Education Planning Group: Update... 18 September

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

In today's update:

dan barton

Dear Colleagues,

Another intense week with some worrying signs in terms of the increasing number of positive cases in the county. It's worth stressing though that so far only 14 schools currently are dealing with incidents (each school has one positive case) and that needs to be seen in the context of a total student body of 66,000. None of these incidents has so far developed into an outbreak, which speaks to the work you are all doing around infection prevention and control.

The issue of schools 'policing' behaviour outside of school also came up this week. I've discussed this the Assistant Chief Constable at Cumbria Police and I want to reassure that we do not believe this is a task for schools and that this will be communicated to community policing teams. There is already enough for you to be focused on.

We've continued to update our public health guidance this week in response to feedback. We do have to be cautious of becoming overly prescriptive which then creates difficulties for schools. We are trying to strike the right balance, but in some cases you may have to take a 'common sense' approach that applies the principles to your school's context.

Many of you are raising concerns about costs and budgets (see more below). Be assured we are hearing you and are working hard to try and get clarity from the DfE and a way forward.

We've had feedback about the timing of these updates and we are now working towards getting them issued on a Thursday. This will be from week commencing 5th October.

As ever, thank you for your commitment and hard work, these are exceptional times.


Dan Barton

Assistant Director - Education and Skills

*IMPORTANT* Restriction of non-essential visitors to Barrow schools

It was announced yesterday that Colin Cox, Director of Public Health is strongly advising people in Barrow take additional steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This included the recommendation for all non-essential visits to schools to be paused. The following FAQs provide further detail:

Which schools is this advice relevant for?

The advice to stop non-essential visits to schools applies to any school in the geographical area covered by Barrow Borough Council Local Authority. See list of schools

When do schools need to stop non-essential visits?

The public health team are asking for schools to pause non-essential visits from Monday 21st September.

How long will we need to stop non-essential visits for?

Initially schools are being asked to stop non-essential visits for a period of two weeks (so until Sunday 4th October). The advice from public health will be reviewed at this time.

What does ‘non-essential’ mean?

Broadly it is at the discretion of Head Teachers to determine what is and isn’t non-essential visiting for their setting.

Are there any types of visits that are exempt (i.e. classed as ‘essential’)?

There are three types of visits that are specifically deemed to be essential and therefore exempt from the advice:

  • Visits for safeguarding purposes
  • Visits by immunisation teams to carry out flu vaccines
  • Essential maintenance work

Who should we contact if we have further queries?

Email This account is monitored Monday-Friday 9am – 5pm.

Current Public Health guidance for schools - all Cumbria

Earlier this week schools were provided with an updated COVID-19 flowchart explaining what do to if a child or staff member is has COVID-19 symptoms. This includes advice on how to get staff tested via local NHS testing facilities.

View it here

School were also provided with advice following the launch of a new DfE helpline for schools.

View it here

The Cumbria Public Health resource pack for schools, circulated at the start of term, is available here .

For awareness, a dedicated Outbreak Control Team is monitoring all COVID-19 incidents and outbreaks in Cumbrian schools. At the current time 14 schools (from a total of 316) are experiencing incidents (an individual case each), with none in an outbreak situation (two or more linked cases).

School transport: social distancing and masks

Transport operators are raising concerns that some pupils travelling in buses are not sticking to agreed seating plans and are not wearing masks or face coverings.

This is one of the ways in which we are attempting to reduce the risk of infection spread.

Please can schools reinforce to students and parents what the expectations are around home to school transport.

Guidance on staff holidays and quarantine

In response to a number of queries we would like to advise schools that whilst it remains a decision for individual schools, our view is that if staff take holidays abroad which then mean they have to quarantine on their return (and this is not within school holiday periods), then this should be treated as unpaid leave. 

This is irrespective of whether quarantine arrangements were in place for a particular country at the time of their departure.

Staff should be made aware this.

October budget submissions - all schools

Further to last week's update in relation to finance, Colleagues will be aware that usually only schools with deficit budgets are asked to submit a revised October budget. However, due to uncertainty around costs associated with COVID-19 we have asked all schools to submit revised 3 year budget plans (deadline 31 October). 

Where schools submit a deficit budget we are still obliged to write to schools but please be aware that approval or otherwise of deficit budgets will be considered in the context of the very difficult financial  situation many schools find themselves in due to COVID-19.

