COVID-19: Guidance for wider school opening from 1st June for Primaries

To help schools with wider opening, we've included all our new resources for schools in this article. Based on the guidance from the DfE and best practises, we've outlined:


Looking to report on attendance between September and the start of Covid-19? You can import our Custom Report Writer template!



What have we implemented and why?

The DfE has now released further guidance for schools to help manage a phased return for schools from June 1st for Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 and from 15th June for Year 10, Year 12 and post-16 year groups. In summary:

  • Schools can begin taking attendance registers in Arbor for year groups authorised to return from 1st June
  • They should seek to reduce the size of their classes and stagger break and lunchtimes, as well as drop-offs and pickups
  • Schools can complete the DfE’s spreadsheet or use our new Covid-19 Dashboard to total numbers for children attending your school
  • Information from the spreadsheet should then be submitted via the DfE’s online form here by 12 noon each day:

We’ve implemented the ability for you to record new absences for children due to attend and bulk marks students who are not required to attend, and we’ve built a new page in Arbor which allows you to generate the numbers required for the DfE’s spreadsheet and follow up with absentees.

Version history

For your reference, you can see any changes we've made in this version history:


What permissions are needed?

If you don’t have one of the permissions you need, contact the admin team at your school. This guide will show them how to assign the permission to your profile. 


00:00 - Are bubble groups needed and how to create them
10:55 - Covid Dashboard Automatic Attendance 
14:55 - Defining Groups Custom Groups and how to add additional students
18:55 - Questions from schools
26:06 - New Covid attendance codes 
28:46 - Daily Report compared to the DfE Educational setting status form
34:14 - How to bulk edit marks and planned absences
37:16 - Questions from schools


Setup Part 1 - The Covid-19 Dashboard

Our new Covid-19 dashboard allows you to see students attendance marks for today, follow-up with absentees and generate the numbers required for the DfE’s spreadsheet. To access this page, just go to Students > Attendance > Covid-19 Dashboard (you'll need to have the School: General Admin: Administer permission).

To allow you to report the correct figures in your Daily Report tab, you'll first need to set up two custom groups, as Arbor does not already have these student background indicators. You'll then need to specify your custom groups, and choose one of the auto-fill attendance mark options.



Although we provisioned some Custom Groups on the 23rd March onto all sites to help identify some possible vulnerable students,  we recommend that you set up new custom groups manually to group your students together (shown below).

Step 1 - Set up your custom groups

First, you’ll need to choose which custom groups to use to calculate your DfE figures. Arbor gives you complete flexibility to define your own group of students to include. 

You’ll need to create these groups of students:

  • Students that your school classes as Vulnerable.  You can find the DfE's guidance on what constitutes 'vulnerable' here.
  • A group that includes students who have Social Worker. 

Go to School > School Structure > Custom Groups and click on the +Add button.



From the Members tab, click +Add in the Current and Future Members section.



Choose the students to enrol in this group, and the date range they will be enrolled in this group for, then click Add Members.



Top Tip: Press your cmd or ctrl + A keys to select all students, then just click any students you don't want to add to the group - great for excluding just a few students when reporting!



The students you have added will then appear in the Current and Future Members section.


Step 2 - Choose which custom groups to use

To set which custom groups to use in your reporting, go to Students > Attendance > Covid-19 Dashboard and the Settings tab, and click to define the custom groups you will use. This will allow you to report on the number of vulnerable students and students with a social worker attending each day in your Daily ReportPlease note: you'll need to have the School: General Admin: Administer permission to access this page.



In the slide over, select your custom group for vulnerable students and students with social workers, then click Save Changes.


Step 3 - Choose an Auto-fill attendance mark option

You'll need to implement the new attendance guidance from 1st June, even if you are not opening more widely yet. This means if you are still partially open, you should switch over to using X marks instead of the # code manually or by using our Auto-fill attendance marks.

To allow you to focus on the students who are coming in, we've created the option to allow Arbor to take care of the marks for students who are not expected in. If you select one of the automatic options, we will update any marks overnight.

The options are:

  1. Closed - Our school is fully closed (also closed to key worker children). Arbor will overwrite all marks with # at the end of the day.
  2. Partially Open - Our school is open to some year groups and/or key worker children. Arbor will mark all blank marks with X at the end of the day.
  3. Manual - No automation - our school will handle attendance manually. Arbor will not set any automatic attendance.

To help you decide which option suits your school, answer the following questions.



