Education Planning Group: Schools update... 22 October

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In today's update:

dan barton

Dear Colleagues,

After what I'm sure feels like a very long half-term we now have a few days to draw breath and take stock.

The effort from schools has been incredible and we wanted to note our thanks more formally. You'll see below a link to a letter from myself and Cllr Sue Sanderson which I hope you will share with all of your staff.

Well done to all of you and I hope you do manage to find time to put work to one side over the half-term break.



Dan Barton

Assistant Director - Education and Skills

Latest COVID-19 data update

The latest COVID-19 data update for Cumbria is now available at 

717 new COVID19 cases were reported in Cumbria in the week ending 16 October, up from 612 the previous week.

The Barrow Borough Council area remains at HIGH ALERT.

All other parts of Cumbria are MEDIUM ALERT.

Find out more about alert levels at GOV.UK/coronavirus

COVID Exceptional Costs Fund – payment of 1st tranche

ESFA have announced that for those schools which have not yet received a payment because their claim included items in the ‘other’ category, payment will be made for those items of their claim in the 3 standard categories.  ESFA are continuing to review the claims submitted in the ‘other’ category and anticipate informing schools of the outcome within the next 6 weeks.

The payment will be made to the Local Authority in respect of maintained schools on 30 October.  For non-cheque book schools the funding will be allocated to school budgets in November and will appear on the period 8 E5 school budget report.  Cheque book schools will receive payment into their bank account on Friday 6th November.  Academies will receive their funding direct from ESFA.

To date there is no further information regarding claims for a second tranche of funding.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Schools Fund Conditions October 2020.docx

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Schools Fund 30 October payment LA.xlsx

Critical importance of social distancing for staff

Recent examples of incidents and outbreaks in schools has underlined the critical important of school staff maintaining social distance with colleagues.

If social distancing is not observed it can result in multiple staff having to self-isolate.

Non-attendance at school

Some families are keeping their children off school due to general worries about COVID-19, not because they are required to self-isolate. Schools have asked how they should respond in these circumstances.

We have previously provided advice to schools on this issue and there are no changes to that advice.


Free School Meals update

Half term advice for communication to all parents

As the half term approaches, we know that there will be families who may be looking for information about how to access help and support, including access to food during half-term.  We would be grateful if your communications to your parents could include signposting to

We would also appreciate it if schools could promote and use the NHS It is ok to ask poster (attached)

FSM  Advice for Schools post-half term

 On returning to school after half -term, we are working to identify the local capacity to support FSM families in the event of bubble/school closures. Over the last two weeks, we have attempted to audit need in order to map against available local capacity to support. 

 It has been agreed that wherever possible, schools will find their own short- term solutions to support FSMs in the event of closure of bubbles that include pupils eligible for FSM.

If this is not possible, then clusters will work together to seek a solution.

We would encourage any schools/clusters that have not yet considered this scenario within their risk assessment and planning to do so. For those schools that have already indicated wider support needs through Cluster/LASL responses, a member of the education group will make contact to support next steps shortly after half-term.

If your school or cluster plans have been unable find a workable solution for Free School Meals, in the event of bubble/whole school closure, there may be an opportunity to reach out to community support structures and local volunteers – while  there is no guarantee that this support is available in your area, your local authority area team will be able to advise you what help there might be. You can contact them via the following email addresses.

We are currently seeking advice in relation to any related GDPR requirements and will provide a further update in the next communication

Information for Governing Boards

Letter to Governing Boards

Governing Boards have today been sent a letter from Dan Barton providing advice on a number of key topics including:

  • Use of compassionate leave
  • Time management
  • Performance management
  • Mental health


Holding governing board meetings during Covid-19

 The National Governance Association (NGA) recommended that governing boards continue to meet and govern remotely, in order to support the considerable efforts that schools are making to maintain effective control measures and remain open amid the rise in daily cases and confirmed local outbreaks.  It is recognised that governing boards and their clerks have for the most part transferred well to virtual governance. 

The DfE guidance does not prevent governors/trustees going into schools, however schools must consider their own risk assessments and how they will protect the health and safety of any visitors alongside staff and pupils, in line with government guidance, should they need to organise any visits.

Training for governors

The Governor Support Team are providing training for governors virtually during the Autumn and Spring terms.  Further information about the courses available can be found on SLA Online.  Alternatively, please contact the School Development team;

Governor Vacancies

Nationally there is a shortage of governors on boards and for many schools in Cumbria, this is a reflection of the national picture.  The NGA have linked up with  Inspiring Governance to support schools with recruitment. Funded by the Department for Education, Inspiring Governance offer a facility where a governing board or an individual can register their vacancy or interest which is then held for a 'match making' process.  You can contact them by email or call then on 0207 566 4880.