Attendance Monitoring

There is more than one attendance return survey out in the ether at the moment. We are encouraging all schools to complete the DfE attendance return. For the avoidance of doubt, and to ensure that colleagues are not overburdened with different surveys, please would primary settings with an extended age-range and/or nursery setting all complete the attendance return about nursery or early years attendance on the same DfE return, which allows for year groups from nursery to be selected.

Our current return rate for the attendance survey is approximately 65%. Whilst this gives us a very accurate picture of attendance across the piece when extrapolated, we’re keen to emphasise the importance of all settings completing the return.

Drop-in online surgeries for schools

To support Headteachers, from next week we will be hosting a series of drop-in online surgeries where you can "ask the expert" on key issues.

Surgeries will take place from 4.00-4.30pm via Microsoft Teams.

Dates are being finalised and links will be forwarded soon. Planned topics include:

  • Public Health concerns
  • Health and Safety
  • Finance
  • Family Round the School 
  • General concerns surgery

They will be open to all Headteachers and we will review and refine the format as we go forward.

Targeted ransomware attacks on the UK education sector by cyber criminals

This alert provides details of recent trends observed in ransomware attacks on the UK education sector. It provides mitigation advice to help protect this sector from attack.

This alert is written for education establishments within the UK and is designed to be read by those responsible for IT and Data Protection for these organisations.

The National Cyber Security Centre encourages you to discuss this with IT providers where these services are outsourced.


Fire drills in schools during the pandemic

We have been asked to confirm what approach schools and early years settings should be taking in relation to fire drills during the current situation.

The National Guidance states that educational settings should undertake their fire drills as normal.  The LA agrees that ideally this is the approach to be followed with drills taking place at least once per school term. This is particularly important in the first term of the school year to allow pupils that are unfamiliar with the layout of the building to become acquainted with the fire escape routes.

However, it is accepted that during the current pandemic there may be instances where a fire drill involving the entire school may result in the school’s planned COVID control measures being compromised; for example, two separate pupil groups (bubbles) coming briefly into contact due to the available evacuation routes. Therefore our advice is that prior to undertaking a fire drill for the whole school an assessment should be made of the potential risk of this occurring.

If, as a result of the assessment, the school believes it would be preferable not to undertake a fire drill involving the whole school, steps must be taken to ensure that all pupils and staff are familiar with the escape routes. This could be achieved by individual groups physically walking the escape routes available to them but without resorting to sounding the fire alarm.  It is recommended that for each group of pupils both the nearest fire exit and also the next closest alternative escape routes are used for this purpose. In line with normal practice any drill (whether full or conducted partially) should be clearly logged in the Schools Fire Safety Log Book.

It must be emphasised that the mitigating approach above is only necessary where there is a distinct possibility that the COVID control measures will be compromised for the purposes of a fire drill. In case of a genuine fire the fire evacuation procedure will take precedence over any COVID control measures; the priority is to ensure that all occupants have left the building and reached the fire assembly point.

Schools should continue to follow the advice in the Public Health Resource Pack available here in relation to the management of any suspected/confirmed cases  

Reducing circulation around Schools

Schools should have already assessed and established safe routes in and out of the building(s), as well as around school as part of their risk assessment process, and should be keeping these under regular review. 

We have recently been asked whether schools can consider using fire exit doors as direct safe routes in/out of classrooms to outside to help reduce transmission risk and minimise contact/mixing of groups.  Whilst passing briefly in a corridor or playground is low risk, schools should still aim to avoid creating busy corridors. The use of fire exits to provide additional entrance and exit routes to reduce transmission risk and minimise contact is perfectly acceptable. However, School Management Teams must consider how these additional entry and exit points will impact on the school’s security/ supervision arrangements.

Further Information on Potential HSE Spot Checks – FAQ

Further to the HSE announcing spot-checks nationally for Schools. We have some useful feedback from a School who have already been contacted. We thought it would be useful to share with you a summary of the questions they were asked together with some useful information and links you should already be aware of to help answer any queries.

Please have access to your COVID Risk Assessments and always make sure that you are confident that you are speaking with a representative from the HSE.  Based on your answers, following these questions the HSE may contact you within 7 days should they feel that they need to look more closely at your arrangements. Local Authority maintained schools/settings must inform the LA Health and Safety Team if they have had a spot check so we can provide assistance to you at an early stage where required. -

Question Type


Useful Guidance


  • Is your School currently open?
  • How many staff are working in the School/Setting?

