In its recently published plan for moving the country forward out of lockdown (see “Government publishes its COVID-19 recovery strategy”), the Government referred to a phased return to school for some pupils beginning no earlier than 1 June.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has now issued more details of how schools, colleges and nurseries should begin to prepare to open to more young people, with protective measures in place.

“As the Prime Minister announced yesterday, by 1 June at the earliest primary schools in England may be able to welcome back children in key transition years – nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6,” he explained.

The aim is for other primary years to return later in June, but this will be kept under review, and there are currently no plans to reopen secondary schools for other year groups before the summer holidays.

However, secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges are being asked to work towards the possibility of providing some face-to-face contact with young people in Year 10 and Year 12 to help them prepare for exams next year.

“Actions for educational and childcare settings to prepare for wider opening from 1 June 2020” can be found at

This states that children will need to stay within their new class/group wherever possible and settings will be asked to implement a range of protective measures including increased cleaning, reducing ‘pinch points’ (such as parents dropping children off at the start and end of day), and utilising outdoor space.

The guidance covers a range of key issues including:

  • Risk assessment;

  • Class sizes and staff availability;

  • Protective measures in education and childcare setting;

  • Attendance;

  • Food;

  • Vulnerable children and young people;

  • Special schools;

  • The curriculum; and

  • Staff workload and wellbeing.

From 1 June, all children and young people eligible to return to their settings will have access to testing, if they display symptoms, as will any symptomatic member(s) of their household.

Mr Williamson has made clear that, whilst there will be no penalty for families who do not send their children to school, families will be strongly encouraged to take up these places - unless the child or a family member is shielding or the child is particularly vulnerable due to an underlying condition.

Last reviewed 12 May 2020