COVID-19: Guidance for full school opening from September

Following this announcement from the DfE that schools should prepare to open fully in September, you'll find guidance in this article on:

  1. The changes we've made to the Covid-19 Dashboard and attendance taking since the summer term
  2. How you can make changes to your timetable and Roll Call times if needed
  3. How to check your timetable suits all your students and staff
  4. How to ensure statutory attendance is taken correctly
  5. Using the Covid-19 Dashboard and how to follow up with students
  6. How and where to report on attendance

This article applies to all schools apart from early years only settings, further education colleges and special schools.


What has changed since the summer term?

To align with the DfE's guidance here is a summary in regards to using your MIS:

  • From the start of the new school year, we’ve switched off the ability to auto-fill attendance marks as all student year groups are expected to be in school. You'll need to take attendance for your classes and record attendance marks in the normal way.
  • Last term, the Y code was used to record absence due to coronavirus but for 2020/21 should only be used for its standard purpose. We have retired the old codes of Iso (self-isolating due to Covid-19), Sh (shielding due to Covid-19) and C19 (Illness with Covid-19 symptoms). You can see how to use our new attendance codes for 2020/21 in the Taking attendance section.
  • The Covid-19 Dashboard now shows the new figures required by the DfE including a breakdown for each year group.
  • You can continue to record staff absence as outlined here.

Guidance on managing student 'bubbles'

The DfE advises that wherever possible, schools should continue to maintain distinct groups or ‘bubbles’ that do not mix by splitting students into classes (recommended for primaries) or year groups (recommended for secondaries and larger schools to enable a breadth of the curriculum). Teachers and other staff can move between different bubbles where needed.

This means if you are a secondary or all-through and usually use mixed-year registration forms you may want to consider changing this so students attend registration only with other students within their year group. You can see how to do this in this articleSupport structures may be easier to set up within year groups, and if further social distancing and school closures are required again in the future, this structure will minimise the admin required to amend your setup.


Your timetable for 2020 Autumn term

The DfE guidance outlines schools should teach a broad curriculum of subjects while prioritising covering the most important missed content where possible (such as prioritising English and Maths where needed) without removing subjects from the curriculum.

Curriculum planning should be informed by assessments of student's current ability and progress through the year, perhaps in the form of regular Formative Assessment, but there is no requirement to do so if this would burden you to set this up and your teachers to input marks.

When timetabling, student 'bubbles' should be kept apart and schools should consider staggering start and end times and break times and lunchtimes where possible if required to keep children separate. This should not reduce the amount of overall teaching time. Schools should aim to return to the school’s normal curriculum in all subjects by the Summer term 2021.

Editing your existing timetable in Arbor

You can easily make changes to the timetable slots you've already set up or imported from TimeTabler in Arbor from School > Timetable > Timetable Administration > Timetable Slots.

  • To edit timetable slot rooms, staff, times and dates and delete unneeded slots: Editing timetable slots and lesson times
  • To add new timetable slots just go to School > Programmes > Courses and click the lesson, then click +Add in the Classes & Lessons section.


Importing a new timetable from TimeTabler

You may wish to create a timetable with staggered start times, breaks and lunches in TimeTabler and import this into Arbor. You can see how to import your timetable in this article.

However, to make changes in TimeTabler to stagger start and end times and breaks, you would need to set up additional periods to place lessons into, which could take some time. Therefore it may be easier and quicker, in this case, to simply to edit the slots directly in Arbor as shown in the section above.

  • If you haven't yet imported your timetable into Arbor using TimeTabler as part of the New School Year setup you can follow our guidelines here.
  • If you want to replace the timetable you already have in Arbor for September and the year has not yet begun, importing a new timetable will override the timetable you've set up for next year. You don't need to delete your timetable slots in Arbor.
Setting your Roll Call times

You may wish to have students come in for AM and PM registration/Roll Call at different times. For instance, Year 7's registration time is 8:00 - 8:30, Year 8's is 8.15 - 8:45,  and Year 9's is 8:30 - 9:00. To make sure all student's registration marks are pulled into their Statutory attendance, the current method is to extend your roll call times. So for my example, my roll call times would need to be extended to between 8.00 and 9.00.

If you have the General Admin: Administer permission, you'll be able to extend your roll call times if needed between 2pm and 5pm from Students > Attendance > Admin > Roll Call Setup.

To prevent recalculation of past statutory Roll Call attendance, do not edit your current Roll Call times. Instead, click +Add to add a new one from September moving forwards. 




