Education Planning Group: Schools update... 4 March

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dan barton

Dear all,

As we prepare for the return of all pupils to schools from Monday, I wish to express my thanks once more to all our school leaders and staff who have worked so hard to make this possible.

There is lots of guidance to assist with reopening schools in today's bulletin including a letter for parents and carers from myself and our Director of Public Health Colin Cox, along with updates from HR, Public Health and further guidance on attendance. 

I recognise that this large amount of information will be difficult to digest. However, these are all issues which have been raised at our weekly Education Planning Group, which I hope will be helpful and supportive of a safe and smooth wider reopening next week.

Good luck to you all and please get in touch with us if you need any support!


Dan Barton
Assistant Director - Education and Skills

In today's update:

Letter for parents and carers regarding the return to school on 8 March

Schools have requested that the Local Authority provide a letter for distribution to parents/carers reassuring them about the return to school, while at the same time reminding them of the need to remain vigilant and continue to follow Public Health England guidelines. 

A letter has been drafted and can be downloaded from the link below. It is signed by Assistant Director Dan Barton and Director of Public Health Colin Cox.


Videos for pupils returning to school

abi video covid test

To help pupils prepare for the return to school we have made two videos available. The first features 12 year old Abi demonstrating a Lateral Flow test and the second feature Director of Public Health Colin Cox addressing some of the key concerns and questions that pupils have about the return to school.

Please feel free to share these with your pupils.



Letter for schools regarding vaccination eligibility

There has been a lot of potentially conflicting information circulating about COVID-19 vaccination availability and eligibility for schools staff.

In order to provide some assurance around this, Colin Cox, Director of Public Health at Cumbria County Council is writing to schools this week in relation to the COVID-19 vaccination programme. You can download a copy of his letter below.


Public health round-up

The latest news from our Public Health team including updates on:

  • Extension to isolation period required for individuals who develop symptoms AFTER a positive test result
  • Infectious period prior to onset of symptoms/test now 2 days (rather than 48 hours)
  • Wider symptoms of COVID-19
  • Lateral Flow Testing
  • Clinically Extremely Vulnerable Children


Any queries about this update, please contact the Cumbria County Council Public Health Team by emailing

Latest guidance on wearing facemasks in schools

The LA recognises that schools will have updated their Covid risk assessments in preparation for the return of students from 8 March. These risk assessments will contain a range of protective measures to reduce the risk of transmission of the infection, including the wearing of face coverings.

The DfE recommends but does not mandate the wearing of face coverings in settings where students in Year 7 and above are educated. The current guidance (applicable from 8 March and due to be reviewed at Easter) recommends that face coverings should be worn by staff and students when in classrooms and when moving around the premises, unless social distancing can be maintained.

This recommendation does not apply in situations in which wearing a face covering would impact on the ability to take part in exercise or strenuous activity, for example in PE lessons. Face coverings do not need to be worn by pupils and students when outdoors on the premises.

In primary schools the DfE recommends that face coverings should be worn by staff and adult visitors in situations where social distancing between adults is not possible (for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas). Children in primary schools do not need to wear a face covering.

Some students/staff/visitors are exempt from wearing face coverings. This applies to individuals who:

  • cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical impairment or disability, illness or mental health difficulties; and
  • speak to or provide help to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate.

A student cannot be compelled to wear a face covering.

No student should be denied education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering. Disciplinary sanctions up to and including exclusion are not an appropriate response to a student refusing to wear a face covering.

Although it will not be possible or appropriate to compel all staff/students/visitors to wear face coverings, schools should strongly encourage their use as part of the wider system of controls that are in place.


HR advice notes

Our HR team have created some guidance in response to some of the requests they received from schools:

If you have any questions about this email or ongoing COVID arrangements process please speak to your HR provider in the first instance and then contact Kerry Anderson, HR Business Partner – Education & Skills if you have any further queries

Centrally employed staff update

We have had a number of requests from schools to clarify the position with regard to centrally employed staff from 8 March. The following measures should be made for centrally employed staff attending school sites:

  • Consideration about whether the work can be done and outcomes achieved to the same standard remotely
  • Individual risk assessment
  • School risk assessment

To assist with the return to school our Health & Safety team has updated the guidance for centrally employed staff working across a number of sites to include information about Lateral Flow Testing. 

We also have a model risk assessment for specialist visits to educational settings that includes control measures for staff working across multiple sites.

We continue to look further at arrangements for centrally employed staff coming into schools and will keep schools informed through further updates. 

Guidance on attendance and absence recording

We have had a number of queries regarding school attendance in preparation for reopening to all pupils on 8 March.