By default, we will not apply any of these options. 

If you had previously selected Auto-fill all future marks to ‘#’ we will continue to bulk fill and override all registers with the hash code you can simply disable this from your Attendance screen, just go to Students > Attendance > Daily Attendance and click the red button Disable auto-fill of  ‘#’. 

Any option picked will not affect clubs or trips, but will affect the following events that contribute to roll-call marks:

  • Registration periods
  • Lessons
  • Internal exclusions
  • Interventions 

You can enable these options from the same place as you set your custom groups.



When you enable one of these options, Arbor will automatically apply the setting you choose every night until this setting is turned off. As this process happens overnight for registers that took place today, the registers for tomorrow won't yet be filled with codes.

We will only fill registers from the day you turn the setting on, onwards. We will not change any marks from the day before you click this button or prior. However, you can manually add codes for previous days if you wish. To fill past registers you’ll need to use the Bulk Edit Marks page.



Setup Part 2 - Setting up additional scheduled lessons

We urge schools to not remove any of your current registration groups, or end any of your scheduled registration sessions, courses or classes as this can impact your New School Year Setup and API integrations. You can add any additional registration sessions or classes you need.

For detailed tips and best practices on creating a socially distanced school timetable, take a look at our blog post. We’ve also created a topic in the Arbor Community so you can speak to other Arbor schools about how they are managing their reopening from the 1st June, click here to get involved.

Important notices:

  • During this process, there will be timetable clashes. This is unavoidable due to the current circumstances and you will need to ignore these.
  • Our new Daily Report tab will only be able to count up the day’s attendance marks so far. If you have students scheduled to come in during the afternoon only, they will not be counted in the figures until afternoon registers have been taken.
  • Due to the DfE using non-statistical marks, your main Arbor Dashboard won’t display accurate information. 
Step 1 - Set up extra registers if needed

You can simply create new classes, enrol your students into them, and schedule your lessons. You can create classes with a different structure, the example below is just one way to create new classes for socially distanced registers.

Go to School > Programmes > 2019/2020 Courses. Here you’ll see my existing registration classes, I have two for each year group.



As I know there are 30 students in each group, I’m going to split each of my registration forms into two to comply with the DfE’s guidelines of no more than 15 students per class.

To do this, I first need to create the new top-level course of registration by clicking +Add from this page.



In the course overview, I can now add modules. Each of these modules is going to be my year groups. As not all of my year groups are returning, I won’t need to set up a module for each.




Once you've created each module, you'll be taken to the overview for the module itself. To prevent you from creating modules inside another when you don't mean to, it's a good idea to return to your top-level course after adding each module to see what you have left to do. At the top of the module overview, click the Component of field and click More information in the slide over.



In my example, I’ve set up modules for Year 1, Year 6 and a mixed class for my students in other year groups.



I can then click into each module and click More Information in the slide over to go to the module overview. 

I'm going to add modules within my module. These will be the register groups.



This time I can select an academic lead to ensure they’ll be able to take the registers.



Remember to check which groups you've set up by clicking the Component of field at the top of the sub-module and click More information in the slide over.



Now I can timetable my lessons. This will need to be completed for each bottom-level module I’ve set up. I can click into a module to visit the overview, then click +Add in the Classes & Lessons section to schedule multiple lessons.



In the slide over, I’ll need to set the start and end times of the lessons (accounting for any changes in drop-off times and making sure they overlap with your Roll Call times), and set the date to begin when your students are returning.



If you want to have registers in the morning and in the afternoon, make sure to also set up PM sessions, with a gap between for lunch.


Step 2 - Enrolling students into your extra registers

To do this, go to School > Programmes > 2019/2020 Courses and go to the Table View tab. Click on the course, then click the Enrol Students button.



You can then select the students to enrol. Make sure you do not enrol them in other bottom-level groups, and set the date to begin when your students are returning.


How to check your structure and move modules if needed

To prevent you from creating modules inside another when you don't mean to, it's a good idea to check what you've set up as you go along to see what you have left to do.

To check your structure, go to School > Programmes > 2019/2020 Courses. Find your bubble registers and click the + symbols to check you've set up the right number of modules with the right structure.

It's up to you how you structure your modules, but here is one example. Here you can also see I still need to schedule lessons for some bottom-level modules.



Need to move a module to a different place? There's no need to delete everything and start again! Just click the module you want to move.



On the overview, click the Component of field. 



