COVID-19: Current guidance for schools

Recent updates:

  • 15/1/21 - Report lesson attendance or statutory roll call attendance on the Covid-19 Dashboard
  • 11/1/21 - Updates to the Covid-19 Dashboard for FSM and requested on-site education numbers
  • 6/1/21 - New auto-fill blank attendance marks option and guidance on the C and X codes
  • 5/1/21 - Attendance codes to use when school is partially closed, bubble classes and distance learning

In this article and in the video below you can see:

You can find further questions and answers from the webinar here.

For further details, you can see full guidance for schools around Covid-19 here. For attendance guidance from the DfE, you can read their guide here and their addendum on attendance here. You can see what questions the DfE are asking in their daily form here.

Permissions required to complete the actions outlined below
  • School: General Admin: Administer - access and use the Covid-19 Dashboard.
  • Student Profile: Action: Attendance: Administer All Students - edit attendance marks from the Bulk Edit Marks page, open registers and change register settings
  • Teaching: Administer - create, edit or delete timetable slots, import from TimeTabler, assign someone as the academic lead or to one lesson to be able to take the register
  • Academic Structure: Administer - add courses and assign staff as the academic lead
  • School: Action: Custom Group: View/Administer - set up custom groups
  • Student: Communications: Administer - send communications from the lesson dashboard

If you don't have the permission to complete an action, you can ask one of your school staff to give you the permission using these instructions



Taking attendance

Managing timetabling and attendance marks

Guidance for timetabling full and partial closures

Schools that are partially or wholly closed should not end their timetable, as this will prevent marks for being recorded and the Covid-19 Dashboard will not display the correct attendance figures. If you need to amend your timetable, see this article.

Schools should not add holiday days as this will prevent registers from being created and the Covid-19 Dashboard will not display the correct attendance figures. To remove holidays added in error, see this article.

Bubble classes

If your school is open to a few students (such as the children of key workers and vulnerable students), you can set up 'bubble classes' if required - see how to do this here.

If you need to make a note of which students fall into the vulnerable category you can set up a custom group (shown here), and for students who are children of key workers, you can use our bulk update feature. This will then make it easier to identify which students may still be attending your school.

Distance/remote learning

For students who are not attending school, you may be running online classes or supplying work to them. The DfE is not currently collecting information on attendance for online classes and work. As such, any students who are not physically present on site due to the school being closed should be marked with the X code, regardless if they are attending online classes.

We advise only marking students as present if they are physically in school (such as the children of key workers and vulnerable students), to prevent safeguarding issues (e.g. in case of a fire evacuation). You may find it useful to set up separate registers for children still physically attending to enable you to easily track their attendance - you can see how to do this here.

Although it is not currently possible to track attendance for online classes in Arbor, we integrate with a number of distance learning providers - you can see how to set up a connection here. You can also join the discussion in the Arbor Community to see how other schools are managing online classes.

What attendance codes should we use in Arbor?

Where children are not able to attend school as parents are following clinical and/or public health advice, the absence should map back to the X code, meaning this code does not count as an absence (authorised or unauthorised) for statistical purposes. These are the codes currently available for use in registers and interventions:

  • X - Not Required - This code should be used in two cases: for non-compulsory school age students who are not required to be in school, such as Post-16, and for absent students if your school is closed to most pupils, apart from those who are physically present in school (such as the children of key workers and vulnerable students). Please note: this code is currently named Not Required (Non-Compulsory School Age) in Arbor but is the correct code - we will be updating the description in Arbor to match both usages.
  • C - Other Authorised Absence - As certain children (such as the children of key workers and vulnerable students) are still expected to attend school, they should not be marked as Code X. If the parent of one of these children does not wish to send their child in, this should be marked with C unless another absence code is more applicable.
  • SII - Self-isolating internal exposure (maps to the statutory mark of X). Use this code if the student was exposed to Covid-19 in your educational setting and is self-isolating as a result
  • SIE - Self-isolating external exposure (maps to the statutory mark of X). Use this code if the student was exposed to Covid-19 outside of your educational setting and is self-isolating as a result. This includes self-isolation after traveling outside the UK, self-isolation due to a suspected case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the household and self-isolating requested by the NHS Test and Trace service.
  • Sym - Suspected case of Covid-19 (maps to the statutory mark of X). Use this code if the student is displaying symptoms but has not yet received a test result.
  • Cov - Confirmed case of Covid-19 (maps to the statutory mark of I). Use this code if the student has received a positive coronavirus (COVID-19) test result.