It is important that children attend school regularly and this should be a priority however we recognise that there will be some circumstances where this is not possible. In relation to COVID-19 specifically the position is as follows:

  • For cases where there are no health issues for parents or child there is a clear legal requirement for attendance. General fears about catching Covid-19 are not a valid reason for non-attendance.
  • For cases where there are health issues for the parent but they are not classed as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) again there is a clear legal requirement to attend.
  • For cases where the parent is CEV, guidance suggests the child should attend, attendance is expected. Schools may wish to consider supporting education at home if there is marked reluctance on the part of the parent or child to attend but there is no requirement to do so.
  • For cases where the child 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. Schools should ask parents to provide medical advice confirming the position.

The DFE have also issued advice on attendance and absence recording from Monday 8 March including additional Covid specific categories.  Schools should use code Y for secondary pupils not expected to be attending school for lessons during the week beginning 8 March week due to the asymptomatic testing programme.

Returning to school – concerns raised by farming communities

Colleagues on the Education Outbreak Control Team have reported that some farming families have expressed concern about their children returning to school during the busy lambing period (eg. Families are worried about being advised to isolate when they need to be working and the associated animal welfare / financial impact). The inclusion and attendance team have provided the following response to the concerns flagged by famring families:

The DfE position is clear that the expectation is that all children should return to school next week except in a certain limited number of circumstances. Each situation would need to be considered individually by the school, but if the chidlren were absent they would be missing out on more schooling and there would be no expectation for schools to provide remote learning.

H&S guidance on ventilation measures in schools

Our Health & Safety team has developed a guidance update, primarily aimed at schools, which provides some practical advice and “top tips” to help you consider potential airborne transmission factors and look to improve ventilation measures where possible. 


Supporting children and staff's mental health in the return to school

Our Children's Psychological Services has developed an online resource, which collates ideas and materials from many sources both within Cumbria and more widely and aims to support schools in the transition back into school attendance. 

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. You can access the resource here.

If you need additional or related information please contact your Educational Psychologist or a relevant Specialist Advisory Teacher. 

Metal Health Family Hour mini-series

Following the success of the Mental Health Family Hour series, Lancashire and South Cumbria Foundation Trust (LSCFT) is launching a mental health mini-series to support staff working across Lancashire and South Cumbria.

Four episodes will address topics that many staff members have been concerned about, with input from guest speakers. All staff working in the NHS, local authorities, third sector, education and other organisations are welcome to attend the live-streams, which will be broadcast on YouTube.

The first episode will be aired at 10am on Thursday 11 March and will be on the theme of ‘Taking Notice’.  You can join the first session via this link - - and if you can’t join live, the episodes are all available to watch afterwards.

'Cumbria together - have your say' survey results

Prior to Christmas, we surveyed families in Cumbria with a young child aged 0 – 5 on their experiences of 2020. They told us about some of the things that they had enjoyed such as “Quality but simple family time”. However there were also many challenging things such as worrying that their child was missing out on social activities and the effect that this would have on them.

Please find the report to partners here

The feedback report to families is here

We will be sharing the findings and our actions to address these, through our social media channels – CFIS Facebook

Early Years Foundation Stage Briefing papers

Over the coming months to prepare for the implementation of the Revised EYFS framework in September 2021 we will be providing monthly briefing papers and webinars to support your preparations.

We hope you will find these useful and we aim to –

  • Select key themes that will support the transition from one framework to another
  • Share materials and resources you will be able to use to support and review your practice and provision to meet the revised framework requirements
  • Draw on helpful information from our early adopter schools to share their learning and key points for implementation
  • Provide accessible tools, recorded webinar presentations/training that head teachers, managers, governors and staff can access to support the preparation in settings and schools

In revising the EYFS framework it was intended that the key areas for consideration and review were data, workload, curriculum, development matters and the role of assessment.

Please look out for the first important briefing which you will receive via the school portal this week.

Please follow the attached link for the Draft Early Years Foundation Stage implementation September 2021, for comment.


Poverty Proofing - practical guide

The Learning Improvement Service (LIS) has been working alongside Cumbrian school leaders to embed Poverty Proofing since the start of 2019.

Poverty Proofing has already had a significant, positive impact in many of our schools through the initial (pre COVID) reviews and subsequent online training sessions.

Children North East have now released a practical guide to support all schools in taking their first steps in Poverty Proofing. The resource can be downloaded here.

To find out more about online training in Poverty Proofing (developed by Cumbrian school professionals and LIS Advisers), please contact School Development on


Information from Ofsted on remote education for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities

Ofsted has published new information on how remote education is working for children and young people with SEND. Their findings are taken from the autumn and spring term interim visits.

Ofsted’s video about remote education and what is working for children and young people with SEND is now available to watch.

You can also download their slides on remote education for children and young people with SEND: a discussion pack for leaders and practitioners.

Home learning for early years children

This week our focus is on the rhyme The Grand Old Duke of York. Please share with parents to support home learning around the development of speech, language and communication

Chat Play Share – The Grand Old Duke of York

For a range of fun activity ideas, please share What Can I Do This Week? Remember that the activities included in the Wednesday Communication will be for the activities beginning the Monday of the following week.

This week the theme is crayons.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.