COVID-19: Schools Update - 24 April

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schools update

Latest update for all schools - 24 April

dan barton

Dear All,

After another long week, please accept, and as ever pass on, my thanks to everyone in your organisations who is working so hard for the children and families in Cumbria.

Over the course of the last few weeks, we’ve moved, I think, into a place where the strange now feels more familiar, and the mechanisms which have been put in place seem broadly to be working – no small achievement, and due to the excellent joint working which has been a consistent feature of our approach in response to Covid-19.

We’re hearing that the frequency of communication is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with and the Education Tactical Co-ordination Group (ETCG) has agreed, therefore, to move to a three times per week rhythm. As from today, we’ll free up your inboxes by moving to comms on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Similarly, as things move on, we’re keen to ensure that our communications are more of a conversation than a series of directives/guidance. If you’ve got a question or an issue which is important and likely to be an issue colleague Head Teachers across the system, please raise it through PHA, CASH or through the Learning Improvement Service, and we’ll ensure that it is fed into the ETCG, leading to updates through this channel.


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

Laptops for vulnerable pupils

Guidance relating to laptops has just been published. Whilst there is a lot to digest in all of this, the summary of the process is:

  • Identify children through a series of surveys
  • Register at the DfE’s online shop
  • Place orders
  • Laptops are distributed

There is a limited number of laptops which have been allocated to Cumbria, and clearly, the above will be a major project. However, I wanted to reassure you that we have received the initial guidance and will be working to digest and implement it over the coming days.

Updated guidance for schools, which includes advice on eligibility, can be found here


Further to the item in this channel earlier in the week regarding transition, I’d like to provide some reassurance that, whilst transition is clearly a pressing issue and is being carefully considered by colleagues across the county in all settings, there is no decision yet at this point about what the preferred process is going to be.

Doubtless local arrangements will already be in the offing, but there will also be many questions – many of which we hope to answer through the education ‘recovery cell’, which brings colleagues from across the sector to discuss some of the key issues raised by a potential return to normality. We’ll make sure that future communications relating to this are well developed.

Children’s partnership

Many of you will be aware of the Children’s Trust Board (CTB), as a multi-agency group of colleagues engaging in a strategic conversation about services for children. This group is currently undergoing a refresh, one of the aims of which is to turn the focus onto schools, and how the partnership can support them in turn to support our young people.

Whilst this was an intention pre-Covid-19, the impetus around supporting schools better now, is greater than ever. To that end, a series of brief conversations through the  Local Alliances of System Leaders (LASL) network will take place over the next week to gauge what needs are in different geographical contexts. We’ll share more on this as things develop.

A return to normality

There has been a lot of press coverage recently about reopening schools and a return to normality. Much of it speculative, and much of it contradictory.

These conflicting messages have been a feature of the national situation regarding Covid-19, and to a degree, unavoidable. I hope you will agree that one of the strengths of the Cumbrian response is that it has been measured, logical and collective.

Please rest assured that we will apply these same principles to how we plan for the future, and to how we interpret any eventual guidance.

SEND helpline open to families

The special educational needs and disability (SEND) Triage Huddle helpline, which is the multi-agency resposne to supporting the needs of SEND pupils, is now open to parents as well.

Schools and families can contact the SEND referral line on 0333 015 0816 (from 10am to 12pm,  Monday to Friday). It is anticipated that all enquiries made to the huddle will receive a contact within 24 hours.

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.

Due to a steady increase in demand and context of those attending, we appreciate that the hub and stand-alone structures will change. This does place some challenge in updating the survey. If you cannot find your details in a drop down menu or feel that the drop down does not include your correct details, please use the standalone section to submit your return and use the comments to clarify. Please be assured, these are read each day and LIS General Advisers will follow up with you. We ask for your patience if the form is not accurately showing the context of your own hub/school immediately after your return.

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. 



Over the weekend the Education Secretary announced that vulnerable and disadvantaged young people across the country will receive free laptops.

Disadvantaged children across England are set to receive laptops and tablets as part of a push to make remote education accessible for pupils staying at home during the coronavirus outbreak.

Devices will be ordered for children in the most vital stages of their education, those who receive support from a social worker and care leavers.

The government will also provide 4G routers to make sure disadvantaged secondary school pupils and care leavers can access the internet – where those families do not already have mobile or broadband internet in the household.

We will be working with the DfE today to figure out how this will be deployed and will update you accordingly. 

Please click here to see answers to your most common questions. FAQs will be updated daily.