Teachers can access the registers in the usual way, and input present, absent or late marks. If your school restricts the attendance marks available to teachers, you can also use the Bulk Edit Marks page to edit any student marks (once the register has been opened), and you can also use these attendance marks in planned absences.

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





Filling in marks for students not attending

To help you to quickly mark all absent students, we have reintroduced the feature to automatically fill in blank attendance marks. This means you will only need to take attendance for your bubble classes each day.

  • If your school switches this on, Arbor will automatically fill in all blank marks each night with the X code until this setting is turned off. This will not change any marks from previous days, and will not override any inputted marks, so you will still be able to take attendance for key worker/vulnerable children.
  • If you do not switch this on, you will need to add in marks using planned absences and manually open the registers.
Switching on the auto-fill option

If you have the School: General Admin: Administer permission, you can switch on the feature from Students > Attendance > Covid-19 Dashboard.



Click into the Settings tab and click the top field to edit your setting.



We recommend selecting the Partially open option, as the DfE advises schools use the X code for those students not due in. Then click Save Changes.

Please note: Marks will not change immediately. Only blank marks that exist during the current day will be filled in with the X mark overnight.


Manually marking attendance

If you choose not to auto-fill blank attendance marks, you don't need to change any settings on your Covid-19 Dashboard.

You will need to mark any classes that are not running with the correct absence code. The quickest way to do this is to add a planned absence for the students for the full duration they will not attend school for with the correct Covid-related absence code as the pre-fill mark.

Whenever the class is due to take place, you will need to open the register for the planned absence marks to pull through as this will not update marks automatically. Go to Students > Attendance, click into that class' register and click the Open Register button to open it and pull through the marks. You can then edit marks in Bulk Edit Marks.




Reporting on attendance

Reporting on vulnerable, social worker and requested on-site education student groups

Use our attendance codes and the custom groups you've set up (sometimes referred to as user-defined groups in other systems) to enable us to pull through the right numbers to your Daily Report. You should continue to submit the information gathered via the DfE’s online form here by 2pm each day.

For your Covid-19 Dashboard, you’ll need to use 3 custom groups of students. If you don't yet have these set up you can create them from scratch:

  • Students who have requested on-site education that have a key worker guardian
  • 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.

Please note: as the DfE's definition of vulnerable now includes those who have a social worker. You can either include these students in both your social worker and vulnerable custom groups or select both groups on your Settings page (shown below).

Step 1 - Set them up

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.

For example, for the Requested on-site education group:

  • Add - students with 1 or more key worker guardians who have requested an on-site place
  • Do not add - students with 1 or more key worker guardians who have not requested an on-site place or students whose guardians have requested an on-site place for another reason, but whose guardians are not a key worker.



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


Step 2 - Select 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, students with a social worker and students with a key worker guardian who requested on-site education 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 groups, then click Save Changes. You can select multiple custom groups if needed.




Using your Covid-19 Dashboard

You can see totals for each group of students specified by the DfE on your Covid-19 Daily Report in Students > Attendance > Covid-19 Dashboard.

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


Choose which attendance marks to report on

Your covid-19 dashboard will display the most recently recorded lesson attendance for each student by default. This means that if a student misses registration but is present in school, you'll be able to report them as present to the DfE.

If you would like to change this to report on statutory roll call attendance instead, go to the Settings tab and click the Calculation basis field.



Change the setting In the slide over then click Save Changes.


