COVID-19

Coronavirus FAQs

Our school inspections have been deferred due to the Coronavirus pandemic.  We will not be publishing reports during this time. This page will be kept updated throughout summer 2020.

FAQs for schools:

These cover registration; DfE guidance; vetting checks; complaints and reports; Relationships and Sex Education (RSE)

FAQs for parents are towards the bottom of the page. 

 

Registration:

Q1. What is the position re attendance registers from 1 June onwards? Should we continue to complete the daily return for keyworker and vulnerable children?

A1. The DfE’s Actions for education and childcare settings to prepare for wider opening from 1 June 2020 guidance states that schools and colleges should resume taking their attendance registers from 1 June (statutory) and continue to complete the online Educational Setting Status form which gives the DfE daily updates on how many children and staff are attending (non-statutory).  Pupil registration is a statutory requirement when children attend school as pupils. The Educational Setting Status form is not a statutory requirement but as above the DfE continue to ask that schools complete it to provide daily insight into what is happening nationally.  The national attendance codes are non-statutory for independent schools, so there is in-built flexibility if wished for distinguishing the recording of those who are ‘present’ on and off-site and reasons for non-attendance.

DfE guidance on coronavirus:

Q2. What is the status of the extensive guidance being issued by the DfE – do schools have to follow it? 

A2. On this page in the government’s  "Guidance and regulation" section, you will find DfE guidance for educational settings, guidance on maintaining educational provision, information for parents and carers, guidance on free school meals and guidance on attendance recording.  The guidance may change daily, so please check it regularly.  The guidance is non-statutory and schools’ compliance with it will not be inspected retrospectively. However, in times of emergency, governmental departments and local authorities have extensive powers to require co-operation to ensure public health and to take action if necessary.  During the recovery phase, it will therefore be important to operate in-line with government guidance and any local authority advice.

The DfE coronavirus helpline is available to answer questions about COVID-19 relating to education and children’s social care. Staff, parents and young people can contact this helpline as follows:

  • Phone: 0800 046 8687
  • Opening hours: 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday
  • If you work in a school, please have your unique reference number (URN or UK PRN) available when calling the hotline.

 

Vetting Checks:

Q3.  Is it possible to carry out vetting checks during social distancing?

A3.  Temporary changes have been made to the way identity documents should be checked during the pandemic to enable those carrying out vetting checks to preserve social distancing.  This is relevant to identity checking for the purpose of DBS checks and Right to Work checks.  The changes enable:

  • ID documents to be viewed over video link
  • scanned images to be used in advance of the DBS check being submitted


Please note, the changes should only be implemented for urgent cases where it is not possible to follow the normal identity checking guidelines. The applicant must present the original versions of these documents when they first attend their employment or volunteering role in person.

Q4. When people come back to school in accordance with the phased return, do schools have to run vetting checks again?

A4.  Here is an analysis of the legal requirements for re-doing DBS checks, bearing in mind that there are three definitions of ‘staff’ and the ‘three month rule’.

 ‘Three month rule’ high level reminder: Staff and supply staff do not need new DBS checks on appointment if they have worked in a school in the last 3 months in a position which brought them into regular contact with children or young persons.

 

3 month rule applies?

Implications of school closure

Re-checks required?

Existing school staff

-          Contract of service* (ie employees in regulated activity)

Yes

None  - they are in continuous employment. Furloughed employees are still employees.

No

Existing school staff

-          contract for services* -eg self-employed in regulated activity (eg visiting music teachers)

Yes

Depends on wording of contract, if written.

 

There is potentially a 3 mth break in working in schools if the contract is on an ad hoc basis.

Yes  (if they have a period outside a contract in which they have not worked in any school in last 3 months in a position which brought them into contact with children)

Existing school staff

-          otherwise than under a contract* (eg VMTs paid by the parents)

Yes

Ditto

Yes - Ditto

Existing supply staff

Yes

Potential 3 mth break in working in schools

Yes - Ditto

Existing employees of third party contractors (eg caterers)

No

 

Potential 3 mth break in working in schools

No

 

*The legal requirement for enhanced DBS checks applies when ‘staff’ (under any of the definitions) and supply staff are in regulated activity. If they are not in regulated activity (eg the frequency/regularity test is not met, or the contract is on an ‘occasional or temporary’ basis), KCSIE advises they should still be DBS-ed -  but this is a ‘should’ not a ‘must’.  The check is still very important and schools would have to justify if challenged why they have not done it.