You will be asked to describe how you are currently operating and the numbers/types of staff working on site.

Government Guidance

  • Have you read and understood Government Guidance?


Link to Gov Guidance - Actions For Schools During Coronavirus -

Don’t forget that Cumbria Public Health Team have also produced a Schools Toolkit and helpful summary and you can also access the regular LA Schools E-Bulletin updates issued since March 2020


School Risk Assessments

  • Do you have a Risk Assessment in place for COVID?
  • Who was involved in the putting the risk assessment together?
  • Where any TU reps involved?
  • Have you shared the findings of RAs with staff/parents/pupils?



  • All Schools should be able to answer a Yes to this!
  • The HSE want to ensure that your COVID risk assessments have been created with the input of relevant staff and their TU/Staff representatives (if applicable)  If you have utilised the Local Authority Model COVID-19 Risk Assessments for School Premises and School Operations then these models were already shared and consulted on with main TU representatives through our own consultation networks but your tailored versions must reflect the actual control measures you have in place.
  • Risk Assessments are live documents and must be kept under regular review with any reported concerns acted upon.
  • Staff should sign to say that they have read and understood your risk assessments.
  • Schools may choose to publish information publicly on their websites - this is a decision to be taken at a local level by each School whilst observing GDPR requirements.

Risk Controls – Social Distancing/ Physical changes

  • How do you feel your school is controlling the risks?  - (Good / average or poor)
  • How confident am I that staff can keep their recommended 2m social distance? (All the time, Most of the time, Never)
  • Do you have mitigating measures in place where social distancing cannot take place
  • Can I list changes that I made in school to allow the 2m distancing to take place?

The HSE want to understand how well you feel you are controlling the risks from COVID and how well you feel social distancing and your control measures are being maintained. They recognise that distancing is difficult to achieve particularly with groups of younger children or those with difficulties understanding such measures.

Mitigating measures will be bubbles/ groups and PPE for tasks where social distancing may be breached e.g. healthcare plans/ intimate care tasks/ first aid.

You may be asked what physical measures you have implemented e.g. one way systems, reducing movements around the school, classroom set ups, rotas for arrival/ departures/ breaks/ lunch etc. Remember your risk assessment will help you to answer these questions on your risk controls.

Risk Controls – Hygiene and Welfare


  • Cleaning – What is in place? How and how often?
  • Do you have areas that are 'high touch points' and what is happening to those areas?
  • Do all children/ staff have access to sinks for handwashing?
  • Is there hand-sanitiser (at least 70% alcohol) available around school?

You will be asked to describe your arrangements for cleaning and welfare/ hygiene arrangements.

You may have implemented increased/ enhanced cleaning provision and made arrangements for cleaning of equipment and high touch points during the day. Your control measures may include prevention of sharing of equipment/ materials to reduce transmission.

Remember that good handwashing regime with soap and water is preferable to blanket use of hand sanitiser but this should be available especially where easy access to handwashing facilities is a potential issue.

Responding to incidents

  • What would you do if:
    • Parent informs you they had tested positive?
    • A child was tested positive?
    • A member of staff tested positive?
    • If a staff member/pupil developed symptoms at School?


For this you can refer to the advice in the Cumbria Schools Public Health Toolkit as this has been promoted to all schools and is kept regularly updated by our Public Health Team.


As always if you have any queries you can contact the Health and Safety Team

SEND: Preparation for Adulthood virtual fair - dates confirmed

October 5th to 9th 2020

For parents and carers of SEND children, getting the right advice and support to help their child prepare for adulthood is so important. Building on the success of last year's fair held in Penrith which was attended by over 200 people, this year's Preparation for Adulthood virtual fair will bring together over 60 organisations to deliver a week long virtual event, helping you and your child get the information you need.

The online fair will include webinars throughout the week from different organisations, video content as well as written information.

A full programme will be available soon! Watch this space.

Who is the fair for?

The fair is aimed at young people aged 12+, and their parents/carers, who have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or other significant need (for example, serious mental health issues or attending Alternative Provision). It will help them find out about the support and guidance available to them as they move into adulthood. 

Please help raise awareness of the Fair with families who could benefit from it.