The return to school in March/April 2021

Last updated 19 March 2021

On Monday 22nd February, the Government announced that all pupils will return to school on Monday 8th March 2021. On Friday 5th March, Children and Families Minister, Vicky Ford wrote an open letter to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, their parents, families and others who support them. The letter explains the current situation regarding the return to schools/ settings as well as testing, face coverings, education recovery and mental health support.

From 1st April there is new guidance in place for clinically extrmely vulberable children and guidance for asymptomatic testing over the Easter break.

The details set out below are based on the current guidance however, we are aware this is a changing situation and we will update this page as we receive further information.

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 return to school please contact us at

  • The usual rules on school attendance apply: it is the parents’ duty to ensure their child, of compulsory school age, attends their registered school regularly.

What does it mean for children and young people who are ‘Clinically Extremely Vulnerable’?
  • From Thursday 1 April, shielding guidance will be paused for clinically extremely vulnerable people (CEV). From that date they will no longer be advised to shield and must continue to follow the national restrictions that are in place for everyone.  
    From Thursday 1 April:  

  • All CEV children should attend early years provision, school, college, wraparound childcare and out-of-school settings, unless they are one of the very small number of children under paediatric or other specialist care and have been advised by their GP or clinician not to attend. 

  • CEV students who are enrolled in practical, or practice-based (including creative arts) courses should return to in-person teaching.  

  • CEV staff are advised to continue to work from home where possible, but if they cannot work from home, they should now attend their workplace. 


    There is guidance to assist school leaders in actions they should take to minimise the risk of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) in their setting. This includes public health advice, endorsed by Public Health England (PHE). 

COVID-19 Testing
  • Pupils in primary schools will not be tested

  • In specialist settings testing is voluntary and no child or young person will be tested unless informed consent has been given by the appropriate person

  • Pupils will be offered testing on site in secondary schools. Testing is voluntary, but strongly encouraged.

  • Where staff and pupils or students are undertaking asymptomatic testing at home, this should continue over the Easter period. It is important for staff and students to keep testing through the Easter holidays to manage the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), as part of a regular habit of testing at home every 3-4 days (twice a week). NHS Test and Trace will be supplying sufficient test kits to schools and colleges to enable this to happen.  Schools and colleges should be in touch with parents and carers on how to get kits and plan testing at home.

  • Updated guidance for special schools and alternative provision settings can be found here.

Education, Health and Care Plans
  • Schools along with the local authority and health partners (where applicable) should work with families to co-produce arrangements for delivering all therapies and support that would normally be in place for children with Education, Health and Care Plans.
  • The statutory duties and timescales remain in place for EHC needs assessments and reviews.

What does it mean for Transport?
  • The transport to school and other places of education guidance remains in place.

  • Those involved in the provision of home to school or college transport must do all that is reasonably practicable to maximise social distancing where possible and minimise the risk of transmission.

  • Local authorities are not required to uniformly apply social distancing guidelines for public transport on dedicated school or college transport. However, distancing should still be put in place within vehicles wherever possible.
  • This means that where fewer children and young people are attending school, particularly during the first week of term, sufficient levels of capacity should be maintained to maximise social distancing, including through the use of vacant seats where possible.
  • In accordance with advice from PHE, children and young people aged 11 and over must wear a face covering when travelling on dedicated transport to secondary school or college. This does not apply to people who are exempt from wearing a face covering on public transport
  • Pupils should not board home to school transport if they, or a member of their household, has had a positive test result or has symptoms of coronavirus 

Full guidance can be found here:

Specialist schools and specialist post-16 institutions
Primary and secondary schools