COVID-19: Schools Update - 5 June

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

schools update

Latest update for all schools - 5 June


dan barton

Dear All,

I would like to thank you for all that you have been doing this week to respond to the requirement to reopen schools during this unprecedented time.

I recognise that this has been an enormous ask and thank you for working incredibly hard and in partnership with all of us within the County Council to achieve this. Your commitment and expertise to support families across the county is incredible.

Thanks and take care,

Dan Barton, Assistant Director - Education and Skills

Cumbria County Council


DfE attendance return

We’ve spent some time this week in discussion with the DfE in relation to the complexity and time-consuming nature of the new attendance return. A consequence of this complexity is that there has been a significantly low return rate nationally and in Cumbria (although improving here over the week).

We have been told that we should not create a new mechanism to capture information, because a new one will come out at some point next week.

However, our view is that getting very accurate data about the attendance of our most vulnerable is of critical importance. We’re developing a very simple attendance return, which will take 5 minutes or less to complete on a computer, which will give us what we need, and will much reduce the impact on your time.

More information on Monday morning about an update which will be helpful.


Calculating the ‘R’ number locally

We are getting a lot of queries about whether we have data on the ‘R’ number at a local level (e.g. district level). The simple answer is ‘no’.

Calculating the R rate is very complex. It involves data from lots of different sources. The calculations include information relating to such things as confirmed cases, hospital admissions, deaths, patient surveys and testing. When these are all put together and interpreted by experts they give regional and national R numbers. It is not possible to calculate meaningful R values at a very local level, such as one specific for Cumbria or the districts within Cumbria. This is because some of the data involves such low figures that even a small change in them can, in statistical terms, make a disproportionately big relative difference.

Data is available at district level for total recorded cases (e.g. positive COVID-19 tests) and case rate. See here. Please remember this will not include people who have had COVID-19 but were never tested. It is also influenced by the amount of testing being carried out and who can be tested, for example, nationally the Government has just extended the range of people eligible for testing, so this may result in more positive cases being recorded.

Public Health teams in England are also flagging serious concerns about the deckzero.com website's information about the R number. Quite simply, the alleged statistics they are using are misleading and potentially dangerous in terms of giving either false reassurance or creating unnecessary concerns. We do not recommend that the information on this website is used to inform decision making regarding COVID-19 .


Supply of PPE

Colleagues will be acutely aware of the difficulties faced by schools and other settings nationally in relation to the supply of PPE since the end of March, and I would want to thank everyone, not only for your patience, but also in the innovative and collaborative approaches that we have seen in the county, from the sharing of resource, to the repurposing of science equipment in the early days.

We are now in the position that the PPE supply chain appears to be functioning in a way which works for Cumbria, and the system for ordering and receiving deliveries through the LASL system  is going well.

Inevitably, the question of cost in relation to these stocks becomes increasingly important as time goes on. In the early stages of the epidemic, the County Council’s role, supporting the Local Resilience Forum, in relation to PPE supply was to leverage the size of the organisation to get hold of what supplies were possible, urgently, and to ensure distribution.

Our initial thinking was that it would be possible subsequently to position the cost of this against the government’s COVID-19 emergency funding for Local Government. However, the County Council’s allocation of emergency funding has now been set, and it clearly will not allow us to carry on without passing cost recovery on to schools. As such, we propose to continue to offer to procure and distribute PPE centrally for schools as we have been doing, but that for all new orders, from next week, a charge will be made to schools for those orders. Whilst costs of PPE continue to vary over time due to availability and the diversity of different providers in the market, there is a downward trend, and we would guarantee that any charges passed-on to schools would not exceed full cost recovery at any time. We will not be passing on any charges for distribution and logistics.

The Local Resilience Forum supply of PPE is currently just enough to allow for continued safe operation of care homes and other settings of this type, and it does not have further capacity to supply schools as we move to a wider reopening, though we will of course keep this under review and work to get the best for our schools if this becomes possible. This means that there are essentially two options for schools, either procuring directly, or using the County Council system – although a mixture of both is clearly possible.

It is worth noting that, in some cases, where schools are running a surplus budget and expect to increase that surplus in year, schools would potentially not be able to set these charges against the government’s exceptional costs associated with coronavirus funding, however, for all other schools, it will be possible to keep a record of the additional costs, and claim against the funding.

To summarise, for historical orders, there will be no charge passed on, but for new orders, should schools wish to continue to be part of the County Council’s procurement scheme, costs will be passed on.

For those schools not able to capture costs and have them reimbursed, this is clearly not a satisfactory position, and we will continue to advocate strongly with the DfE that this represents an unfair and perverse incentive in relation to schools’ financial management. However, I felt it was necessary to give clarity to you all at as early a stage as possible.


Reminder regarding SPOC call centre usage

We would like to remind schools that the SPOC (call centre) for track and trace is for schools use only, this number should not be shared with parents. The call centre has been contacted by parents. This call centre is to support identification of potential outbreaks and clusters in order to support incident management.

Helpful feedback from PHA executive about this service will be followed up at the next Track and Trace meeting.


Digital Devices for disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people

The Council is keen to ensure that the digital devices (laptops/tablets) and internet access provided by the DfE for some disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people who do not currently have access to them are received and distributed to those in need as soon as possible. 

However, this has required an assessment of the needs of over 3,000 children and young people and some of the information regarding the technical set-up of these devices has only recently been received. The project team is now organising the ordering and logistics around delivery of these devices, which it is hoped will start to be distributed from the middle of June. 

Advisers from the Council’s Learning Improvement Service are contacting schools where children and young people have been assessed as having a moderate or high level of need to discuss the set-up, management and distribution of devices.

We had previously highlighted that the Council’s allocation, established by the DfE, for disadvantaged Yr 10 pupils at Local Authority maintained schools (who do not have a social worker) was insufficient to provide for both those with moderate and high needs, and that we were requesting that this allocation is increased.  Following the provision of further information asked for by the DfE we have just been advised that our request has been accepted and the allocation increased.

The project team can be contacted via the dedicated e-mail address which has been established (COVID19.DigitalDevices@cumbria.gov.uk) which has been established for direct communication with individual schools, or if schools have any queries (this is not intended for children & young people, parents/carers, or the general public).


IPSEA update on schools reopening and SEN provision

Colleagues in schools, colleges and settings may find this IPSEA update useful to refer to when planning for the return of pupils with additional needs. It also has some example resources which may be helpful. 


BAE Systems – offer of support for schools in Furness

As part of our ongoing support to the local community, BAE Systems would like to offer, voluntarily and free of charge, advice and support in relation to the adoption of COVID-19 safe working arrangements in schools and nurseries in the Furness area (Barrow, Dalton, Askam and Ulverston); drawing on our experience of implementing such arrangements for our own workforce.

If your school or nursery would like to take up this offer or discuss in more detail could we request that you contact Abby Graham at the following email address abby.graham@baesystems.com