Appraisal procedures

Following engagement with Trades Unions we have produced an updated appraisal procedure for school based teachers and centrally employed staff.

All LA maintained schools must use this procedure. Other schools are welcome to use it if they wish.

Important note on pay scale progression

Given the impact that school closures will have on some teachers meeting their targets, as well as the substantial and sustained contribution teachers have made on the continuing education of the children of Cumbria throughout the summer term, unless there were written concerns relating to their performance prior to March 2020, then all teachers will progress up the pay scale and receive their appropriate increment. This is in line with Cumbria County Council’s pledge of no detriment due to COVID-19.


School Funding Formula 2021-22 Consultation

A national funding formula was introduced for schools from 2018-19 and as in previous years in 2021-22 local authorities will continue to decide, following consultation with their schools and Schools Forum, whether this formula is applied or a locally determined formula is used.

In July 2020 the DfE announced that local authorities will continue to have flexibility to set a local funding formula in 2021-23.  It is a DfE requirement that all schools are consulted annually on any proposed changes to the schools funding formula.

This is a consultation with all Cumbria Schools Forum and Cumbrian maintained schools and academies to seek views on the proposed changes to the schools funding formula in 2021-22.  The consultation also considers some of the continuing challenges around high needs budget.

Please answer two questions via the online consultation using the link below before Friday 13 November -

Register your school’s interest in the National Tutoring Programme

From November, schools will be able to access support for children and young people who have been most affected by school closures during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak through the National Tutoring Programme.

To register your interest in joining this programme, visit the National Tutoring Programme website.

The National Tutoring Programme are also hosting a webinar for schools on Thursday 5 November at 4pm that will provide an introduction to the programme and details on how your school can get involved.

Health and Safety Update- Maintaining suitable heating and ventilation conditions in Educational Settings

As the weather is now beginning to get colder, several queries have been raised around maintaining comfortable working temperatures, whilst still ensuring effective ventilation.  Current Government guidance still recommends maximising outdoor air as much as reasonably possible.  The DfE says: “We are asking schools to provide good ventilation wherever possible, but also expect schools to maintain a safe and comfortable environment.”

The Education Planning Group Schools Update on the 2nd October included a Health and Safety update regarding the use of heating systems in schools and the requirement to comply with the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations to provide a reasonable temperature in the workplace. 

It is very important to make sure your ventilation system is working, whether that’s opening a window, or ensuring a mechanical or hybrid system is functioning correctly. If it is comfortable to increase the ventilation rate and bring in as much outdoor air as reasonably possible, then that should be encouraged. Windows that are open even a little bit will still help reduce the risk of transmission.  Try to avoid sitting people right next to open windows, if there are high level windows, open them rather than the lower level ones.  Where windows cannot be opened, it may be possible to open some doors to improve ventilation.

Fire doors and ventilation

The following is advice from our Fire Safety Officer in response to the question of whether fire doors can be wedged open to improve ventilation.

The advice to schools to have fire doors held open for the purposes of improved ventilation was not designed to apply to all fire doors.

Before a fire door can be wedged open it must be confirmed that the door is not safety critical. For example, in schools with more than one storey it is often the case that the upper floors will be served by more than one stair to provide an alternative escape route. If these stairs can be accessed by the same corridor at ground floor, then potentially a fire on the ground floor could compromise both means of escape; therefore, it is necessary to ensure that suitable separation is provided to prevent this. This will generally be achieved by providing one or more fire doors within the corridor. Where this is the case, these doors must not be wedged open.

Similarly, any doors opening onto the stairwell at each storey level will prevent the effects of smoke prejudicing the means of escape and must therefore remain closed.

If it is imperative that such doors are held open, then it should be done so with a device that is linked to the fire alarm systems such that the door will close on activation of the fire alarm system. Note that the use of acoustically operated hold-open devices is not acceptable for use in safety critical doors.

Similarly, in schools there will be areas classed as dead ends, i.e. a person making their escape in case of fire has only a single direction of escape. In such circumstances any door opening onto the ‘dead end’ will be probably be designed as a self-closing fire door to provide protection to the escape route. These doors may be wedged open BUT only when the room is occupied.

When considering opening doors, avoid opening doors between classrooms to ensure that air cannot move from one zone to another.  If air flows from one classroom into the classroom opposite, and out the windows, that might mean that it moves the virus from one space to another (although it would be in a more diluted form).

Please Note:  Fire doors must not be left wedged open when any classroom/workroom is unoccupied.

For further advice please contact the Health and Safety Mailbox: