COVID-19: Schools Update - 16 April

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schools update

Latest update for all schools - 16 April

dan barton

Dear All,

A long update for you today, but please do take the time to read through; some useful updates around complaints, which you’ll want to have a look at.

As the weeks go on, we are turning our attention ever more to the situation in which our most vulnerable children find themselves and, notwithstanding the obvious position we have taken about people being safest at home, we’re keen to ensure that those children open to Social Care who have been offered a place are taking them up where possible. We’re developing a system to close the loop on this, so that non-attendance can be picked up quickly by the Social Care teams. More detail on this will be forthcoming shortly.

You’ll be familiar now with me thanking you all on a daily basis – and the strength of this feeling should in no way be diminished by the frequency of its repetition. However, I am keen to make sure that my thanks and the County’s gratitude is passed on to all staff working in schools at this time. Please do pass on my thanks to everyone.


Dan Barton, Assistant Director - Education and Skills
Cumbria County Council

School hub, standalone and closed school best practice checklist

Thank you to everyone for contributions and feedback in creating our school hub and closed school best practice checklist. The checklist is designed to help prompt thinking about current practice and next steps. 

There are two sections: school hubs and standalone schools please complete Section A; closed schools please complete Section B. Learning Improvement Service (LIS) Advisers will be available to support school hubs to complete the checklist.

Completed checklists should be emailed to LIS Business Support for your area by Friday 24 April:


EHCP risk assessment update

The  special educational needs and disability (SEND) team has provisionally RAG rated the children who have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) and have identified those they think may be in most need of access to provision.

  • Over the next two days, schools and settings that the identified children would usually attend will be contacted by Learning Improvement Service (LIS) to check whether, with their greater knowledge of the individual children, they agree with the RAG rating. The risk assessment pro-form provided will assist with this.
  • Schools will then need to make contact with the families to discuss whether they wish to access provision in a hub or in their school is a standalone.  If so, schools should identify any need for transport.
  • They will then pass the confirmed list and any transport requests back to LIS so that they can liaise with the home school and the hub school to arrange attendance at the allocated provision.

We understand that most schools have already risk assessed all their EHCP children, in accordance with the government guidelines, but if any have not done so, they should do so now. Completed risk assessments can be sent to the Inclusion inbox for the schools area:

Wider disavantage support

We know that a significant number of Cumbrian families have been affected by employment changes in recent weeks and are dealing with the impact this has had upon their income. Many of those affected may find themselves struggling financially, with no immediate access to state benefits, including Free School Meals.

Many strategic support services are currently under incredible strain. In the first instance, exploring the evolving offer in local areas may lead to more timely and effective support for these families. LIS is working with Area Managers and the resilience hubs to consider how we can continue to share local intelligence and develop local solutions.

Based on feedback from school hubs and in consultation with the Cumbria Resilience Hubs, please find below emerging best practice guidance for supporting affected families:

  1. Helping families to identify and signpost to initial sources of support wherever possible – i.e. immediate family, extended family, friends, neighbours and/or local community groups.
  2. Sharing the link for applying for ‘Free School Meals’ if they have recently qualified for DWP benefits.
  3. Suggesting, if no other sources of help can be found within a family’s own networks or local area, they contact Cumbria’sEmergency Telephone Support Line on 0800 783 1966 or via
    The telephone call centre will operate Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, and 10am to 2pm at weekends.
  4. Considering further contact with families we are worried about to ensure support has been identified and is in place.

Thank you for your tireless support and efforts to help our vulnerable. For further information, please visit our webpage.

Handling school and hub complaints

We have received some helpful guidance from The School Complaints Unit (SCU), responsible for the consideration of complaints about local authority (LA) maintained schools on behalf of the Secretary of State.

The advice to schools is that they are not expected  to progress complaints during periods of official closure. While some schools are open to provide support to key workers’ children, children with additional needs or those in care, it should not place additional administrative burdens on schools by requiring them to progress formal complaints.

Schools will still engage with parents, including those whose children are being supported at home. There may therefore be opportunities for informal resolution if concerns are raised but this may depend on the nature of the complaint. However, there is no expectation of formal escalation through the complaints procedure to take place until schools have officially reopened.

Schools will be supported to advise any complainants that this is the approach being adopted. If the department’s Best Practice Guidance has been followed and it has been included within a school’s complaints procedure, they can apply the campaign approach if they receive multiple complaints on the same or similar issues. This can allow for a single stage response, which is designed to reduce administrative burdens on schools. Some complaints may also fall outside the scope of the individual school or hub, as they act in accordance with central or local government advice, for example:

  • a school or hub may receive a complaint that a child is not receiving their full entitlement to an education. The response would be that schools are officially closed and are limited in the support they can provide but are doing the best they can in the current exceptional circumstances. Complainants can be signposted to the department if they are dissatisfied with the school’s response.
  • complaints about a lack of transport to a centralised hub would not be a matter that the hub itself could address, as the decision to designate it as such, is taken by the LA. Complaints of this nature should be responded to under the LA’s complaints procedure.

If a hub does receive a complaint, includingone  about a child who does not normally attend that school, we will expect the hub interim complaints procedure to be followed.

However, the DfE would only expect an initial conversation/informal investigation to take place re a complaint, not for the full procedure to be used and not for governors to have to carry out a formal review. The DfE will be supportive of schools, explaining to complainants that beyond an initial informal consideration the complaint will have to wait to be looked at when the schools are back.

The exception to this might be if the complaint concerns a member of staff who is not employed by the hub school, but who may have been brought in to provide additional support. We expect conduct complaints to be dealt with by the employer; this may be the LA or the governing body of the school at which that person is normally employed.

You can contact the SCU if you would like further support on the handling of school complaints. We can be contacted via the National Helpline on 0370 000 2288 or online at: 

Amended list of LIS contacts

LIS team members are currently supporting schools, hubs and critical business across the service. Please find attached an updated list of contacts for our LIS team. We are here for you and will make you and the children our continuing priority.

A reminder to complete our data collection form

Please complete and submit the survey each day before 11am. Please only complete this survey if you are open and providing provision. If you are working as part of a schools hub, the lead hub should complete the survey and report all children that attend. Do not submit a survey if you are closed, or the children from your school now attend another Childcare and Learning Hub.

Please continue to complete the DfE data return alongside our own form. We are  not providing data to the DfE. This is something of a duplication, I know, but necessary. The DfE site will be feeding us information which is 24 hours out of date, and will not allow us to support and co-ordinate support for hubs in real time. 



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