COVID-19: Current guidance for schools

Recent updates:

  • 8/3/21 - Added guidance on how to get figures for Wraparound care, and changes to the fields displayed in your Covid-19 Dashboard
  • 4/3/21 - Updated with the new attendance codes

In this article you can see:

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. You can see what questions the DfE are asking in their daily form, plus access a link to view their attendance codes update 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 pages, 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

Your timetable and registers from the 8th March

From the 8th March, as all students (apart from those clinically vulnerable or isolating) are expected to be in school, you should return to your regular timetable in order to take attendance.

You can see what steps you'll need to complete here: Setting up your timetable for the 8th March to align with Covid-19 regulations

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 covid-related absences should be marked with the correct absence code, regardless if they are attending online classes.

We advise only marking students as present if they are physically in school to prevent safeguarding issues (e.g. in case of a fire evacuation). 

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:

  • X01 - Non-compulsory school-age pupil not required to be in school - Sessions non-compulsory school-age children are not expected to attend such as Post-16 or Nursery.
  • X02 (previously Sym) - Self-isolating COVID-19 symptoms - Students self-isolating because they have symptoms of coronavirus but they have not yet had a positive test.
  • X03 (previously SII) - Self-isolating internal exposure to COVID-19 - Student was exposed to Covid-19 in your educational setting so is self-isolating e.g. classes sent home because of potential contact with a confirmed case. Includes test and trace where it applies.
  • X04 (previously SIE) - Self-isolating external exposure to COVID-19 - Student was exposed outside of your educational setting so is self-isolating e.g. a household member is a confirmed case. Includes pupils advised to self-isolate through test and trace where appropriate.
  • X05 - Quarantine requirement - Student required to be in quarantine on arrival in, or return to, the UK.
  • X06 - Shielding - Students who have been identified as clinically vulnerable and advised that they should not attend school.
  • X07 - Government attendance restrictions - To be used for future local or national restrictions to education settings.
  • X - Non-statutory school-age absence or covid-related absence -  Where possible, use one of the other codes to enable reporting on your Covid-19 Dashboard. This code can be used for covid-related absences not covered by the codes above.
  • I01 - Illness - Students absent due to non-coronavirus related illness.
  • I02 (previously Cov) - Illness - Confirmed case of COVID-19 - This is for pupils who have a confirmed case of coronavirus.
  • I - Illness - Where possible, use one of the other codes to enable reporting on your Covid-19 Dashboard. This code can be used for illness not covered by the codes above.

We expect schools to no longer need to use the C code for Covid-related absence from 8th March, but discuss with the DfE if you are unsure. For Secondary students who are undergoing testing at home and do not yet have a negative result, you should use the Y code - you can use planned absences to fill in this code.

Sym, SII, SIE and Cov codes have been automatically turned into X02, X03, X04 and I02 codes respectively in attendance logs, planned absences and reports.

How teachers should take attendance

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 pages 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

You can use planned absences for students who are absent due to Covid-19.

On the 8th March, we’ll be switching auto-fill marks in the Covid-19 Dashboard Settings tab to the ‘manual’ setting for all schools. If you’d previously switched on auto-fill marks, starting on the 8th, blank marks will not be filled with the X code each night.

You do not need to change this setting as we will do this for you. 

Whole classes who are absent or testing

If a whole class has been sent home due to potential contact within the school or who are undergoing testing, 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 from the Bulk Edit Marks pages.




Reporting on attendance

Reporting on students with a social worker

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 each day. If you don't yet have these set up you can create them from scratch.

For your Covid-19 Dashboard, you’ll need to use a custom group for students who have Social Worker.

You can continue to use these custom groups, but they are no longer reported on your Covid-19 Dashboard:

  • 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. 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 keep them separate.
Step 1 - Set up a custom group

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 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 students with a social worker 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 clickSave 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 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.

The crows tracking covid-related attendance have been added in line with the information the DfE is collecting in their daily form. We won't add in additional fields for other codes.



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 wraparound care

If your school offers wraparound care, you'll need to report this in your Daily Form. The DfE want to know:

  • How many pupils or students are attending wraparound provision? - how to find this number will depend on whether you track attendance for wraparound care through Arbor or using another system.
  • How many pupils or students are you unable to provide a place for wraparound provision? And of those pupils, how many have an EHC plan or a social worker? - see how to report on this below.
Reporting on EHCP and social worker

Download this report to your computer, then follow these instructions to import it into your school site.

It will show you a list of all students, their SEN status and whether they have been added to the Social Worker custom group (see the section above for how to set this up).



To filter your report to show only students who you have been unable to provide a place for wraparound care, you will need to Edit the report.

Add a filter for Custom Groups and select your 'unable to provide wraparound care' custom group - please note you will have needed to create the custom group




When you save and view your report, it will only show students for who you are unable to provide wraparound care. You can then easily count up which students have an Education, Health and Care Plan or who have a social worker. 




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.

Sym, SII, SIE and Cov codes have been automatically turned into X02, X03, X04 and I02 codes respectively in attendance logs, planned absences and reports. To report on the additional X01, X05, X06, X07 and I01 codes, edit your existing reports or set up our Custom Report Writer Covid-19 Related Absences template again.

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 X0? 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 X04 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, 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 our new attendance 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 so far this academic year.



Add extra columns to report on attendance as if the covid-related 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 Covid-19?

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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I'm still stuck!


  • 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.

  • Hi we have received a daily update from our LA today which says that we should be marking pupils of Key Workers who are not attending certain days as their parents are working shift work/part time as an X not a C as we have been previously advised. Has the guidance changed? I can't seem to find anything on the daily DfE emails or their website and your instructions are still showing as using C code.

  • Hi Julie, thanks for getting in touch. You can see in the section on What attendance codes should we use in Arbor? that X should be used for children who are not required in school (such as the children of key workers and vulnerable students). C should be used for children who would be required to attend but who's parents do not wish to send them in. 

    The guidance has not changed in that if you would usually require the student to attend and they are refusing to, it would be C, but if your school does not require them to attend on that day it would be X. Please note though that the DfE has advised wherever possible to not use a rota system.

  • Hi Gwyn

    Thanks for your message. Sorry I'm still a bit stuck on this.

    The message below is the one we have received from our LA which says about part time attendance for Key Worker children. We have actively encouraged Key Worker parents to keep their children at home if they don't need to send them into school i.e. if they work part time, to reduce the numbers of children in school. They are not technically refusing to send them to school but they could attend if they needed to. Should these children be marked X or C?

    The Arbor guidance you refer to says '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'. 

    Attendance Codes in the register

    Action: Please share this with any staff recording in the register and attendance leads.

    Code X – Government restrictions / Local Lockdown is to be used for all students not expected in, engaging in learning from home.

    Children of Critical / key workers who are physically in school will have daily attendance codes \ / entered in the register. If part-time attendees, as some parents / carers work shifts and only require a part time place, they will have the X code – Government Restrictions/ Local Lockdown entered for the days when they are remote learning from home.

    Vulnerable students are expected to be in school full time, attendees will have daily attendance codes \ / entered in the register. If they are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable or self-isolating the appropriate X codes should be used, If their parent/ carer choses to keep them at home for remote learning, the C  - Other Authorised Circumstances code is to be used. In these circumstances ensure the child’s social worker and multi-agency team agrees that this leave of absence is granted.

  • Hi Gwyn

    Following on from my previous message, new DfE guidance has just arrived which makes it clear which codes to use for Key Worker pupils when they are absent.

    Many thanks





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