Education Planning Group: Schools Update... 19 November

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In today's update:

dan barton

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you all, as ever, for continuing to be there for Cumbrian children and families. Whilst you are probably very regularly thanked by parents, it’s important for me to offer thanks to you all on behalf of our whole system. We recognise the phenomenal effort that it takes to keep schools open and functioning at the moment, and we are so grateful.

Of particular concern for colleagues at the moment is the question of exams for next year. Whether it's teacher assessed SATs, GCSEs, A-levels or other Level 1, 2 or 3 qualifications, there is justifiable concern about what arrangements are going to be for assessment, but also (and probably more importantly) how we will mitigate the impact of prolonged absence from school on pupils’ results. Needless to say, there is an added concern about how the impact of results will translate to the regulatory approach going forward.

I want to reassure colleagues that, whilst these questions need to be answered on a national scale, we completely understand the challenges that you face in this regard. A complete rethink of assessment is going to be necessary for next year to avoid disenfranchising large numbers of our children and young people. As you might expect, through regular contact with the DfE, and through political lobbying by our Cabinet Member for Schools and Learning, Cllr Sue Sanderson, we are applying pressure to the collective demand for a clear steer on this issue. It goes without saying, that balancing the demands of keeping schools open, and the need to adapt curriculum planning to take account of changes yet to be decided is an enormous task – especially when you don’t know what’s coming.

Please be reassured that we are asking continually for clarity on these issues, and that we are here to support you.


Dan Barton
Assistant Director - Education and Skills

Guidance for supporting clinically extremely vulnerable and clinically vulnerable employees 

Our latest guidance on supporting staff identified as being clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) and clinically vulnerable (CV) can be found here. Key points are as follows:

  • During this period school-based employees who are classed as CEV are to remain at home and should be paid their normal pay. They should work from home where they can.
  • People who live with others who are CEV can still attend work even if they cannot work from home.
  • Clinically Vulnerable staff should work at home wherever possible, or where Covid secure measures cannot be maintained.
  • Managers/Head Teacher should continue to support those with Caring Responsibilities.

For cases where a staff member was previously classed as CEV and/or comes within one of the current CEV categories they should not attend school unless medical advice says it is safe for them to do so. CEV staff can return to the educational setting when schools have:

  1. Staff member’s request to return to the educational setting.
  2. GP endorsement of that request.
  3. HR provider approval.
  4. Agreement from Head Teacher.

COVID Exceptional Costs - second tranche

Payment for claims relating to exceptional COVID expenditure were paid in August to those schools not claiming anything in the ‘other’ category.  Those schools that did include items in the ‘other’ category were paid for the items in the three standard categories early in November.  At this time ESFA said that items in the ‘other’ category would be considered and that they anticipated informing schools within the next six weeks of the outcome.  We would therefore expect that schools should hear about the outcome of their claim for ‘other’ items by early December.

Currently no further information regarding claims for a second tranche of funding is available but we will inform schools as soon as information does become available.

Guidance regarding essential visitors to schools

Following a number of queries from schools, we thought it would be helpful to include a reminder of the guidance on essential visitors for education and childcare settings during the current lockdown. Please note the following key points:

  • Music, dance and drama can be undertaken in school so long as safety precautions are undertaken. Schools can therefore continue to engage peripatetic teachers, including staff from Hubs and the guidance highlights that ‘all pupils should have access to a quality arts education’.
  • Only out-of-school activities which are being used for the primary purposes set out in the new guidance (registered childcare, respite care, by home educating parents and certain youth support services) may continue to operate. All other out of school activities should close for face-to-face provision for the duration of the national restrictions. Remote education (i.e. digitally) can continue to be offered though.

Alongside the Government guidance, the LA is recommending that non-essential visits to schools should cease.

Essential visits could include visits related to:

  • Curriculum delivery
  • Safeguarding
  • Statutory work (eg. EHCP assessments, Health visits, Team Around the School)

Any visits must be conducted in a COVID-safe way, and the ultimate decision rests with headteacher with regard to the own risk assessment. To minimise risk, wherever possible it is recommended to move activity online.

Self-isolation guidance from Public Health team

It is very important that people with COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test result stay at home and avoid contact with other household members as much as possible.

Schools have requested some clarity around when the period of self-isolation officially starts and our Public Health Team has confirmed that Day 1 of self-isolation starts on the day you develop symptoms.

If you do not have symptoms but have tested positive for COVID-19, stay at home for 10 days from the day the test was taken. This is because you can still pass the infection to others. If you do develop symptoms after your test, restart the 10-day period from the day your symptoms develop.

Free school meal delivery clarification

Further to our update this morning confirming the procedure for schools to access support to deliver free school meals to children who are self-isolating, we would like to reiterate that where schools can manage this delivery process themselves they should continue to do so. Where the scale of deliveries makes this impossible please follow the guidance issued this morning.

Latest FAQs from Public Health team

The county council Public Health team has published answers to commonly asked questions, based on recent interactions with schools.