COVID-19: Guidance for wider school opening from 15th June for schools with KS4 and/or KS5

To help Secondaries, All throughs, Special schools or PRUs with KS4 and/or KS5 students and Post-16 establishments 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 released guidance for schools to help manage wider opening for schools from 15th June for Year 10, Year 12 and post 16 year groups. In summary:

  • Schools can begin taking attendance registers in Arbor for years 10 and 12
  • A maximum of 25% of students in those year groups should be physically attending on any given day (plus any vulnerable, ECHP, social worker, key worker students not in those year groups)
  • Where a pupil is not required to attend a session by the school they should be recorded as code X (not required to be in school). This applies to:
    • Students who are not in a year group eligible to attend
    • Students who are in a priority group (children of critical workers and vulnerable children) if they are not asked to attend a particular session/day. 
    • Children who are in an eligible year group but are not required in school for a specific session.
  • Schools can complete the DfE’s spreadsheet or use our 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 absences for children due to attend and bulk mark 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.

Everything outlined below applies to school of these types:

  • Secondaries
  • All throughs
  • Special schools or PRUs with KS4 and/or KS5 students
  • Post-16 establishments
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. 




Setup Part 1 - The Covid-19 Dashboard

Our 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, choose one of the auto-fill attendance mark options and decide which groups of students will appear by default in your Students tab.



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

We recommend that you don't use custom groups for any bubble teaching groups you may wish to set up - instead head to the Setting up additional scheduled lessons section to see how to create classes and enrol your students into registers.


For your Covid-19 Dashboard, you’ll need to create these 2 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.



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 Report. Please 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 should have implemented the new attendance guidance from 1st June, even if you were not opening more widely yet. This means If you are partially open, you should switch over to using X marks instead of the # code manually or by using our Auto-fill attendance marks. If you need to change any of your marks for previous days you will need to use the Bulk Edit Marks page.


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 if you have the Attendance: Administer permission by going to Students > Attendance > Covid-19 Dashboard > Settings. Please note: you'll need to have the School: General Admin: Administer permission to access this page.



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. Instead, we recommend you add any bubble classes that 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 wider opening, 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 dashboard won’t display accurate information.
Step 1 - Set up bubble registers

Please note: you will not be able to use TimeTabler to create bubble classes as this will override your current classes. You will only need to set up classes for students due to attend, so it’s likely you won’t be setting up a full timetable. 


Before you set this up, you’ll need to know which students will be expected to attend your school on which days. As the DfE is advising that only a maximum of 25% of students in year 10 and 12 should be physically attending on any given day (plus any vulnerable, ECHP, social worker, key worker students not in those year groups), you’ll need to create separate bubble classes for each group of students due to attend each day.

You can create classes with a different structure, the example below is just one way to create new classes for socially distanced registers. In my example, the students will remain in the same room for the whole day, so I’m only going to set up AM and PM registration to take attendance.

Go to School > Programmes > 2019/2020 Courses. I first need to create the new top-level course by clicking +Add from this page.



Now I can add modules to act as my student groups each day. You’ll need to set up as many modules as you will have cohorts of students, so if you had a different combination of students every day, you’d need to set all these up as separate modules.

Make sure to specify a year group so your Students page shows only your bubble group and not the whole of year 10 or year 12.

Click +Add in the modules section to add a new module.



Once you've created each module, you'll be taken to the overview for the module. 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 know one group of students will be in on Monday all day and Tuesday AM whereas another group will be in on Tuesday PM and Wednesday all day.



I can then click into each module and click More Information in the slide over to go to the module overview and timetable my sessions. 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. Add in a staff member to enable them to take the register.



Make sure you repeat this for every lesson you need to schedule for this student cohort.


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.

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.


Step 3 - Choose your bubble classes to include in your Students tab

Now you’ve set up your bubble groups, you can choose to display them by default in your Students tab on the Covid-19 Dashboard.

Go to Students > Attendance > Covid-19 Dashboard and click into the Settings tab. Select the Courses to be shown option.



In the slide over, select all of your bottom-level bubble courses then click Save.



Log out and then log back in to apply the default settings then your table in the Students tab will show these classes by default.

  • If you linked your class to a year group, the table will not display that year group but will display your class instead. In my example, my COVID class is linked to Year 10, so my filters no longer show Year 10 by default.
  • You won’t see students in the table who are not required to attend. Each class will only show if you have scheduled a lesson for them on the day selected. In my example, only one of my COVID groups is showing because only that group is scheduled to attend today.




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.



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.

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 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 mark should I use?

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, 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.

In the bubble class Lesson Dashboard, 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. 

Please note that in the example used you can see what will display at an all-through school. If you’re a secondary, you won’t see numbers for other year groups.



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 above 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 Dashboard. Please 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 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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