COVID-19: Schools Update - 14 May

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schools update

Latest update for all schools - 14 May

dan barton

Dear colleague,

Lots of information in the briefing today, so a short introduction.

Thank you – for everything. In spite of the huge pressure you are all under, in an environment characterised by rapidly changing positions and guidance, we’re doing a great job together.


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

Support and guidance around schools reopening after June 1

We are aware that head teachers have been receiving numerous updates about preparation for schools reopening.

It is important to start by saying that there is no expectation that all schools in Cumbria will open to all of the year groups mentioned (reception, Year 1 and Year 6) on June 1. Rather that June 1 could be a starting point for some schools to begin to reopen to some year groups, where it is deemed safe and reasonable to do so.

We recognise the diversity of Cumbria’s schools, that every school is unique, and that there will therefore be many different responses to the government’s proposal to reopen schools for certain year groups, and only if certain criteria can be met.

Our response to the closure of schools across Cumbria on March 20 resulted in a ‘mixed economy’ of school hubs, standalone schools and early years settings working together to provide essential childcare for children of key workers and vulnerable children within the challenges of their individual settings and localities. We anticipate that we will see the development of a similar mixed economy as a response to the proposed reopening of schools from June 1. Our approach is very much along the lines of the approach being taken by colleagues across the north and north west. 

To help facilitate, enable and support this response, our Learning Improvement Service has pulled together all of the DfE guidance from the last few days into one place here and developed it into an optional tool to support you in the risk assessment process for your school; in evaluating feasibility and timescales for reopening based on the DfE guidance and actions required. 

Every school is unique but it is hoped that this tool can support both individual schools and groups of schools with similar challenges to use the tool collaboratively too.

Our team has been in conversation with heads, teachers, teaching unions and partners, including a Health and Safety provider service accessed by many schools, to coordinate and compliment more detailed risk assessment guidance to be issued by them shortly. General Advisers will be in contact to discuss your situation and your support needs over the course of the next week.

NGA guidance on where responsibility for reopening schools lies:

The National Governance Association (NGA) is awaiting further guidance from the DfE specifically for governing boards but in the meantime has confirmed where responsibility for the safe opening of schools to more pupils lies:

  1. The final decision on whether to invite pupils back will rest with schools and academy trusts. Schools should only invite those pupils back when and if their assessment of the risk is that it is safe for both children and staff to do so. While school leaders will be beginning to assess options, there is no need to rush into any decisions immediately.   
  2. Reopening a school is an operational decision which is taken by school leaders. Clearly any decision made by school leaders will need to take into account the DfE guidance, applying it to the school’s individual context. We expect school leaders to consult with their governing boards who have a role as employers (or in place of employers) and a duty of care to pupils.  
  3. The headteacher (or possibly another executive within a multi academy trust) will need to undertake a full risk assessment before making a decision, and it would be wise for them to bring that assessment to their governing board. Governing boards, while trusting their professional leaders to carry out that assessment, should test its robustness. The assessment will need to be kept under review.  
  4. In developing the options, a board would be reasonable in expecting school leaders to have consulted staff and parents; the latter is particularly important to understanding what the response might be to an invitation for their child to return to school. Parents will not be fined for non-attendance at this time, and schools and colleges will not be held to account for attendance levels.  
  5. We would also expect a school leader to discuss the options with the chair and the vice chair of the governing board, using them as sounding boards for this very difficult decision. (In a multi academy trust, we would still expect a headteacher to be in contact with the chair of the academy committee/local governing board - as well as trust’s central executive - as the academy chair will be aware of the local context and premises in a way that the chair of the trust board may not).  
  6. Governing boards, and chairs in particular, may be asked to support the communications to the whole school community – staff, parents and more widely. Chairs may be asked to co-sign letters from the headteacher/CEO. This illustrates the importance of the board being behind the leader’s decision as they will need to be able to advocate for the position. There is a role for governing boards in constructing, with their senior leaders, confident communications which fit with their school's values and ethos, putting the welfare of pupils at the heart of decision making.  
  7. These are extremely difficult decisions to take and it is imperative that school leaders and chairs of governing boards maintain regular contact. We are aware of much wonderful school leadership over the past two months, but this must not be taken for granted and it is crucial that their well-being is not being compromised. As you are no doubt aware, governing boards owe a duty of care to staff, and in particular to their senior leader.

We understand that this is an extremely challenging time for school leaders and planning is ongoing with the NEU and other TU colleagues at a tactical and strategical level. 