This will automatically add an end date for your current Roll Call times as the day before. Then click into your PM Roll Call time and repeat the process.




Timetable Periods 

Some of our schools define timetable periods in Arbor to help align attendance marks together.

We recommend you do not use timetable periods from September if you'll be staggering registration and break times. This is because it's likely your classes across different year groups will not align into set timetable periods. Setting up timetable periods will make it more difficult to manage attendance, such as distinguishing when a mark was taken on the Bulk Edit Marks page.

If you have already defined timetable periods, you may wish to delete them. To do so, go to School > Timetable > Timetable Administration > Timetable Settings. Make sure you have the right academic year, then click the box next to the blue pencil icon to select all your periods. Click the blue pencil icon to select to Delete timetable periods.



Editing your Meal Sittings

If you use the Meals module in Arbor you may wish to create different meal times for different student groups. You might need to edit your meal sitting times, or create more meal sittings from School > Meals > Setup > Meal > Meal Sittings Scheduled.

Click into a slot to edit the time of the sitting, or click the green button at the top to add a new sitting.



Here's an example second meal sitting I've set up, leaving room in between for cleaning.



To move students to a different meal sitting, return back to the Setup page and click into the Attendees section and go to the Automatic Group Attendees tab. Here you'll see your student groups in each sitting.



To move a group into a different sitting, click the group and click Remove Automatic Attendees.



Then click +Add in the section for your other sitting and select that student group to add them.




Checking your timetable works for everyone


You can check for clashes in student or staff timetables from School > Timetable > School Timetable > Clashes.

  • If you have many clashes for the same lesson, you might want to edit the time of the lesson to a better slot, shown in the section above on editing your timetable.
  • If you have just a few clashes, here's how to resolve them: I can see that Aaron has a clash as his Maths and English lessons are scheduled to be at the same time. 



To fix this, I can go to the Enrolment section of his Student Profile and transfer him to a different class that takes place at a time that doesn't clash.



For some enrolments, these will have been done automatically from a teaching group and you won't be able to edit from here.



You'll need to click into the enrolment into the teaching group and edit that instead.


Timetable gaps

If a student is missing from a register you might need to fill in any timetable gaps for them. Take a look at their Calendar on their Student Profile. In this example, I can see a gap at 11 am on Thursdays.



To add them into the class they should be in at that time, go to the Enrolment section on their Student Profile and click +Add to add them to the right course.

In the slide over, choose the date they should have been enrolled in the class, and choose the classes and top-level courses to enrol them into, then click Enrol in Courses & Classes.



The student will then no longer have a gap in their calendar.


Room clashes and free rooms

Check if there are any room clashes and ensure there is adequate spacing of classes to allow for cleaning from School > Timetable > Sites & Rooms > Room Timetable.



Find free rooms to move classes into from the Free Room Finder page.




Taking attendance

In accordance with this addendum from the DfE on recording attendance, in September 2020 all groups of students are required to attend school again, so schools must record and follow up with attendance in the normal way.

Where children are not able to attend school as parents are following clinical and/or public health advice, the absence should be recorded as ‘not attending in circumstances related to coronavirus (COVID-19)’ and should map back to the X code. This code means the absence is not be penalised - this code does not count as an absence (authorised or unauthorised) for statistical purposes. To enable schools to record this, we have added new attendance codes.

Attendance codes to use in Arbor

The attendance codes from last term have now been archived, and will only be available to view in reporting for the 2019/20 academic year. For CTFs and the Capita One export, these codes will be output as Y for dates falling within the academic year 2019/2020:

  • C19 - Illness with Covid-19 symptoms (maps to the statutory mark of I)
  • Iso - Self Isolating due to Covid-19 (maps to the statutory mark of Y)
  • Sh - Shielding due to Covid-19 (maps to the statutory mark of Y)

To enable schools to report on students with suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19 or who are required to remain at home a result being in contact with a confirmed case on the Covid-19 Dashboard, we have added these new attendance codes:

  • SI - Self-isolating due to exposure to Covid-19 (maps to the statutory mark of X)
  • Sym - Suspected case of Covid-19 (maps to the statutory mark of X)
  • Cov - Confirmed case of Covid-19 (maps to the statutory mark of I)

We recommend only using the standard X code in Arbor for students for whom statutory attendance is not required, such as nursery or Post-16, or for students who are in quarantine due to travel restrictions such as having come back from holiday abroad. This will allow you to report on reasons for absence on your Covid-19 Dashboard separately. We also recommend using our new code Cov code for confirmed cases rather than the standard I code to enable you to report on reasons for illness separately.

