Education Planning Group: Schools update... IMPORTANT INFORMATION

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In today's update:

Cllr Sue Sanderson

Dear Colleagues,

We’ve finally reached the end of term and there is no doubt you and your teams need this break. It has been a phenomenally challenging term, the likes of which none of us have experienced before. Schools across the county have done incredible work to respond to the ever changing guidance and the impact of the virus in their school community. The resilience, determination and innovation we have seen has been remarkable.

dan barton

We have all learnt a huge amount and while we have little doubt that things will continue to change, this learning will stand us in good stead for next year.

The stark reality is that as we look towards the January term the indications are that we are likely to be dealing with a third wave of infection. Across the country we are seeing very rapid rises in the infection rate since the second lockdown ended. While Cumbria is currently in a relatively good position, we should not assume that this will last.

Despite this worrying outlook, with the start of the vaccine roll-out there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel and that must be celebrated. We can also assure you that the Local Authority will continue to be there to support you and your teams, doing all we can to help ease the burden. The joint working throughout this period has been fantastic and long may it continue.

So in summary, thank you for an incredible effort this year, try and get a rest, and we’ll take on whatever 2021 throws at us as a team.


Cllr Sue Sanderson, Cabinet Member for Schools and Learning

Dan Barton, Assistant Director for Education and Skills

Free School Meals over Christmas

If you have not already done so, please order your WONDE FSM vouchers for your FSM young people [benefits-related, EYPP and Funded 2’s] given term finishes tomorrow.  

The LA will reconcile primary school invoices from Monday, so we are not in a position to prompt you if you haven’t already ordered. If you do not intend to order, please let Dale Hill


Welfare support for families at Christmas - please share

A range of welfare support is available to families over the Christmas period. Please share the relevant PDFs below with your parents to help raise awareness of what is on offer.

Children who are absent from school due to parents being clinically extremely vulnerable.

The Department for Education guidance states that attendance is mandatory unless a child is deemed Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV), even if a family member is CEV.

Schools have been working hard to build parental confidence in sending their child to school under these circumstances. However, there have been a few cases where schools and parents have been put in a very difficult position. In these cases, pupils who were not attending school (as they have a household member who was CEV and it was considered by the family to be too great a risk) were being recorded as having unauthorised absence.

The guidance states that the usual powers of intervention such as warning notices, penalty notices and prosecution remain in place as sanctions that can be accessed. However, following a number of individual cases that have come to our attention via the COVID-19 Education Outbreak Control Team meetings, Cumbria County Council is advising schools to take the following approach:

  • Consideration needs to be given on a case by case basis.
  • Consideration should be given to any safeguarding concerns in respect of the child.
  • If a parent provides a letter from a medical consultant confirming that a parent/sibling/other household member in that household is CEV to Covid-19 the absence should be recorded as authorised (code X: not attending in circumstances relating to COVID-19).
  • In the above circumstance, remote learning should be made available.
  • Arrangements should be reviewed on a weekly basis, taking into consideration DfE guidelines, which may change.
  • Where parents have already removed their child from roll to electively home educate (EHE) due to this reason, schools should contact the parents to explain the change of approach. The school should also inform Cumbria County Council if a pupil is re-admitted to the school roll.
  • Where remote education has been provided attendance registers can be retrospectively changed from the start of the autumn term to reflect this amended advice.
  • Where remote education has not been provided absences should be authorised.
  • If penalty notice warning letters or Penalty Notices have been issued these need to be withdrawn.
  • If schools have any questions or require clarification, please contact your school advisor.

Public Health round-up

COVID-19 cases reporting checklist

The document linked to below sets out in summary the process to follow if there are cases of COVID-19 in school, and also explains the information that will be requested from you when you make contact.


COVID-19 Isolation period for close and household contacts has changed from 14 to 10 days

Following an announcement by the Chief Medical Officer, the COVID-19 isolation period for close/household contacts of positive cases has now changed from 14 to 10 days.

This change is due to evidence suggesting people are more likely to isolate for 10 days, rather than 14 days. It also takes into account findings that suggest only a small number of people (around 2%) will go on to develop symptoms after day 10.

The key points are as follows:

  • From Monday 14 December, close contacts only need to isolate for 10 days
  • The 10 day isolation period now starts from the day AFTER the exposure, onset of symptoms or test for both close contacts and positive cases (previously, day 1 was counted as the day of exposure, onset of symptoms or positive test). This is to ensure a full 10 days isolation is completed.
  • Anyone who has previously been told to isolate for 14 days can now reduce their isolation period to 10 days (as long as they count the 10 days as starting from the day following the exposure)

Any queries, please email

REMINDER: Public Health outbreak control arrangements over Christmas period - action for schools

The Public Health team at Cumbria County Council is ensuring that a member of the team is available everyday over the Christmas Holidays to support educational settings in case of any queries or emergencies related to COVID-19.


After the end of term, there will be a short period of time when the Public Health team may need to contact schools for COVID-19 purposes. We will ONLY contact schools when a pupil or member of staff tests positive and we identify that the individual has been in school during their infectious period (because we will need to work with the school to identify the individual’s close contacts and ask them to isolate).

Given the timescales for a person to develop symptoms, get tested and receive their test result, the Public Health team will need an emergency contact number for all schools for the 6 days following the last day of term. For most schools this will be the 19 – 24 December.  We will not contact you during the holidays after this time unless you ask us to.

  • Primary Schools – we will use the emergency contact details for your school held by Primary Heads Association unless you email alternative details to by Thursday 17 December
  • Secondary Schools – we will use the emergency contact details for your school held by the CCC Learning and Improvement Team unless you email alternative details to by Thursday 17 December
  • Other settings, including academies – please email emergency contact details to by Thursday 17 December

Some schools may wish to organize a rota, one contact does not have to cover all 6 days.

COVID-19 workforce fund

Further guidance has been published around criteria and eligibility for schools to claim from this fund  - please see the link below

Schools will be able to make claims for eligible expenditure in Spring 2021 and DfE will publish further guidance on the claims process at that time.  In the meantime schools should keep a record of all relevant costs incurred.

Online wellbeing support for young people from Kooth

Kooth offers emotional and mental health support for children and young people aged between 11 – 24 years and is available up to 10pm every day. Kooth will remain open throughout the Christmas holidays, with slightly different opening hours for our online counselling support.

Now Christmas is only a little over a week away, Kooth are sharing their final resources from their ‘Struggling at Christmas’ series.

The series covers different aspects that young people may struggle with over the seasonal period. Last week they shared a resource on Managing Social Anxiety, which even in these more virtual times can still have a huge impact on young people’s mental health.

Resources available this week are:

  • Handling  Family Difficulties
  • Coping With Loneliness

We hope these resources can be helpful for any young person who may have a challenging family life, or may be experiencing some loneliness over the holidays.

Please do download these resources and share with any young people you believe may benefit from reading them. 

This December we will also be featuring the following live forums on our Kooth website, which young people can access by heading to on the upcoming dates below from 7:30-9pm:

Wednesday 23rd December Holiday Social Takeover!

Monday 28th December Reflecting on Positives from 2020

For further information or if you have any queries about the service or if you would be interested in booking any sessions with Kooth, please contact