Guidance on safe working from home

In line with national guidance the council is continuing to support social distancing and encourage as many people as possible to work from home. These are unprecedented times and we really value everyone's flexibility and commitment to adapt to new ways of working, staying connected to one another and continuing to provide the best possible services for the people of Cumbria. Many colleagues have now adapted to these new ways of working however as the weeks turn into months we thought it would be timely to remind you of some top tips, useful advice and guidance to help you get the best from working at home and help you stay safe and comfortable.

Accident/ Incident and Near Miss Reporting in Schools

Although we are in very unusual times our essential services continue to operate in these challenging circumstances. School hubs are continuing to operate and everyone appreciates the hard work and dedication from school staff. However accidents and incidents are still likely to happen so it is still important that accidents, incidents, near misses and ill health are being reported and investigated through normal CCC procedures. We are therefore encouraging you to continue to report health and safety issues, concerns, accidents, incidents and near misses as normal. You should also ensure that any investigations, follow-up actions and debriefs are undertaken following reported incidents to prevent reoccurrence and ensure appropriate support is available during this time.

Many are facing increased frustrations from those they support in our community which can impact on behaviours and therefore it is important that you understand that despite this the County Council are clear that we take a zero tolerance approach in terms of violence, abuse or threats to our workforce.

If you are able to access the School Portal, information for schools about reporting accidents, incidents and near misses including Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurences Regulation (RIDDOR) incidents and occupational diseases is available here.

Maintained schools are required to submit all accident/incident reports involving adults and significant pupil incidents to the mailbox for inclusion on the E-Safety database and reporting to the HSE where required.

RIDDOR reporting: Covid-19 Riddor Advice

The Corporate Health and Safety team report all RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrence Regulations 2013) related incidents to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) on behalf of all of our maintained schools and any aided or foundation school with a service level agreement for health and safety services.

The HSE have recently updated their guidance as to when Covid-19 cases will be reportable under RIDDOR. This update provides supplementary details specifically for staff who may be diagnosed with Covid-19 as a direct result of their work.

In some limited circumstances, where an individual has either been exposed to the coronavirus or contracted Covid-19 as a direct result of their work, those instances may now be reportable under the RIDDOR regulations.

The prevalence of transmission of coronavirus has increased in the general population across the UK over recent months. The HSE recognise that it will be very difficult for employers to establish whether or not any infection in an individual was contracted as a result of their work. Therefore investigation into such reported occurrences must take place to inform this.

Safety update on Tiger Eye Protector Product

Please not the information below may be relevant to just a small number of schools, particularly SEN schools, who have received PPE from the Council.

You may have seen national media coverage in relation to an eye protection product called the Tiger Eye Protector Product and the removal of this product from the national supply chain of Covid-19 specific Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Central government have been providing PPE to the Cumbria Local Resilience Forum (LRF) for some weeks and we have used this PPE to provide you and many other organisations with the PPE you need if you have not been able to source it anywhere else.

Unfortunately Cumbria LRF have been supplied with stocks of the Tiger Eye Protector Product by government and have, in good faith, provided this to your organisation. We received guidance from government on Sunday that this product is not suitable for use in Covid-19 settings. 

The guidance, which is attached, states that the risks associated with using this product “in direct patient contact when not performing Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGP’s) is limited”, we have sought clarity on whether this means the product is safe to use in none AGP situations but have not yet received confirmation of this. As a result we plan to replace the stocks of the Tiger Eye Protection Product that you have received with an alternative product that has been sourced locally and which meets the required national specification. We would ask that you stop using the Tiger Eye Protection Product and instead use an alternative eye protection product if you have it.

The LRF will start replacing your stocks of this product with the alternative on  this week. We have the details of all organisations who have received the Tiger product and will contact you directly to arrange this. In the meantime if you have alternative eye protection that meets the national standards then please use this instead. If you do not have alternative eye protection please contact the Cumbria LRF PPE Emergency helpline on 0800 783 1967 and we will arrange a short term emergency supply of an alternative for you for the next 24-36 hours.

Attached are photographs of the Tiger Eye Protection Product to help you identify your stocks of it. Please separate all stocks of the Tiger product you may have and dispose of this in line with the approved guidance in order to avoid the risk of it being mistakenly used.

Please also note the section of the guidance which relates to AGP’s which is as follows If staff have used the product when performing AGPs or if otherwise they have been exposed to droplets or splashes you should communicate this to HSE through the RIDDOR route.

Please note very few schools have been supplied with this item of PPE and our records tell us exactly which schools these are and we are making contact with them directly.

Guidance for furloughed workers

Please find attached some guidance for furloughed workers in schools - Coronavirus (COVID-19): financial support for education, early years and children’s social care. This has been developed using the LGA guidance with input from our HR, Legal and Finance teams.  

The latest list of school hubs

The updated list of all school hubs, standalone schools and early years settings can be found on the Cumbria County Council website.