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Schools and families

Last Updated 10:49am, 27 May 2020


Information about coronavirus is available in different languages and formats:

Returning to school arrangements from the 1 June

Some children will be returning to school from the 1 June if it’s safe to do so.

The Government has published some information for parents about the planned re-opening of schools.

Since lockdown, many schools have remained open for children of keyworkers and vulnerable children.

Please look out for information from your schools on their websites and in their newsletters, about returning to school.

Schools will be providing information about places they can offer after they have completed safety and risk assessments.

Not all year groups will be returning to school immediately. The Government has prioritised which year groups they would like schools to re-open places to.

You may be invited to say whether you will be taking up a place if it is offered.

Children of key workers and vulnerable children can continue to attend as they have been.

Clinically vulnerable or ‘shielded’ children will not be expected to attend school, and those children who live with someone who is medically certified as clinically extremely vulnerable should ONLY attend if stringent social distancing can be adhered to.

Some very young children and older children without capacity may not be able to follow instructions on social distancing. We do not expect these children to attend school.

From 1 June, the following changes will be introduced.

If your child attends a Special School

Your school will work with you individually to agree when it is safe for your child to return to school.

For Primary and pre-school aged children

Primary, infant, junior schools and nurseries are reviewing the Government’s guidance and are planning how to open to more year groups.

From 1 June, nurseries and other early years providers, including childminders, will be welcoming back all children.

Primary schools will welcome back children in nursery, reception, Years 1 and 6.

For secondary, sixth form and further education aged pupils

From 18 June, secondary schools, sixth form and further education colleges will begin some face-to-face support for years 10 (and 12, if they have sixth forms), to provide them with support for their home learning.

Some schools may not be able to open on the 1June or may open to only some of the suggested year groups but not others.

Some children might be asked to attend for just part of the day, or possibly to go to a different school for this initial period.

Children who live with someone who is clinically vulnerable, but not clinically extremely vulnerable (shielded), may attend school.

If you are a parent of a child that is not in one the year groups identified to return from 1 June (even if they have a sibling who is), then your child will not be able to attend.

How will the new arrangements look?

Your child’s school will be following Government guidance so things will feel differently.

To be as safe as possible, your school will ask you not to come into the school and to carry on being two metres apart at the school gate.

Your children will be in smaller classes and will not mix with other groups and may have different break times.

Attendance is encouraged. If you feel worried about your child or family’s safety, please talk your school in the first instance. No action will be taken (such as a penalty notice) if you decide it is not safe to send your child to school.

Emotional support

Parents may be feeling a mixture of emotions about their child’s return to school, and that is understandable. If you would like help or support, please contact your school first and they will put you in touch with services who can help.

Travelling to school

When planning how your child(ren) will get to and from school the Department for Transport has issued the Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer travel guidance for passengers. The government has also released guidance about adjusting transport arrangements so that protective measures are implemented on school transport.

For any children entitled to transport assistance from the local authority our Transport Coordination Service is working with transport providers and your school. Please speak directly to your school regarding this.

Devon County Council’s Head of Education and Learning has written to parents and carers to keep them informed of the arrangements in Devon.

Further guidance for parents and carers to help prepare for the wider opening of nurseries, schools and colleges is available on the government website.

Free school meals

If your salary is reduced as a result of these changes, you may be eligible for support through the welfare system, including Universal Credit.

Whether you are currently in or out of work, if you are on a low income and affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19, you will be able to access the full range of the welfare system, including Universal Credit.

From 6 April the government are increasing the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit for 1 year. Both will increase by £20 per week on top of planned annual uprating.

This will apply to all new and existing Universal Credit claimants and to existing Working Tax Credit claimants. More information on applying for Universal Tax Credit.

If you are on low income, you or your family may also be entitled to claim for free school meals. View the criteria for free school meals here.

The Free School Meal Team have a platform that enables you to make a quick application online where your eligibility can be assessed and an outcome can be given instantaneously. To apply for free school meals please visit the Free School Meal Portal.

If you have any other queries relating to free school meal entitlement you can email the team at

National voucher scheme

If you are in receipt of free school meals you will be eligible for a weekly monetary voucher. The vouchers will be issued by your child’s school.

