School covid operational guidance update: January 2022

The majority of Covid restrictions have been removed in English schools. Rules have also been eased elsewhere in the UK, but some measures are being retained for the moment.

Staff and students without symptoms in England are no longer asked to test for Covid twice-weekly. Secondary school pupils also don’t need to wear masks. The legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive test is also being removed, although it is still recommended.

The information in the support article below was current at the time it was published. You may still find it useful for reference purposes.


The Prime Minister announced on 19 January that the temporary introduction of Plan B is to end. As a result, the Plan B measures in schools are being removed.

If you are an Edapt subscriber, you can contact us for advice and support with any questions or concerns you might have.

In this support article, we provide an overview of the main changes and link to further information on the GOV.UK website.

Face masks: what is the situation?

The Department for Education’s (DfE’s) ‘Schools Covid-19 operational guidance’ explains that from 20 January, face coverings are no longer advised for pupils, staff and visitors in classrooms.

From 27 January, face coverings are no longer advised for pupils, staff and visitors in communal areas. From 27 January, staff and pupils should follow wider advice on face coverings outside of school, including on transport to and from school.

No pupil should be denied education on the grounds that they are, or are not, wearing a face covering

Lateral flow tests: what should be happening?

The DfE explains staff and secondary school pupils should continue to test twice weekly at home, with lateral flow device (LFD) test kits, 3-4 days apart. Testing remains voluntary but is strongly encouraged.

Secondary schools should also retain a small asymptomatic testing site (ATS) on-site until further notice so they can offer testing to pupils who are unable to test themselves at home.

Schools are strongly encouraged to ask parents and other visitors to take a LFD test before entering the school.

There is no need for primary age pupils (those in year 6 and below) to regularly test, unless they have been identified as a contact for someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 and therefore advised to take lateral flow tests every day for 7 days.

Mandatory certification

From 27 January, mandatory certification is no longer in place and so venues and events are not required by law to use the NHS COVID Pass as a condition of entry, but some may do so voluntarily.

Schools should not use the NHS COVID Pass as a condition of entry for education or related activities such as exams, teaching, extra-curricular activities or any other day-to-day activities that are part of education or training.

School inspection

For state-funded schools, Ofsted has resumed its programme of routine inspections and will aim to inspect every state-funded school within the next 5 academic years. This will mean an extension of up to 6 terms in the inspection interval for those schools not inspected since the start of the pandemic.

Within the 5-year period, Ofsted will continue to prioritise schools most in need of inspection, particularly those with the lowest Ofsted grades.

It will also prioritise outstanding schools that were previously exempt from routine inspection that have gone the longest without a visit. For independent schools (other than academies), both Ofsted and the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) have resumed their programme of routine inspections and they will complete the current cycle of standard inspections – which was delayed by the pandemic – in 2022.

Accountability expectations

The DfE will not publish data based on exam and assessment results from summer 2021 in performance tables and schools will not be held to account for this data. It will publish Key Stage 4 and 16 to 18 subject entries and destinations data at school and college level in performance tables in autumn 2021.

For the academic year 2021 to 2022, results from qualifications achieved at key stage 4 and post 16 will be published at school and college level on performance tables.

The DfE will not publish the results of Key Stage 2 primary assessments. It will still produce the normal suite of KS2 accountability measures and share these securely with schools, academy trusts, local authorities and Ofsted.

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