Education Planning Group: Schools update... 25 February

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dan barton

Dear all,

I hope you all found time to relax over the half-term holiday and to take a well-earned break. 

In preparation for schools reopening on March 8 we are actively working with partners from across the full phase range of education in the county to ensure that we are properly prepared. Today's bulletin includes many updates which I hope will prove helpful as you plan for the reopening of your school or setting to all pupils. 

Thank you, as always, for all your hard work and commitment in these challenging times. 


Dan Barton
Assistant Director - Education and Skills

In today's update:

Support for schools reopening on March 8

To support schools as they plan for the return of all pupils on 8 March, we have reviewed the ‘Reconnecting’ discussion tool and activities (based upon the work of Barry Carpenter), sent to schools last autumn, for schools to consider if they wish.

We are also providing a link (below) to a resource from Islington that a number of schools have found useful:

LIS will be also offering the opportunity for headteachers to join online, facilitated discussions (‘huddles’) with colleagues from across the wider system. The aim of these small group sessions (generally 6-8 participants) is to explore potential operational solutions around any challenges to reconnecting with your curriculum. We hosted many such sessions last year and these additional opportunities to engage with colleagues received highly positive feedback. Details of these free sessions will be made available via School Development soon.

As ever, please do not hesitate to contact your LIS Adviser directly if you require any support or advice.

Updated risk assessment for schools reopening

The Model Risk assessments for Operations and Premises have been reviewed and updated to take account of the latest Government Guidance for Schools reopening on the March 8.  We will provide any updates or changes that might be made as and when we get them.

HR guidance on managing staff absence

As schools prepare to reopen we thought it would be useful to share again our HR guidance published in September to support heads and governing bodies to manage staff absence. 

Director of Public Health invites questions from secondary students

As pupils prepare for their return to school on 8 March many will have anxieties and questions about COVID-19 and the new measures that are being put in place to reduce transmission risk, like testing and masks. Colin Cox, Cumbria’s Director of Public Health, would like to help them prepare for their return by answering their questions.

We are inviting secondary schools to speak with their pupils and find out what their questions and concerns are, email what your students tell you (in summary!) to (using subject line: Schools covid questions). Colin will then record a video message for students answering the most common questions. That video will then be made available to schools next week to share with pupils via schools’ online learning platforms.

Please send your questions by 10am on Tuesday

Information for parents on supporting children during home-schooling and preparing them for the return to school

We have developed some short videos to that can be sent out to families with tips and information on routines, sleep, managing home-schooling and help get ready for the return to school in a positive way. These are aimed at Primary age families.

There is information from a headteacher, 5-19 Public Health Nurses and the best of all children – who, of course, say it as it is!

Families can watch these together too. It would be great if the links to the videos could be sent out to families via text, Facebook pages, email, your school website etc – however you find families access your information best.

We have also put together guidance to help support families to manage behaviour and give some positive tips on this. There is also information on further support at the end.

You can also find all of these and more at

For further information, please contact

Supporting emotional wellbeing and learning needs in the transition back to formal schooling

As schools prepare to reopen on March 8 we'd like to remind you of an online resource, Coronavirus (COVID-19) - getting back to school | Cumbria County Council, developed last year for schools to support children and staff returning to  school after the first lockdown.

This resource, which collates ideas and materials from many sources both within Cumbria and more widely, aims to support schools in the transition back into school attendance.

At the time of writing, it is still unclear what the longer term government strategy for the return to school will be, and the extent to which schools and local authorities will be able to design their own approaches. The logistics are clearly going to be very complicated. 

However, this resource has a professional focus: it is about the needs of the pupils, staff and families and how we, as professionals, can support them. It tries to suggest support approaches and materials which schools can use flexibly, within their own structure for the return to school.

Awareness campaign launched to support people struggling to cope during the pandemic

A series of animations have been released encouraging people to look after themselves, others and to get help early if they are struggling during the pandemic.

During these difficult and stressful times, it is crucial that people look after their mental health and wellbeing.

The North East and North Cumbria Suicide Prevention Network, in collaboration with suicide prevention charity Every Life Matters Cumbria, have launched its “look after yourself, look out for others, and get help early” awareness campaign with the release of three short animations.

Katherine McGleenan, North East and North Cumbria Suicide Prevention Lead, said: “I have worked in the region as a mental health nurse for many years and know that getting the right information and support at the right time is not always straight forward. Often people either don’t know how to find support, or don’t want to ask for help, often due to the stigma. 

“We hope that these animations will encourage people to start conversations and start to reduce the stigma. We want everyone, whatever their circumstances, to know there is support available, and to know how to access help if needed, and that they don’t need to cope alone.”

The animations are available on both the North East and North Cumbria Suicide Prevention Network and Every Life Matters Cumbria websites. View them here  or here.

Supporting children with SEND in the return to school

Special Needs Jungle (SNJ) is a volunteer-created and run website, creating easy-to-understand resources, articles, and information about special educational needs, disabilities (SEND), and health conditions.

The group has just published the results of its  Autumn 2020 COVID 19 SEND Education Survey, which has some useful recommendations for supporting children with SEND back to school in 2021.