Click Edit in the slide over, then choose the module to move this one into, then click the green button to move it.



Taking Attendance

Although schools may wish to record attendance in Arbor, 'Schools and colleges will not be held to account for attendance levels' (taken from section 7.8 of the DfE's guidance here). The only requirement from the DfE for attendance figures during this time is to complete the DfE’s online form each day:

For students not required to attend, you can set one of our Auto-fill options (shown in the Covid-19 Dashboard section), or fill in marks manually.

Taking attendance for students due to attend

Teachers assigned to the new classes you’ve set up will be able to access the registers in the usual way, and input present, absent or late marks for any students in groups who are meant to attend.

Need to give someone access to take the registers? Follow the instructions in this article: Giving permission for other staff to take attendance registers

They will need to ignore any timetable clashes on the Lesson Dashboard and in the register.



For any students in these groups not attending for other reasons, you’ll be able to record this in registers using our new attendance marks:

  • C19 (I- Illness with Covid symptoms) 
  • Sh - (Y - Shielding due to Covid-19 
  • Iso - (Y -Self-isolating due to Covid-19)

Using these new attendance marks will allow Arbor to create your daily attendance figures that can then be used to fill out the DfE educational setting status form.

If a student is not sick and is due to come to school, but their parent/guardian decides for them not to attend this would be a C mark. You can use Bulk Edit Marks or planned absences to fill in this code.

If your school restricts the attendance marks available to teachers, you can also use the Bulk Edit Marks page to edit any student marks, and you can also use these new attendance marks in planned absences


What absence marks do I use if a student is not here?

Once you've figured out which marks to use, you can use our Auto-fill option to automatically fill in blank marks with # or X. You can also use Bulk Edit Marks or planned absences to fill in these codes manually, or fill in others such as the C code.

For complete definitions, please see this article.


Printable registers/ Emergency evacuation registers

Due to the additional bubble classes you may be creating from 1st June the best way to create an evacuation register has changed, because it will not show your new bubble classes.

You can generate a printable register for one lesson from the Lesson Dashboard.



To generate printable registers for the whole day, go to Students > Attendance > Reports and generate printable lesson registers for today.


Meal registers

If you've already set up meals in Arbor you won't need to change anything or set anything else up to be able to take meal registers for your bubble groups as normal.

Because meal registers are linked to the morning session, not a particular lesson, you'll be able to just go to the meal register of your bubble class. There's no need to access your normal lesson dashboards.

For example, here's one of my bubble class I've set up.



I can just go to Meal Choices on the left-hand side to fill in choices for the day.




Submitting attendance data to the DfE

Once you've defined your vulnerable students and social worker custom groups (shown in the Covid-19 Dashboard section), you can use the Daily Report tab to generate the numbers required for the DfE's form each day. 

Step 1 - Get the numbers from the Daily Report tab

To see your figures each day for the DfE, go to the Daily Report tab and make sure today’s date has been selected. In the table, you will see how many belong to each category, as well as some totals for each year group.

On 1st June, the DfE have let us know they will be collecting further details from schools, so on 2nd June we have added the ability to collect these new data points from the table:

  • How many students attending are in Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6
  • Of the ECHP, Social Worker, Vulnerable and Keyworker children, how many are in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6?
  • How many students are not attending due to any kind of illness, isolation or shielding?
  • Of those ill, isolating or shielding, how many are in nursery, reception, year 1 or year 6?



If you click on a field you can see a list of students who are counted in this group on the date chosen. In line with the DfE’s guidance, students may appear in more than one group so will be counted twice.


Step 2 - Submit your figures to the DfE

Information from the spreadsheet should then be submitted via the DfE’s online form here by 12 noon each day:

Below you can see each question in the DfE's form next to what field will produce this information in Arbor.








Following up with students

How to follow up with students from our Covid-19 Dashboard

For any students that are due to attend but do not come in, you can follow-up with them from our Covid-19 DashboardPlease note: you'll need to have the School: General Admin: Administer permission to access this page.

  1. In the Students tab, choose which students to display in the filters
  2. Click the arrows in the Mark column to group certain marks together
  3. Tick the boxes next to the students to follow up with
  4. Click the blue pencil and select the method you’ll use to message the student’s primary guardians.



You’ll then be taken to the New Mail Merge creator, where you can draft and send your message from, with these student’s primary guardians selected as the recipients. You can also use communication templates from this page, click here for more information.




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