Advice issued ahead of new school year

Reporter: Alice Richardson
Date published: 24 August 2020

The government has issued advice to families and teachers ahead of all children going back to school in a few weeks.

The advice includes guidance for students unhappy with their summer grades, high school exams, new compulsory assessments for primary school children and key curriculum changes.

The usual rules of compulsory school attendance and no holidays during school time will come back into play from September (unless children are shielding/exempt) and this will be enforced by local councils.

Here’s what families need to know ahead of the autumn term starting in September.


For high school students, those unhappy with their grades, either in GCSEs or A Levels, will be able to sit proper exams if they want a chance to change their results.

Additional A Level exams will be available to take in October and GCSEs will be available to take in November.

Anyone who wants to sit the exams needs to register no later than September 4 for A Levels and September 18 for GCSEs (except English and Maths, for which the deadline is October 4).

Students should speak to their teachers and schools to arrange exam entries.


The government has introduced new, compulsory assessments for all pupils starting Year 6 in September 2020.

The tests are due to take place in summer 2021 and the aim is to assess how much learning children have lost this year as a result of COVID-19 as well as preparing them for the transition to high school.

The assessments will be for Year 6 pupils in all schools across the country.

On its website, the government said: “Children and young people have missed a critical period of their education due to schools having to close to the majority of pupils to control the spread of coronavirus.

“It is vital that we better understand the impact of coronavirus on children’s education and give support to schools that need it the most. To support this, we are planning for statutory primary assessments for those going into Year 6 in September to take place in summer 2021.”


The government has made some changes to the national curriculum and highlighted changes to how teachers should conduct lessons in certain subjects.

Subjects most affected are likely to be Physical Education and Music, which the government said will need to be taught differently to keep people safe.

Exactly how teaching in these subjects should be managed was not made clear on the government website.

But the government did say it expects schools and colleges to return to a full timetable with all subjects previously on offer back up and running again from September.


Wearing face masks will not be mandatory for children and young people at schools, colleges, nurseries or childminders – but individual schools may impose their own rules.

When travelling to and from places of education, everyone is expected to wear a face covering, unless they are officially exempt.


The government expects all school and college kitchens and canteens to be fully open ready for the start of the autumn term.

It said food should be provided to all pupils that want it – including those eligible for free schools means and universal infant free school meals.


Educational school trips are now allowed to resume, but only if trips are within the UK.

Overnight stays are advised against, but schools are expected to take all measures possible to reduce risk.


After school and holiday clubs are now allowed to reopen for children of all ages.

The government just advises that families consider limiting the number of different environments they send their children to for after school/holiday care.


All schools are expected to make their own decisions on uniform, but the government has encouraged a return to normality and for any school uniforms to be reinstated.


School inspections by education watchdog Ofsted were suspended during the pandemic.

But routine inspections are due to begin again for all schools from January 2021.

In the meantime, inspection officers are due to visit a random selection of schools, colleges, nurseries and childminders to talk through how they’re supporting children and young people coming back to education.

These visits won’t result in any graded ratings.

For more information and resources, including mental health support for children and young people in their move back into education, visit the government website here:


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