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School closure advice

Types of school closure

There are two types of closure:

Emergency closure

This would happen where there is no warning of a situation and the headteacher makes the decision that the school cannot open. Examples could include during or after an emergency incident such as a fire or flood, bad weather (snow) or the unexpected failure of an essential utility.

Planned closure

This would occur where the headteacher receives prior warning of a situation which they decide will have an effect on the school being able open. Examples could include where a utility company gives prior warning that a service will be unavailable or if the school is used as a polling station.

Alternative arrangements should be made where possible which reduce the need for complete closure, particularly in a non-emergency situation.

It is good practice for governors to define criteria the decision to close the school is based on. These criteria can assist the headteacher when making a decision, at what could be a very critical time.

The following are examples of top level criteria that schools may wish to use:

  • inadequate number of staff to supervise pupils
  • loss or damage to facilities, equipment or utilities which result in health and safety issues
  • health and safety issues such as asbestos, chemical leak or spillage
  • the emotional wellbeing of the school or wider community
  • environmental health issues
  • an emergency incident such as bomb alert, fire, or flood
  • staff and / or pupils being exposed to unnecessary danger

Criteria for closing should be specific to the school and appropriately risk based. Governors should determine an appropriate minimal level against each criteria for a sufficient decision to be made following a risk assessment.

All alternatives should be considered prior to closure. Where appropriate contingency arrangements should be made so it is not necessary to close the whole school.

Governors and headteachers should also consider the relevant statutory requirements and the obligations placed upon them. Further advice and information is available on the Department for Education website.

Not all closures will be due to a critical event but in the event of an emergency the Emergency Planning Duty Officer should be informed of the situation. The Duty Officer will coordinate assistance and advice to support the school as necessary.

Due to the nature of the emergency or exceptional situation the decision to close may be taken at very short notice. Advice can be provided by relevant sections from the local authority or other agencies. However, the local authority does not approve temporary closure.

Headteachers should use their school's own website, MyText and other communication channels available to them to keep parents and other members of the school community informed of the situation.

We recommend that schools prepare their own critical incident plan, including business continuity arrangements to ensure they are prepared to deal with an emergency situation.

Last updated 12 June 2024