Guidance Overview

Guidance overview / BSO inspections / DfE helpline / Fee disputes


This page was updated February 2021

  1. Government guidance was updated for February 2021.The full list of guidance covering schools, FE, early years etc., can be found here including guidance on home learning.

  2. The key guidance to schools for the Spring 2021 lockdownis: ‘Restricting attendance during the national lockdown.’ This applies to all schools. Early years provision, including in schools, should continue to remain open for all children to attend full time or their usual timetabled hours. 

What changes:

  • The guidance is clear that the earliest date for additional pupils to return to school is 8 March.
  • Schools should inform parents of processes for drop-off and pick-up and ensure they do not allow parents to gather at the school gates.
  • In addition to PCR tests for symptomatic people, schools can offer their on-site workforce two LFD tests every week. Testing is not compulsory. Staff do not need to provide proof of a negative test result to attend school in person, although participation in testing is strongly encouraged.
  • The guidance is clearer that pupils, staff and other adults who live with someone showing Covid symptoms should also stay away, and he period of isolation is clarified. The definition of ‘close contact’ has been expanded.
  • Flexible approaches to staff interviews are recommended.
  • Remote education – the guidance clarifies the status of the guidance for independent schools. It is not statutory but the Independent School Standards still apply in full, including the Part one requirements relating to the quality of education. Schools should be able to show how they are meeting these standards in relation to both the vulnerable children and young people and children of critical workers in attendance.
  • Face coverings in primary – heads have discretion to ask staff and visitors to wear face coverings in some circumstances.
  • More guidance is included about maintaining contact with vulnerable children and monitoring their access to education, if remote.
  • Independent schools with state funded pupils are obliged to publish information for pupils, parents and carers about their remote education provision on their website by 12 February 2021. The guidance to do this by 25 January 2021, becomes law on 12 February 2021


What stays the same:

  • Risk assessment and system of controls– The guidance includes extensive guidance about the system of controls (minimise contact with symptomatic people; hand and respiratory hygiene; enhanced cleaning and ventilation; active engagement with track and trace; reduce contacts and maximise distancing in school; managing confirmed cases).
  • Also covers use of PPEFace coveringsto be worn by adults in secondary schools and Year 7 up, when moving around premises.
  • The mass asymptomatic testing for secondary schools has been paused for daily contact testing. Close contacts of confirmed cases should now self-isolate. Lateral flow testing can continue to be used in secondary schools for the following purposes regular screening of staff – up to twice a week.
  • Managing confirmed cases largely remains the same e.g., contacting Public Health England.
  • Boarding and residential schools, including international pupils: Where children have already travelled to their boarding school, in anticipation of school starting, they can continue to receive remote education in their boarding houses. Other pupils who have not yet returned should not travel and should receive remote education at home.  Vulnerable children and children of critical workers can continue to travel to boarding school and to receive face to face education once there.
  • KCSIE– Schools must continue to have regard to the statutory safeguarding guidance (KCSIE) and should review their child protection policy to reflect the move to remote education for most pupils. In some cases, a Covid-19 annex or addendum that summarises related changes might be more effective than rewriting and re-issuing the whole policy.
  • Extensive guidance about many school operations e,g. recruitment, staffing issues, and transport.
  • Attendance – those who should attend (vulnerable children and children and young people of critical workers) and how attendance should be recorded. Clinically extremely vulnerable pupils are advised not to attend school.
  • Registration- Schools should register pupils who attend at the school premises as present and follow up on absences of pupils who are expected to be in school. Pupils not eligible to attend school should be registered as code X (not attending because they are following public health advice). Those eligible but learning remotely with the permission of the school should be registered as code C. Schools should monitor and record their engagement with remote learning, but this does not need to tracked in the attendance register. See Recording Attendance in relation to coronavirus.  
  • Lateral flow testing (primary school guidance here) is being paused for contact testing but continues for regular screening of staff and is now being extended to staff in primary schools. 
  • Workforce – advice for those who are clinically vulnerable (advised not to attend the workplace, with pay and support from employers including to work from home). Includes advice for staff who are pregnant.
  • Free school meals- Schools should continue to provide meal options for all pupils who are in schools or provide food parcels or local vouchers where possible. Extra funding will be provided to support schools to provide food parcels or meals to eligible children. Guidance updated 8 January can be found 
  • Educational Visits– no visits should take place during this period. Wraparound and extra-curricular should continue to be offered for those children eligible to attend school.
  • Remote education– expectations: Remote education provided should be equivalent in length to the core teaching pupils would receive in school. It can include recorded or live direct teaching time and time for pupils to complete tasks independently. Online lessons do not necessarily need to be recorded by teaching staff at the school.  Minimum hours of remote provision are specified: 3 hours a day average, 4 hours a day and 4.5 hours per day for key stages 1,2 and 3 respectively. These are non-statutory for independent schools but a useful guide.  Parents are encouraged to raise concerns about the quality and quantity of remote education with the school first, but to report to the inspectorates if the concerns are not resolved.
  • For SEND pupils, schools should work collaboratively with families, putting in place reasonable adjustments as necessary, so that pupils with SEND can access remote education alongside their peers. Also includes some extra guidance on how to deliver online remote education safely.  
  • Accountability expectations– inspections, exams and assessments:
    • Information on routine inspection resumption is here
    • SATs, GCSEs , A and AS levels will not go ahead as planned. The Ofqual consultation on other options has now closed and the results are awaited.
    • Performance tables are suspended.