If the student has been marked absent with the Sym (Suspected case of Covid-19) and the household member is then confirmed as having Covid-19, the student should then be marked as SI (Self-isolating due to exposure to Covid-19). If the household member proves negative for Covid-19 then the student should return to school.

The C code (Other Authorised Absence) should no longer be used if the student is being kept at home, as the absence is not authorised. You should use the standard absent mark.


How to take attendance

Teachers assigned to the new classes for September 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. 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 plannedabsences.

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


We’ve also switched off the ability to auto-fill attendance marks as all student year groups are expected to be in school. You'll need to take attendance for your classes and record attendance marks in the normal way. You can see this has been switched off in the Settings tab of your Covid-19 Dashboard and you won't be able to edit the setting.




Submitting data to the DfE

The DfE have published an updated version of the daily attendance form that schools need to fill in. The questions are no longer broken down by year group, but they are now tracking numbers of children who are suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19, or who are remaining at home as a result of being in contact with a confirmed case. As such, it's important to use our updated attendance codes when needed, to enable the Daily Report to output the correct figures for you.

  • We have updated the Daily Report in Students > Attendance > Covid-19 Dashboard to enable you to find numbers the DfE will be tracking.
  • The information you've gathered should then be submitted via the DfE’s online form here by 12 noon each day.

You can see totals for each group of students specified by the DfE. When you click on a field you can also view a breakdown for each year group and a full list of students that contribute to the numbers. In line with the DfE’s guidance, students may appear in more than one group so may be counted twice.

Please note that the Covid-19 Dashboard will display the most recently recorded lesson attendance - check your reported numbers, and follow up if attendance hasn't been taken yet for the time period's lesson's using the Incomplete Registers page.

You'll need to have the School: General Admin: Administer permission to access and use the Covid-19 Dashboard. If you can't access the dashboard, you can ask one of your school staff to give you the permission using these instructions



Vulnerable and social worker student groups

For your Covid-19 Dashboard, you’ll need to use 2 custom groups of students. You can copy these over from last year if you used them in the summer term or create them from scratch:

  • 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.

Step 1 - Set them up

Option 1 - Copying them over from last year

Go to School > School Structure > School Year Setup and click into step 4.Custom Groups.

Click the Return to incomplete button, then click the top field to select your custom groups to copy.



In the slide over, select to copy over your vulnerable student and social worker custom groups, and the students in them. Then mark the step as complete again.


Option 2 - Creating them from scratch

To create them from scratch, go to School > School Structure > Custom Groups and click to add a new custom group.



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.



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



Step 2 - Select them on your dashboard

Setting the custom groups to use on your Covid-19 Dashboard

To set which custom groups to use in your reporting, go to the Settings tab of your Covid-19 Dashboard 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.





Following-up with students

You can continue to use the Covid-19 Dashboard to follow up with students who do not come in if you have the School: General Admin: Administer permission.

Sending an email, SMS or letter to Primary Guardians from the Covid-19 Dashboard

By default from September, the filters on the Students tab will be set to display all your year groups plus identified vulnerable groups from your Settings tab. 

  1. Click the arrows in the Mark column to group certain marks together
  2. Tick the boxes next to the students to follow up with
  3. 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.





Reporting on attendance

As our new SI and Sym codes map back to the X code, these do not count towards your attendance figures. This means:

  • You won't be able to report on these codes in the Attendance > Absentees area of Arbor
  • The attendance figures on your Arbor Dashboard won't include these marks, so the figures won't take into account these marks


  • Students who have been marked with these codes for the whole of the term will show N/A in their attendance statistics on their student profile



To see attendance figures for today, use the Covid-19 Dashboard or for analysis over a longer period you can use the Attendance > Admin > Raw Attendance Marks page. Use the filters to change your reporting dates and look at the specific Covid-related absences, and select Lesson attendance to view any notes attached.



To look at total figures for each attendance mark, you can use our out-of-the-box Custom Report Writer Template. Go to School > Custom Report Writer and click to create a new report, selecting our template to use.



Don't change any of the date settings, and click to Skip setup wizard when you can see the step to choose your report columns.

You'll then be able to save and view the report, which will show you student's UPNs, reg forms, tutors, present and absent marks and percentages, and a total for how many lessons they have had marked with one of our Covid-related attendance codes so far this academic year.


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