Changes to national restrictions and temporary school closures

Last updated 14th January 2021

On Monday 4th January 2021 the Prime Minister announced that England will move into new national lockdown restrictions, in response to data on the increased transmissibility of the new variant of coronavirus, in order to bring the virus under control whilst the vaccine programme is rolled out. 

Vicky Ford MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, has published an open letter to all children and young people with SEND, their parents/carers and families, and others who support them. Minister Ford acknowledges the difficulties of the new national restrictions and offers her department’s commitment to support children and young people. The letter highlights some revised guidance, including the guidance specific to special schools. You can read the letter here.

On Thursday 14th January, the Department for Education published revised guidance for the full opening of special schools and other specialist settings. 

Details are set out below are based on the current guidance however, we are aware this is a rapidly changing situation and we will update this page as we receive further information. You can access the latest guidance here.

CDC is working across its networks including SENDIASS and the DCO/DMO forum to ensure information about the current situation is clear to both professionals and families across a range of agencies. If you have additional questions relating to the guidance or the new restrictions please contact us at

What has changed for Clinically Extremely Vulnerable children?

  • The Government has reinstated the shielding guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable groups in all areas of England.
  • All clinically extremely vulnerable children are advised not to attend education settings.
  • It is expected that education settings are able to offer them access to remote education.
  • In some exceptional circumstances a family and care providers may feel that the health risks need to be balanced with the impact on the child or young person not attending their usual setting and getting the support they need. In these circumstances, parents, education settings, health professionals and local authorities should look at what are the best arrangements for that child or young person and their family to ensure that they continue to get the support they need.

What has changed for schools and colleges?

  • All primary schools, secondary schools and colleges will move to remote provision, except for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children who can attend in person.
  • Summer Exams will not go ahead as planned. The Education Secretary will work with Ofqual to put in place alternative arrangements and more details will be published in due course.  
  • Vocational exams will go ahead as planned in January.
  • Alternative provision will remain open.
  • Special schools will remain open.
  • Provision will be made for children normally receiving free school meals.
  • Continued increase in provision of laptops and tablets to support remote education.  
  • Early years settings, including nurseries and childminders, will remain open.
  • Existing rules for childcare support bubbles will still apply.

What does it mean for special schools?

The 'Restricting attendance during the national lockdown: schools' guidance states that:

"Special schools should continue to welcome and encourage pupils to attend full-time where the parent/carer wishes for their child to be able to attend. Special post-16 settings should continue to welcome and encourage students to attend as per their usual timetable where the young person wishes to attend.

On occasion special schools may encounter circumstances where they cannot provide their usual interventions and provision at adequate staffing ratios, or with staff with vital specialist training. In these circumstances they should seek to resume as close as possible to the child of young person’s specified provision as soon as possible. Pupil level risk assessments, which were used last spring, should not be used to filter children and young people in or out of attendance, but could be helpful to prioritise the provision a child or young person can get if full time provision for all is not possible."

Who can continue to attend school and college?

The Government states that:

“the problem is not that schools are unsafe for children – children are still very unlikely to be severely affected by even the new variant of Covid. The problem is that schools may nonetheless act as vectors for transmission, causing the virus to spread between households.”

Children and young people can continue to attend school or college if they:

  • have an education, health and care (EHC) plan.
  • are assessed as being in need under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, including children and young people who have a child in need plan, a child protection plan or who are a looked-after child.
  • have been identified as otherwise vulnerable by educational providers or local authorities (including children’s social care services), and who could therefore benefit from continued full-time attendance, this might include:
    • children and young people on the edge of receiving support from children’s social care services or in the process of being referred to children’s services
    • adopted children or children on a special guardianship order
    • those at risk of becoming NEET (‘not in employment, education or training’)
    • those living in temporary accommodation
    • those who are young carers
    • those who may have difficulty engaging with remote education at home (for example due to a lack of devices or quiet space to study)
    • care leavers
    • others at the provider and local authority’s discretion including pupils and students who need to attend to receive support or manage risks to their mental health

What does it mean for wraparound care or short breaks?

Short breaks and wraparound services are able to continue to operate during the national lockdown, including offers for children away from home and care which is delivered in the family home. In the event that a local authority could not offer support:

  • Direct payments can be used to enable families to purchase care and equipment to use at home, for the child or young person and their siblings. Direct payments can also be used to support families with a disabled child whose usual services have been suspended or reduced.
  • Exisiting childcare and support bubbles rule can still apply

In practice, to ensure high quality education for children and young people who need to continue to attend school or college, this may require creative approaches from settings including consideration of staffing rotas and blended remote and face to face learning based on the individual needs of children, young people and their families.