  1. DfE:Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for boarding schools with international students (last updated 6 November 2020)

As of the time of writing, the government have advised that any non-essential travel should stop and all travel corridors are suspended (18 Jan 2021)

This document provides guidance on:

  • what to do when students arrive in the UK – all schools should have a policysetting out arrangements for students coming to the school including the collection and transfer, and isolation of students. Schools should follow the guidance outlined.
  • the first 14 days in the UK – The school travel plans need to be explained to students and their parents before they travel and follow self-isolation guidance.
  • after the first 14 days in the UK – they can leave self-isolation and follow the same national rules.
  • what to do if students in residential settings develop coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms – follow this guidance.


  1. DfE:Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus outbreak (last updated 7 January 2020)

  • This includes early years in independent schools.
  • Early years provisions should remain open and allow all children to attend full time or their usual timetabled hours. This includes childminders and wraparound care.
  • Early years settings can contact the dedicated advice service introduced by Public Health England for support on the action they should take to respond to a positive case. The advice service can be reached by calling the DfE helpline on 0800 046 8687 and selection option 1.
  • Setting should continue to undertake risk assessments and implement the system of controls.
  • Includes guidance on enhanced cleaning, music, dance and drama and funding and business support.

This guidance should be read in conjunction with the following guidance: infection prevention and control, guidance on funding and other relevant guidance.


  1. DfEProtective measures for holiday and after-school clubs, and other out-of-school settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak (last updated 2 February 2021)

This document sets out national guidance to advise on practical steps they can take to minimise the risk of infection and transmission of the virus for children, staff and parents who attend their settings.

The section on home education has been updated with further information.


  1. BSO Inspections during the pandemic

Accreditation under the voluntary BSO scheme is through inspection by an inspectorate approved by the UK government. It usually lasts for 3 years at which point the school must be inspected again for re-accreditation.  Where it is not feasible for inspections to go ahead, for example, because they have been closed by their home government on account of the outbreak of Covid-19, BSOs should inform the Department for Education (DfE).

In circumstances where DfE have been made aware that the school have had their inspection postponed due to Covid-19, the DfE has indicated that it will ensure that their BSO accreditation is extended until the inspection has been rescheduled and carried out.

Therefore we would advise all BSOs whose inspections have been impacted, and would like to apply for an extension to their accreditation to contact the DfE at

For more information and guidance see here (external link).


  1. DfE helpline

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.


  1. Fee disputes

Issues relating to school 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: