Education Planning Group: Schools update... 15 March

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In today's update:

Parents and carers carrying out LFD testing at home  

The Public Health team at Cumbria County Council are becoming aware of a number of children who are being LFD (rapidly) tested at home. Whilst it is a positive development that households now have access to LFD tests, some issues are arising, so please can you share the advice below with parents and carers in relation to LFD testing at home:

  • If your child has symptoms of COVID-19, please arrange for them to have a PCR test, which can be arranged via the link here: or by calling 119. LFD tests are for asymptomatic testing (i.e. testing people who do not have symptoms) and should NOT be used to test individuals with symptoms.
  • If your child is isolating because they have been identified as a close contact of a positive case, a negative LFD result will not change their isolation period. They still need to complete the isolation period advised (because they can develop symptoms, or test positive without showing symptoms, at any point during the isolation period).
  • Please ensure ALL LFD test results are reported online at or by telephone via 119. When reporting a result, please ensure you provide all the relevant personal contact details.
  • If an LFD test is carried out on a child at home and shows a positive result, a follow-up PCR test needs to be completed as soon as possible (which can be booked here: or by calling 119) and the household should isolate immediately. The child’s school should be informed of the result, as they will need to identify any close contacts from the setting at this point and ask them to isolate.

- if the follow-up test result is positive, the household and other close contacts need to isolate for 10 days (day ‘1’ is counted as the day following the LFT test). Please engage with track and trace services if they contact you and provide details of close contacts.

- if the follow up test result is negative the individual, their household members and other close contacts can end their isolation immediately.

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

Guidance around the use of face coverings in schools

Pennine Way

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 (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.

The DfE guidance makes clear that some students/staff/visitors are exempt from wearing face coverings; that a student cannot be compelled to wear a face covering and that no student should be denied education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering. Read full legal and government guidance on wearing face coverings in schools here.

There are a number of websites offering tips and advice online to engage young people with the idea of wearing a face mask. Parents and schools may find that encouraging a child to decorate their mask may make mask-wearing more fun. The young pupils at Pennine Way School (pictured) really enjoyed decorating their own masks and did a great job! More tips are a available here

Supporting School Staff Wellbeing

It is important to remember that Covid-19 and repeated lockdowns will have had an effect on the mental health and wellbeing of all members of the school staff.

Attached are some ideas, links to resources/activities and support information for you to share with your staff to help support their resilience, emotional well-being and mental health.

After Easter, we will be offering some fortnightly informal wellbeing ‘drop in and chat’ sessions for school staff to come and chat about their wellbeing and to offer some peer support. To make sure we get this right, we will shortly be sending out a short survey, which we hope you will circulate with your staff.

Finance updates for Schools

This week our finance team have a number of updates for schools regarding finance and funding:

COVID-19 Workforce Fund for Schools

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has now opened the window for schools to submit claims to help meet the cost of covering workforce absences experienced from 1 November 2020 until the end of the autumn 2020 term. The claim form can be accessed here. The deadline for submitting claims is 31 March 2021.  Guidance to help schools complete the form is available here.  

Maintained Schools Excess Surplus Balances

At the Schools Forum meeting held on 11 March the maintained school representatives agreed that the Excess Surplus Balance policy will not apply against maintained school balances as at 31 March 2021. 

High Needs Consultation

The DfE have launched a consultation proposing changes to the methodology for allocating High Needs funding to local authorities.  The consultation can be accessed here and closes on 24 March.  All schools are encouraged to respond individually and the local authority’s draft response has been attached here for information.

DfE Sparsity Consultation

The DfE have launched a consultation proposing changes to the value and allocation method of the sparsity factor within the National Funding Formula. The consultation, which can be accessed here, closes on the 9 April.  All schools are encouraged to respond individually and the local authority response to the consultation will be shared with schools in due course.

Rapid testing for household members

Members of households, childcare or support bubbles of school staff and pupils can now access lateral flow devices to carry out rapid testing at home. See here.

If you are a member of a household, childcare bubble or support bubble of staff or a pupil, you can access twice-weekly rapid testing via one of the following routes:

  • Through your employer (if they offer testing to employees)
  • Attending a local testing site and having a supervised test onsite
  • By collecting home test kits from a test site
  • By ordering a home test kit online

Please note that whilst the online information does not specifically indicate the age range for household members rapid testing, it is predominantly aimed at adults aged 18+.

Our public heath team has puled together comprehensive guidance on accessing rapid testing:


Revised risk assessment for centrally employed staff

Following on from our update last week regarding measures for centrally employed staff attending school sites, we have revised our COVID-19 risk assessment for specialist visits to educational and other settings.

There is also updated guidance on procedures for carrying out visits in various locations by Council Officers and Healthcare Practitioners.