Please note this does not include children who are registered as receiving elective home education and children who are universally entitled to a free school meal because they are in key stage 1. Children in key stage 1 (reception and years 1 and 2) will only be eligible for the vouchers if the household qualifies for free school meals on low-income grounds.

You will be able to access the voucher scheme using the Edenred portal. Read the help and information from Edenred.

Edenred has also published a user guide for school administrators.

McColl’s has joined the list of supermarkets that will redeem vouchers secured through the free school meals national voucher scheme. Supermarkets available also include Aldi, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, M & S, Asda and Morrisons.

Temporary extension of free school meals eligibility to NRPF groups

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the Department for Education (DfE) is temporarily extending free school meal eligibility to include some children of groups who have no recourse to public funds (NRPF). These groups are:

  • children of Zambrano carers
  • children of families with no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the UK on grounds of private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights
  • children of families receiving support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 who are also subject to a no recourse to public funds restriction

These groups are also subject to a maximum household earnings threshold of £7,400 per annum.

The DfE is also temporarily extending eligibility to children of a subset of failed asylum seekers supported under Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. This group is not subject to a maximum household earnings threshold.

This extension is temporarily in place to support families facing difficulties due to the current unique circumstances. It covers both children who are attending school and children who are at home.

These changes are now in place and anyone wishing to apply for free school meals under the above criteria must follow a slightly different process which involves completing the temporary application form and emailing it to

If you cannot email the form to us, please contact us on 0345 155 1019 and we will be able to post you a copy of the form.

Assessment of applications

The Free School Meals Team will assess each application individually which is why it is important you apply using the temporary free school meal application form.

You must clearly indicate which category you are applying under. The application form clearly indicates the evidence you should provide depending on the category you are applying under.

The team will also need to assess the household income by looking at evidence. To be eligible for free school meals, the maximum annual household earnings threshold is £7,400 after tax. This equates to £616 per month.

We can make this assessment from one of the following forms of evidence which you should submit with your application:

  • payslip
  • P60
  • bank statement
  • letter from your bank
  • letter from your employer

Please note that the household earnings will not be assessed if you are applying under section 4 of the immigration and asylum act.

National allocation day (16 April)

The admissions team will now have contacted parents with children due to attend primary school places from September 2020. You will have received emails sent to you on the 16 April.

If you are happy with the school place offered, you don’t have to do anything else other than confirming that you want the school place.

Usually, you would confirm that with the school, but because right now schools are only open for children of key workers and the most vulnerable pupils, we’re asking you not to contact your allocated school just yet. The school will contact you directly to discuss the admission and transition arrangements.

We’re afraid that schools will not be able to discuss admissions with you until they’ve contacted you directly.

Be aware of scam emails

The DfE have been informed that some parents have received an email stating the following: ‘As schools will be closing, if you’re entitled to free school meals, please send your bank details and we’ll make sure you’re supported’.

The DfE can confirm that this is a scam email and is not official. We urge parents that if you receive any emails like this, please do not respond, and delete it immediately

Register as a critical worker

The government has defined occupations that are classified as critical workers. It is important to stress that every child who can stay at home absolutely must, and many parents working in these sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home. Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be.

Please consider the following:

  • Check if you fall into any of the listed occupations and are classified as a critical worker.
  • If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.
  • If a child needs specialist support, is vulnerable or has a parent who is a critical worker, then educational provision will be available for them. You will already have been contacted regarding this.
  • Parents should not rely for childcare upon those who are advised to be in the stringent social distancing category such as grandparents, friends, or family members with underlying conditions.
  • Parents should also do everything they can to ensure children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus. They should observe the same social distancing principles as for adults.
  • Residential special schools, boarding schools and special settings continue to care for children wherever possible.

Once you have considered the points above, and if you have not been able to inform your school directly, then please complete the form below:

Register as a critical worker

Note for schools: this will help to you give you an idea of the number of children who may be seeking provision from next week, and you may forward directly to parents if you have not already instigated your own system. The completed forms will be forwarded direct to your school from the school systems email address.

Support for parents of children with special educational needs and disability

Please read our advice for parents about SEND and EHC plans.

Advice is also available from the Devon Information and Advice service.

Schools open for vulnerable children

Schools in Devon are open during the lockdown for children who absolutely need to attend, and this includes vulnerable children.

The government has said that if your child has a social worker and

  • a child protection plan
  • is a child in need
  • or a child in care

they are expected to be in school, as long as they do not have an underlying health condition that puts them at risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19).

If your child’s usual school is closed, please contact us so we can find them a place at a suitable alternative.

If your child has additional needs, the school may need to plan for this. Please check with them directly if this is the case.

If your child attends a special school, please liaise directly with the school first to ensure that necessary arrangements can be put in place to safely support your child, before sending them to school. Outreach work is being offered by special schools in various forms, and schools want to work with you directly to decide how best to safely support your child at this time.

If your child is attending school and normally requires Council-funded transport please talk to your school who will liaise with the Council’s transport team.

If you do not want your child to go to school, you need to discuss this with your child’s social worker and school and agree the appropriate next steps so that we are all assured that your child is safe.

Your child should not attend school if they, or someone they live with, has either a high temperature or a new, continuous cough.

If your child has symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), however mild, they must stay at home for 7 days from when their symptoms started.

If someone your child lives with has symptoms, everyone must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days.

Full government guidance for households with possible coronavirus infections is available online.

Please note that although some children with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) have a social worker, the government guidance is clear that many of them can remain safely at home. Please speak to your social worker if you are concerned.

Closure of educational settings

Schools are now only providing places for vulnerable children and those of key workers. To support parents the DfE has provided the following information Closure of educational settings: information for parents and carers

For specific information on which schools are open over the May Half Term period, please visit our May Half Term 2020. You can check if your school is closed completely on the current school closures page.

Schools can update any closures by logging in directly.

View BBC Newsround’s video for children about coronavirus: why it might not be as scary as it sounds, and download and print information in easy read if you would like to inform and support someone that would prefer that format, for example, if they have a learning disability.

The government has said that free childcare offers to continue during coronavirus closures. 

Information for parents and carers about the closure of schools and other educational settings following the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Guidance for schools, colleges and local authorities on maintaining education provision, including list of critical workers

Refer to the latest advice for schools and other educational settings, published jointly by Public Health England and Department for Education, including posters for use in schools.

What does this mean for schools and parents in Devon?

We are working closely with schools in Devon to ensure we are able to meet the priorities as set out by the government.

We have already taken the approach that the majority of schools will remain open to provide a safe place for vulnerable children and those of critical workers.

Vulnerable children include children who are supported by social care, those with safeguarding and welfare needs, including child in need plans, on child protection plans, ‘looked after’ children, young carers, disabled children, those with education, health and care (EHC) plans and some others recognised as vulnerable by us (as the Local Authority) and the school.

Residential special schools, boarding schools and special settings will continue to care for children wherever possible. Schools will continue to liaise with parents about these arrangements.

Where schools are unable to provide a place for vulnerable children and those of key workers the school will inform parents of alternative arrangements for those children. The Local Authority will help co-ordinate this work but the school should be the first point of contact, as local arrangements with other schools are being put in place.

Parents whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response include those who work in health and social care and in other key sectors. Many parents working in these sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home. The Department for Education advises that every child who can be safely cared for at home should be and they request we follow these key principles:

  • If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.
  • Parents should not rely for childcare upon those who are advised to be in the stringent social distancing category such as grandparents, friends, or family members with underlying conditions.
  • Parents should also do everything they can to ensure children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus. They should observe the same social distancing principles as adults.

Children with at least one parent or carer who are identified as critical workers by the government can send their children to school if required.

A list of critical workers has been provided by the Department for Education.

Families are asked to look at individual school websites and their school’s usual communication methods for other local updates and information.

We are currently working with early years settings and special schools to try and ensure equitable provision.

Early years providers will be given more information through the Early Years Digest.

The DfE has also provided easy to follow guidance to parents on this and a range of issues.

Online education resources

The Department for Education has published a list of online resources for schools and parents to help children learn at home.

Department for Education coronavirus helpline

There is a helpline to answer questions about COVID-19 related to education. Staff, parents and young people can contact the helpline as follows:

No school should close in response to a suspected (or confirmed) COVID-19 case unless directed to do so by Public Health England.

Guidance for early years and childcare settings

Guidance for local authorities, early years settings and childminders about childcare provision (published 24.3.20)

See opening times for childminder services with listings on Pinpoint Devon.

Public Health Nursing

Please see our Public Health Nursing service update.