COVID-19: Early Years Update - 26 May

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schools update

Early Years Update - 26 May

dan barton

Dear All,

We would like to start the week by thanking you sincerely for all that you are doing to support the children and families of Cumbria during this challenging time, particularly as we consider how to respond to the requirement from central Government to start to re-open settings from 1st June.

Although we know that this will have been at the forefront of everyone in the sector’s minds, we hope that you were able to spend some much deserved quality time relaxing over the Bank Holiday weekend. We also hope that those of you who have been celebrating the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr over the weekend were able to do so, despite the very different circumstances from usual.

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

Guidance on the reopening of Early Years Settings

Guidance on the reopening of early years and childcare settings was issued by the Government on Sunday 24th May.

A vodcast to support Providers when considering reopening is available .

Given the wide diversity of Early Years settings in Cumbria there will not be one single approach to reopening that applies to all. Each setting will need to make their own decisions following a risk based assessment process.

We would also like to thank you for submitting your survey responses last week to tell us about your plans for re-opening.

The Early Years Team are reviewing the audit that we issued last week in the light of the national guidance, and are also working on further guidance to support you around operational considerations, which will be available through this bulletin later in the week.

Support will continue to be available to settings from the Learning Improvement Service Early Years Team. Please contact your link adviser if you have any questions.

Testing for under 5s

The guidance that came out for Early Years settings over the weekend indicates that that testing will now be available for under 5s from the 1st June:

Once early years and childcare providers open to more children, all staff and children who are attending a childcare setting will have access to a test if they display symptoms of coronavirus, and are encouraged to get tested in this scenario.

Where the child or staff member tests negative, they can return to their setting and the fellow household members can end their self-isolation. If the child or staff member tests positive, the rest of their immediate group within their setting should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days.

Public Health guidance for educational settings

As we move towards schools and settings 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 settings 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 educational practitioners 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 their school or setting.

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 setting. 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 or setting, and about the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that might be needed. Full details of this are available on the 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 settings 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. 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 settings should the national scheme not be fully rolled out by that date. We are committed to supporting settings 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 – 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.

Support for Children with SEND through Family Fund

Family Fund has received extra funding worth £10 million from the Department for Education to provide grants for families on low incomes raising disabled or seriously ill children in England this year.

This emergency funding has been provided in response to the crisis presented by the Coronavirus pandemic and will help more parents and carers to look after their children. Families can apply for grants to make their lives easier while implementing social distancing measures, including computers and tablets, outdoor play equipment and sensory toys. Details on how to apply are available here .

National Coronavirus Testing Call Centre now available

The Coronavirus Testing Call Centre can be contacted on 119 (in England and Wales) between the hours of 7am – 11pm. The service can be accessed by people with hearing or speech difficulties by calling 18001 119 (in England and Wales).

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:

Risk assessments must be completed before schools can open. 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) - additional support for you

A reminder that useful information regarding a range of issues can be found on the Cumbria County Council website. Topics covered include benefits, support available from district councils and domestic abuse. Booklets were delivered to all households recently, but please continue to promote the online information too.

Visit the website