Answers from Public Health to common questions and queries related to the national lockdown that began on 4 January 2021.

Last updated: 12 January 2021

For all settings which remain open, and for any activities that involve contact beyond the home bubble i.e. support groups, it is essential that services and schools continue to put mitigation measures in place. This includes carrying out risk assessments and infection control measures. See guidance (PDF).


Should we continue to allow visiting professionals into school?

Specialists, therapists, clinicians, and other external providers providing support for pupils with SEND or additional needs should provide interventions as usual. Where it is necessary to use supply staff and to welcome visitors to the school such as peripatetic teachers, those individuals will be expected to comply with the school’s arrangements for managing and minimising risk and schools should ensure that all temporary staff have access to the information on the safety arrangements in place.

Schools should consider how they are working with NHS and other wellbeing services to support the health and wellbeing of their pupils.

Do face coverings need to be used by secondary school pupils?

Since the national lockdown came into force on 5 January, schools and colleges should now take additional precautionary measures during this period. During national lockdown, in education settings where year 7 and above are educated, face coverings should be worn by adults (staff and visitors) and pupils when moving around indoors, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain. As in the general approach, it will not usually be necessary to wear face coverings in the classroom, where protective measures already mean the risks are lower, and they may inhibit teaching and learning.

Where anybody is struggling to access a face covering, or in cases where they have forgotten it, education settings should take steps to have a small contingency supply available to meet such needs. No one should be excluded from education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering. Some individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings. For example people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability, or if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate. The same exemptions will apply in education settings.

What are the reporting requirements for schools during the national lockdown?

Schools still need to continue to report coronavirus cases among staff and students who are still attending school in person to their public health team.

Will school vaccination programmes and school nursing services continue?

Yes. School vaccination programmes will continue through community clinics, and remain an essential element of the health protection for children and communities.

School nursing services will continue to offer support, even though most pupils will be continuing with remote learning until at least February half term. School nurses can offer a range of support including:

  • support for resilience, mental health and wellbeing including anxiety, bereavement and sleep issues
  • support for pupils with additional and complex health needs
  • supporting vulnerable children and keeping children safe
  • discussions with parents who may have Covid-related concerns about their child attending school

We provide peripatetic services into schools and may be visiting more than one school in a day?

Supply teachers, peripatetic teachers and other temporary staff can move between schools. They should ensure they minimise contact and maintain as much distance as possible from other staff. Specialists, therapists, clinicians and other support staff for pupils with SEND should provide interventions as usual.

If staff need to travel, they can also help control coronavirus by:

  • walking or cycling wherever possible
  • following social contact rules
  • keeping your distance when you travel, where possible
  • washing or sanitising your hands regularly
  • avoiding the busiest routes/interchanges, as well as busy times like the rush hour
  • alighting one or two stops earlier and continuing on foot.

To minimise the numbers of temporary staff entering the school premises, schools may wish to use longer assignments with supply staff and agree minimum number of hours across the remainder of the academic year.

Can supplementary schools open?

Colleges, primary and secondary schools will remain open only for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. You can find guidance on who is classed as a critical worker or a vulnerable child here. Schools for children with special educational needs will also remain open. All other children will learn remotely until February half term. Early Years settings (including nurseries and childminders) remain open.

Vulnerable children and children of critical workers can also continue to use registered childcare, childminders and other childcare activities (including wraparound care).

However, other registered childcare or supervised activities that are used as an ‘add-on’ or are primarily used by home educating parents as part of their arrangements for their child to receive a suitable full-time education are not able to remain open.

Where supplementary schools are not providing registered childcare as above, they are not permitted to open.

Clubs and activities

Guidance on the new restrictions from 4 January says that out-of-school activities may only continue to operate if their primary purpose is providing registered childcare (including wraparound care) for vulnerable children or children of critical workers.

All other out-of-school activities, not being primarily used for these purposes, should close for face-to-face provision for the duration of the national restrictions.

School use of leisure and sports facilities

In general, all leisure and sports facilities must close for the duration of the new national restrictions. However, sports facilities may stay open for ‘education and training – for schools to use sports, leisure and community facilities where there is part of their normal provision’. Organised outdoor sport for disabled children is permitted to continue.  

Early Years settings

Can early years settings continue to operate?

Early years settings and childminders can remain open, and you can continue to use these settings. Nannies will be able to continue to provide services, including in the home. Parents are able to form a childcare bubble with one other household for the purposes of informal childcare, where the child is 13 or under.

Some households will also be able to benefit from being in a support bubble, which allows single adult households to join another household.

Where can I find additional advice about early years settings?

As already referenced, early years settings and childminders can remain open and parents can continue to use these settings as normal. See the rationale for this decision.

Foundation Years have some useful FAQs (PDF) for the early years sector on the national lockdown including safety, testing and funding.

What about parent and child groups?

Support groups that have to be delivered in person can continue with up to 15 participants where formally organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support - but they must take place at a premises other than a private home. 

Parent-and-child groups can continue where they provide support to parent and/or child, and children under 5 will not be counted within the 15 person limit - meaning parents and carers can attend such groups in larger numbers. However, this would not typically permit parent-and-child groups focused on social or development activities, such as singalong groups or art classes.

VCS and Youth Services

Can youth services continue to operate?

Some youth services are able to continue, such as 1-1 youth work and support groups. Activities that can continue are those providing support to children or families, but youth clubs and groups that are primarily providing social functions will need to cease for this period. Activities can continue remotely.

What activities can we continue?

Community centres and halls must close except for a limited number of exempt activities:

  • childcare purposes and supervised activities for children
  • hosting blood donation sessions and food banks
  • to provide medical treatment
  • to provide care for vulnerable people,
  • to provide emergency assistance
  • to provide a support group (of up to 15 people), or for respite care where that care is being provided to a vulnerable person or a person with a disability

Which support groups can continue to operate?

An organisation can continue to provide group or one to one support for vulnerable people in the following circumstances, as these are all essential services.

  • to victims of crime (including domestic abuse);
  • to those with, or recovering from, addictions (including alcohol, narcotics or other
  • substance addictions) or addictive patterns of behaviour;
  • to new parents;
  • to those with, or caring for persons with, any long-term illness or terminal condition or
  • who are vulnerable;
  • to those facing issues related to their sexuality or identity including those living as
  • lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender;
  • to those who have suffered bereavement;
  • to vulnerable young people.

Support groups that have to be delivered in person can continue with up to 15 participants (where social distancing allows) where formally organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support - but they must take place at a premises other than a private home.

Sports and leisure facilities

The guidance on new national restrictions states that leisure and sports facilities must close, with few, very limited exceptions. The exceptions include facilitated activities for children where these provide a childcare function for vulnerable children or children of key workers, or where the purpose is genuine respite care. Additionally, organised outdoor sport for disabled people is allowed to continue, and where sports facilities are used for education and training i.e. for schools to use sports, leisure and community facilities where that is part of their normal provision, this may still continue. Training for extra-curricular purposes, for instance as part of clubs, should not take place.

Relevant guidance