COVID-19: Schools Update - 15 May

Would you like to view this email in a web page? Click here

schools update

Latest update for all schools - 15 May

dan barton

Dear colleague,

Further to the update earlier relating to HR Advice, please see below for today's full comms bulletin which includes updates on PPE guidance (more to come next week) and also a letter template you can forward to parents regarding the allocation and distribution of digital devices for vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

It has been an extremely busy week for all of us and hope that you can all find time this weekend to relax a little ahead of what is likely to be another very pressured week next week! 

Thank you again for everything that you do.


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

PPE guidance and protective measure for schools

The safety of staff, children and their families, is paramount when your setting is considering reopening or opening to more pupils on June 1. Our team has compiled some guidance on PPE and protective measures attached to support staff working in schools and childcare settings. The advice focuses on measures they can put in place to help limit risk of the virus spreading within their settings.

This guidance is based on advice from  our Public Health team and from the government guidance ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings’ issued on May 12 which can be found here. We recommend you read this advice in full before completing your risk assessment.

The DfE are producing further guidance on this next week, which we will share with you in due course. 

Changes to SEND legislation update

Colleagues will be aware of recent government announcements regarding SEND legislation. This is to clarify the implications of these changes. 

The changes are:

  1. A change to the statutory duty to secure special educational provision. This is modified to a duty to use reasonable endeavours to do so.
  2. A change in adhering to the statutory timescale for assessments and plans. Where it is not reasonably practicable to meet that time limit for a reason relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus, the specific time limit will not apply - process must be completed as soon as reasonably practicable.

These are the only changes: all other SEND laws remain the same.

In determining how to meet the new duty on securing provision the LA should consider:

  • the specific local circumstances, e.g. workforce capacity and skills and that of others whose input is needed; temporary closures of education settings; guidance on measures to reduce the transmission of coronavirus;
  • the needs of and specific circumstances affecting the child or young person; and
  • the views of the child, young person and their parents over what provision might be appropriate.

In practice, what this means, is that settings need to continue to support children and young people by maintaining contact with them and identifying what provision they can make for them. The provision needs to be recorded in the form attached. This must be individual – one for each child or young person with an EHC plan

Annual reviews

The requirements remain the same:

  • Settings should endeavour to offer the opportunity for a review meeting to take place. EHC plan co-ordinators can assist with this. Annual review meetings will need to be held virtually and settings will have their preferred method for this but may ask the LA for advice and support if needed.
  • It is important that they continue to ensure that the child or young person is at the centre of the process and can engage with the process in a meaningful way.
  • Even if the family choose not to engage in a review meeting, the review should be completed by the professionals wherever possible.

Naming a placement

  • The expectation that early years settings, schools, and colleges have up to 15 days to respond to a proposal to name their institution in an EHC plan remains in place, and settings should be able to engage effectively in this aspect of the process.
  • Where the setting expects a possible delay in responding, it needs to contact the LA as soon as possible to discuss.

If you have any queries about the form please contact our SEND helpline on 03330150816 (open from 10am to 12 Monday to Friday).

Letter for parents about digital devices for disadvantaged children

As you may be aware the Government has announced support for vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people who do not currently have access to a digital device such as a laptop or tablet during the coronavirus outbreak.

Please find attached a draft letter which you can send to parents with children in  your school offering an update on how these devices will be allocated and distributed.

Children attending more than one early years setting

We have received queries regarding the Local Authority’s position on children who normally attend more than one early years setting, and whether this is something that should continue to take place during the current pandemic. We have consulted with colleagues in Public Health and whilst attending more than one childcare provision is normally fully acceptable, at the present time the health and safety of children, families and staff is the most important consideration.

We therefore recommend that children only access one provider at the current time (on the understanding that the impact of this is risk assessed in the case of any children identified as being vulnerable). This is also within the spirit of the national guidance Implementing protective measures in education childcare settings which states that when settings are open, where possible:

  • Ensure groups are kept together throughout the day or subsequent days
  • Groups have the same staffing
  • Groups are in same rooms/classroom

Updates to risk assessment audit tool

We have slightly updated our guidance document, which is an audit tool, linked to DFE guidance, to inform the risk assessment process around schools opening after June 1. 

The purpose of this document is to bring together elements of the DFE guidance to support head teachers in identifying the areas of potential risk in opening your school, and support you in working towards a potential date for opening, should June 1 not be feasible.

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.