COVID-19: Schools Update - 22 May

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schools update

Latest update for all schools - 22 May

dan barton

Dear All,

Another very lengthy communication from us today with some important updates - not least letters of thanks from the council and from PHA and CASH for all staff.

As always I wish to reiterate my personal thanks to you all for the immense efforts you have put in, over the last two months. 

I hope very much that you can find time over the bank holiday and half term to take some time off and to relax a little. 

With thanks,

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


Thank you letter to all teaching staff

Please find attached a letter of thanks to all head teachers and your staff sent on behalf of the council from John Readman, Cllr Sue Sanderson and Dan Barton. Please can you ensure you share this with staff throughout your school. 


Letter of thanks from PHA and CASH

Please find attached a letter of thanks from the Cumbria Association of Secondary Headteachers (CASH) and Primary Headteachers' Association (PHA) which we ask that you kindly distribute to all staff.


PPE update for schools

We have been working with Local Alliances of System Leaders (LASL) chairs to develop a coordinated plan to manage cluster/consortia schools’ needs and requests to Cumbria County Council for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

We recognise that some schools will already have a reliable system in place but the council can assist in securing and providing PPE for schools which need help. 

If schools have an urgent need for PPE for 1 June, they should submit their request by noon on Tuesday 26 May to laslwest@gmail.com (for schools in the west) or to vicki.clarke@cumbria.gov.uk  (for schools in south and north). After half term the LASL team in the north will takeover will PPE support for schools in the north.

Schools will also need to provide an address that can accept delivery on Thursday 28 May or Friday 29 May and name someone contactable by phone on those days who can receive delivery.

Schools should ask for one week’s supply of PPE initially, based on their risk assessments and with reference to the national guidance.

Going forward, LASL Chairs will be working with clusters/consortia to collate requests to identify a suitable drop off point for each cluster/consortia and to ensure that only one collated LASL area request is made to the council on Wednesday of each week, for delivery on Thursdays and Fridays. Your local LASL will confirm where to send the order form for future requests after 1 June. 


Reminder to update your school portal

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A reminder that you must update your own school portal to reflect when your school is closed.  To update this information please go to the sharepoint portal and update the open/closed date using the closure widget (above).


Completed risk assessments for LA Maintained and Diocese Schools

In response to a number of queries we've had from headteachers we would like to remind  LA maintained and Diocese schools that once they have completed their risk assessments for reopening, and they have been signed by the head of school / governing body, they must be returned to our health and safety team who will confirm receipt: healthandsafety@cumbria.gov.uk

Risk assessments must be completed before schools can open. 


Public Health guidance for schools

As we move towards schools making decisions about whether and how to begin increasing the attendance of a wider range of pupils, it is understandable that staff and governors will be anxious about the implications for pupils and staff, and how best to ensure that the school community remains safe.

There are no perfect or simple answers to this: however the County Council and its Public Health Team are committed to supporting schools to reach the right decision for them. I hope the information that follows will be of some help in this.

In terms of the evidence about safety and transmission of the Covid-19 virus in schools, the following points are particularly important:

  • We are confident that the risk to children is much lower than the general population. While it is not zero, it is extremely rare for Covid-19 to cause serious harm to children.
  • In terms of the risk to parents, while of course there are individual factors that need to be considered, the majority of parents of primary school children are also in an age group that is not at significantly greater risk of harm from Covid-19.
  • A high proportion of teachers are also in a low-risk age group. However individual raised risks need to be considered.
  • There is some evidence that children are less likely to spread the virus than adults – however this evidence is not conclusive.
  • A range of models have been considered nationally that have looked at the impact on the transmission of the virus of opening schools more widely. It is clear that a full reopening could have a significant impact, which is why this is not being recommended at this time. However the limited reopening proposed, with appropriate social distancing in place as far as possible, is felt to be manageable while keeping transmission rates low.

In summary, while it is obvious that any reduction in social/physical distancing has the potential to increase transmission of the virus in the community, the risks associated with the limited reopening of schools that is being proposed are generally felt to be small, if individual vulnerabilities are taken into account. These risks have to be balanced against the potential harm caused to children, particularly the most vulnerable children, by an extended absence from school.

You will undoubtedly be aware of recent media coverage of the rate of infection across Cumbria, which has largely focused on the data suggesting that Barrow has the highest rate of infection in the country. Because of this you may want to consider local factors in your thinking about whether and how to reopen your school. I would stress that getting a clear picture of the local position is actually incredibly difficult, and the raw data do not always tell a simple story. The rate of infections detected is very significantly affected by the rate of testing – this has been a significant factor in the Barrow statistics. Even something apparently more robust, like the death rate, is substantially affected by the age structure of the population. So knowing whether particular areas genuinely have higher or lower rates of infection than others is not straightforward. With those caveats, if you want to consider local statistics in reaching your decision, the up to date infection rates (by District Council area) are available on the national Covid-19 dashboard.

You will undoubtedly have many questions about how you could maintain social distancing in your school, and about the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that might be needed. Full details of this are available on the gov.uk website. My team is working with the Education and Skills team in the County Council to ensure that you have all the support and guidance that you might need on infection prevention and control.

One important consideration for schools may be the availability of adequate testing and contact tracing. In beginning to release various lockdown restrictions, it is crucial that we are able to identify and respond quickly to potential outbreaks, particularly in key settings such as schools. Contact tracing, where we identify people who have been in close contact with someone who develops Covid-19 and get them to self-isolate promptly, thereby breaking the chain of infection, is a vital component of this. The government has committed to establishing a national contact tracing service that will be available to schools from 1 June. In Cumbria we have already begun piloting a local contact tracing service with the intention that we will be able to provide this support to local schools should the national scheme not be fully rolled out by that date. We are committed to supporting schools with a local approach to testing and contact tracing from 1 June should that be necessary.

If you have further questions or concerns that are not being answered by the guidance that we’re producing, please email Ask.Colin@cumbria.gov.uk – we will try to respond directly, though if many similar questions are being asked we will respond through more general guidance. We’re here to help and support you through these unprecedented times.


Update on school reports on pupil performance: guide for headteachers

Please be aware that guidance on reporting on pupils performance was updated yesterday. Headteachers must send a written report to parents on their child’s progress for the school year by the end of each summer term. The report for school leavers must be sent no later than 30 September following the end of the school year in which the pupil left.

Schools should take a proportionate approach in deciding what information to include within their pupils’ reports. It is likely that, in many cases, it will not be possible for reports to cover the period of partial school closures. This does not, however, prevent schools from choosing to provide additional information where, for example, children continued to attend school or schools reviewed work completed at home.


No school transport during half-term

Our school transport is not contracted to work over half-term and bank holidays. Please notify parents whose children have been getting school transport that they will need to make their own arrangements for travelling to school next week. 


Reminder to complete school survey

A reminder to complete our short survey, and returning to us no later than 1 June.

This data will provide us with an overall projection of provision in Cumbria, which we can share with the DfE and will also assist in providing further support where required. 


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.