Using the Covid-19 dashboard

The Covid-19 Dashboard will display the most recently recorded 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 see rows on your Covid-19 Daily Report for each category of covid-19 related absences currently being collected by the DfE. Please note that nursery students are not included in the overview totals for each field on the Daily Report.

For example, the On roll students with a key worker guardian who requested on-site education field is taken as the number of students enrolled in your school today who were added to the Requested on-site education group(s) field in the Settings tab, excluding any students who were added to the Vulnerable field.



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, so you can identify if a whole group of students is absent. In line with the DfE’s guidance, students may appear in more than one group so may be counted twice.

You can still see the number of nursery students, but note these do not contribute to your overall figure. Nursery students are excluded from the list of students contributing to the measure. To identify nursery students who are absent, you can use the Raw Attendance Marks page.



To help report on reasons for absence, you can see the notes recorded against the student's attendance mark. When you click into the slide over, you can order your columns to group students based the reason -  just click the column header to sort the notes. To help keep track, we recommend you agree on a set of naming conventions with your staff so that everyone uses the same term.




Reporting on attendance over time

You can report on the covid-related attendance codes from the Raw Attendance Marks page and within the Custom Report Writer. Read the sections below to see how the codes used impact your attendance figures and how to report on them.

How the covid-related codes impact attendance statistics

As our SII, SIE and Sym codes map back to the X code in line with DfE guidance, these do not count towards your attendance figures. This means you won't be able to report on these codes in the Attendance > Absentees or Statistics areas of Arbor.

The attendance figures on your Arbor Dashboard won't take these marks into account so will show a higher statistic for attendance than if these codes were included.



Students who have been marked with these codes will not have these marks included in their attendance statistics:

  • Students who have been marked with these codes since September will show N/A in their attendance statistics on their student profile.


  • Students who have been marked with only present or these codes will show as 100% attendance.


  • Students who have been marked with only absent or these codes will show as 0% attendance.


  • Students who have had a mix of present, absent and these codes will show attendance based on the present and absence marks only. For example, if the student has 26 present marks, 26 absent marks and 52 SIE marks, they will have 50% attendance.


Where you can report on the codes

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 (including the archived SI code), 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.

If you set up the templates before using the previous set of codes, you'll need to set it up again to pull in the fields for our SII and SIE codes.



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 (including the archived SI code) so far this academic year.



Add extra columns to report on attendance as if the covid-related SII, SIE, Sym and X codes were statistically significant by taking a look at our community post.



You can also report on any of the fields in your Covid-19 Dashboard in the Custom Report Writer - just add them as columns to new or existing reports.





Communicating with students and guardians

Academic leads can send emails or SMS directly from the lesson dashboard of a class to quickly notify them of any changes. You can see how to communicate with students and guardians here

You can also 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

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.




Want to know how other schools are managing the lockdown?

Reach out to the network of Arbor schools via our Digital Community - we’ve set up this thread dedicated to discussing how schools are managing the latest announcement. 

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  • Just in case this is useful to others, the DfE emailed this out this morning:

    Attendance recording in schools
    As vulnerable children are still expected to attend school full time, they should not be marked as Code X if they are not in school (except if they are shielding, self-isolating or quarantining). Schools and colleges should encourage vulnerable children to attend but if the parent of a vulnerable child wishes their child to be absent from school, the parent should let the school know that the pupil will not be attending. The Department for Education expects schools and colleges to grant such applications for leave given the exceptional circumstances. This should be recorded as code C (leave of absence authorised by the school) unless another authorised absence code is more applicable.

    As with vulnerable children, critical worker parents and carers should let schools know if their child will not be attending and, if not, schools should grant a leave of absence (code C) given the exceptional circumstances.

    All pupils who are not expected to be in school should be marked as Code X. They are not attending because they are following public health advice.

  • Hi Alex, thanks for posting this here!

    If anyone has any further questions or comments, please join the discussion in our community thread here.


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