References and employment history  - these are not legal requirements but again a very important part of the vetting scheme in KCSIE. They are a ‘should’ (not ‘must’) and schools would have to justify if challenged why they have not done them. Inspectors would expect to see a risk assessed approach to that decision.

Relationships and Sex Education (RSE)

Q5.  Do schools still need to start teaching RSE in the autumn term of 2020?

A5. Although new requirements for the teaching of RSE come into force in September 2020, schools have discretion around how best to discharge their duties effectively. Those which are ready to deliver teaching and have met the requirements set out in the statutory guidance (such as parental consultation) are encouraged to begin delivering teaching from 1 September 2020, or whenever is practicable to do so within the first few weeks of the new school year. ‘If a school is unable to begin teaching until summer term 2021 they will need to decide how much of the content they will be able to cover and should still be able to demonstrate how they will cover the entirety of the curriculum in the future.’ When routine inspections re-start, inspectors will be sensitive to, and will take account of, the context and circumstances of schools at that time. See the DfE letter to all schools for more information.

Complaints:

A number of schools have queried how to deal with complaints during this period and generally.  We offer the following responses:

Q6. Can we ‘stop the clock’ on processing complaints?

A6.  Schools are strongly encouraged to review their complaints policies to ensure the timescales they contain for each stage are realistic in the current context of partial operation and staff shortages. If necessary, extend the timescales in your complaints process to allow yourselves the flexibility you need.

Q7.  Must we allow parents to bring disputes around fees under the complaints process?

A7.  The complaints standard does not limit the types of complaint which the policy should cover. (That said, there is no need for it to cover matters for which other policies is required - such as admissions and exclusions.) In the current circumstances, the complaints policy provides an important opportunity for schools to address any issues sensitively with a view to amicable resolution. The DfE has therefore advised that it is open to parents to use the school complaints process as a vehicle for addressing disputes about fees. The Commentary on the Regulatory Requirements will be updated in due course to clarify this point.

Q8.  For how long should we retain records relating to complaints?

A8.  The complaints standard requires schools to keep a written record of all formal complaints made in writing (ISS paragraph 33(j)).

The retention period may vary with the type of complaint:

  • As a general principle the DfE has advised that 7 years would be a reasonable retention period for complaints.
  • As to complaints which contain allegations, see paragraph 222 of Keeping Children Safe in Education: ‘Schools and colleges have an obligation to preserve records which contain information about allegations of sexual abuse for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), for the term of the inquiry (further information can be found on the IICSA website). All other records should be retained at least until the accused has reached normal pension age or for a period of 10 years from the date of the allegation if that is longer.’


Q9.  Can we deal with parental complaints as a ‘group action’ where they raise the same issue?

A9.  There is nothing in the complaint standard to prevent such an approach, subject to ensuring that the standard is met for each parent. So, for example, each complainant parent would have the right to attend and be accompanied at the panel which hears the group of complaints. Each would be provided with the findings and recommendations.

Reports:

Q10.  Does paragraph 32(1)(f) of the Independent School Standards (which requires schools to provide an annual written report of each registered pupil’s progress and attainment to parents) apply at the current time?

A10.  Whilst open, schools should work on the basis that the Independent School Standards still apply unless instructed otherwise by the DfE. However, schools should prioritise the safeguarding and welfare of children and once inspections recommence inspectors will be sensitive to the pressures and challenges schools have faced during this period.

As the requirement is for an ‘annual’ report, it can be provided at any time during the year. Therefore if, over the course of the year, one report has been provided with information regarding pupils’ progress and attainment in the main subject areas this would meet the regulation as it currently stands. Some schools may have more specific contractual requirements on this point but this is beyond ISI’s remit.

Schools should note that the requirement to provide an EYFS Profile for the academic year 2019/20 has been disapplied – for more on the disapplication of usual EYFS requirements please see the DfE’s statutory guidance Early years foundation stage: coronavirus disapplications.

 

FAQs for parents:

Parents may find the answer to some of their questions above.  The DfE coronavirus helpline is available to answer questions about COVID-19 relating to education and children’s social care. Staff, parents and young people can contact this helpline as follows:

  • Phone: 0800 046 8687
  • Opening hours: 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday


Q1.  Where can I get more information about this year’s exams?

A1. Information about this year's exams can be found here.

Q2. Where can I get help to resolve a fee dispute with my child’s school?

A2. Issues relating to fees are not within the remit of ISI.  They are a contractual matter for discussion between parents and schools.  The following bodies may be able to assist:

 

Updates:

Updated 08 June 2020 FAQs moved from rolling information to their own page

Updated 10 June 2020 to include more questions.