting events have been cancelled and places such as pubs, clubs, shops and leisure centres have been closed. When outside or at work people must “socially distance” themselves which includes staying 2 metres away from others. Essential key workers can still travel to and from work but others should work from home wherever possible.

Vulnerable people, including those aged 70 and over, are encouraged to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures and to remain at home wherever possible.

Employer duties

School employers and leaders should remember that they have a duty of care towards their staff, pupils, contractors and visitors. They should take reasonable steps to protect their health and safety, preventing them from exposure to unnecessary risk, including the risk of infectious disease.

What should you do as a school?

  1. Schools and nurseries in England closed on Friday afternoon (20 March) for an indefinite period. The announcement followed similar decisions in the rest of the UK. The closure order applies to schools of all types, including private schools and sixth forms, and to nurseries.

    Wherever possible schools should remain open only for those children who absolutely need to attend. This very limited group of pupils will consist of vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers who are unable to make alternative childcare arrangements. Key workers include not only those in the NHS, fire and ambulance services and police, but also staff such as supermarket delivery drivers. Continuing local provision is required so that these workers can carry on with their vital jobs. Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with Education, Health and Care Plans. Children who do not fall into these groups should remain at home with appropriate care. See Guidance for schools about temporarily closing. Children with an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan should be risk-assessed by their school in consultation with the local authority and parents, to decide whether they need to continue to be offered a school place in order to meet their needs, or whether they can safely have their needs met at home. Ongoing provision for vulnerable children is covered in Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on vulnerable children and young people.

  2. Schools should be aware that Guidance for schools, colleges and local authorities on maintaining educational provision gives further details about who exactly should be regarded as “key workers” and what is meant by “vulnerable” children. Closure of educational settings: information for parents and carers sets out details of the closure plans for the general public and for parents. The government recognises that some special schools and residential settings will need to continue to look after their pupils. It is the responsibility of school leaders to judge whether it is safe for a school to remain open in the current circumstances. Where a school or an early years setting cannot stay open it is the responsibility of local authorities to ensure alternative provision.

  3. Schools that remain open, even at a very reduced level, should ensure that both staff and pupils follow previously published guidance on protecting themselves and others. Staff and pupils should adhere to high levels of hygiene and infection prevention procedures, particularly in relation to hand washing. Young children should be supervised to ensure they wash their hands more often than usual. They should be encouraged to “catch” coughs and sneezes in tissues.

  4. Make sure that staff and pupils attending open schools stay at home if they are unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature. This is essential to avoid spreading infection to others. Any staff or pupils who become unwell while on the school site with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature should be sent home.

  5. Clean and disinfect regularly touched objects and surfaces more often than usual using standard cleaning products. Check the main requirements and good practice of a cleaning operation.

  6. Communicate to visitors that they should not visit the school if they are self-isolating, displaying any symptoms of COVID-19 infection, generally feeling unwell or have recently returned from a high-risk area or had contact with someone who has coronavirus. Encourage visitors to carry out good hygiene practices, such as handwashing and using a hand sanitiser gel. Make sure that one person is responsible for keeping abreast of developments from the World Health Organization, the UK Government and the NHS.

  7. Ensure that the school is complying fully with the latest official guidance, including COVID-19: guidance for education settings, published by the Department for Education and Public Health England. This guidance is being regularly updated.

  8. All schools and nurseries that remain open should have a policy on steps to protect pupils and staff from the coronavirus.

  9. Ensure that emergency planning and business contingency planning procedures are up to date.

  10. Pupils who have to stay at home should have their ongoing learning and development supported by teachers using online learning platforms. Schools should inform parents of the arrangements and advise them how best they can support their children. Teaching staff should be given resources and support to be able to coordinate online learning from home wherever possible. Consequent to the closure of schools, the government has also announced that SATs, GCSE, AS- and A-Level exams will not take place in May and June as planned.

  11. Where schools or nurseries are unable to look after the vulnerable/key worker children required of them (for instance, due to staff shortages) local authorities will work with DfE regional teams to ensure alternative options are available.

  12. Schools should cease planning for Ofsted inspections. Ofsted have stated that they will cease all inspections of schools and colleges with immediate effect. Primary school assessments and secondary exams will also not go ahead and performance tables will not be published.

  13. Schools must follow guidance published by the government relating to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) school closures on pupils currently eligible for benefits-related free school meals. This guidance explains what schools must do to make sure eligible pupils have continued access to free school meals where they have to stay at home. Options include providing food parcels/meals through their catering teams or providing vouchers to parents for supermarkets or local shops. Costs will be covered by the DfE.

Useful Q&As


Last reviewed 6 April 2020