Education Planning Group: Schools update... 19 March

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dan barton

Dear Colleague

I just wanted to start as always by reiterating my thanks for all your hard work and commitment in these challenging times. 

Please accept my apologies for the delay in sending out this week's bulletin. It contains some important updates so please do take time to read and digest it all over the weekend. 


Dan Barton
Assistant Director - Education and Skills

In today's update:

Easter ‘Free School Meal’ voucher system now in place

The county council has again committed to ensuring every benefits-eligible FSM young person is able to access a FSM meal voucher over the Easter holiday. The vouchers will have a value of £33 for each eligible child and are fully funded by Cumbria County Council using Winter Grant monies.

Please ensure your admin team/person is aware of the process and has sight of this communication so they can manage the process on your behalf.

The system we are using enables a clear audit trail for accounting purposes. We will again be working with Wonde to assist in this work. The Wonde system is simple. Schools upload MI information on eligible FSM young people and parents/carers are then contacted direct by Wonde with their vouchers. More support and information can be found here and you can watch a webinar here

Full details on how schools can access the vouchers, along with FAQs and a draft letter for parents can be downloaded here:

+ FSM Guidance

Schools and colleges carrying out asymptomatic testing on-site

Secondary schools and colleges have worked tremendously hard over the past couple of weeks to carry out mass asymptomatic testing. A fantastic achievement by all involved. In order to support you to continue to deliver the programme successfully, please consider the reminders below.

  1. Wait the full 30 minutes to read the LFD test result

The risk of false positive and false negative results is much greater if a test result is read significantly before or after the 30-minute recommended timeframe. Whether carrying out rapid testing in school or at home, please wait the full 30 minutes before reading the result.

  1. Staff, students and pupils should swab the nose AND the throat

We are aware that some schools are encouraging just the nose to be swabbed. LFT guidance for some healthcare workers specifies swabbing the nostrils only, but the school guidance is clear that staff, students and pupils should swab both the nose AND the throat (tonsils). The only exception is if you cannot swab a child’s throat, then the recommendation is to swab both nostrils instead.

Wherever possible, please follow the national schools’ guidance (because children, young people and staff are less likely than healthcare workers to push the swab into the nose far enough to collect a good sample). Please bear in mind that individuals working in healthcare may not be aware of the distinction between the healthcare and school’s guidance. 

  1. Updating risk assessments as you transition to home testing

As secondary schools and colleges start to transition into home testing for pupils and students (in addition to already implementing home testing for staff), you will be thinking about how to continue to provide a small asymptomatic testing site (ATS) for those who require ongoing testing in the setting. Please remember to update your risk assessments when making any changes to your ATS (or the way in which asymptomatic testing is delivered).

PCR and LFD testing during Ramadan

The British Islamic Medical Association’s view is that taking polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or lateral flow device (LFD) tests during Ramadan does not invalidate the fast.

People may feel more comfortable doing the tests when they are not fasting. In this case, with the move to home-testing, tests can be carried out at any time.

What is the difference between a rapid COVID-19 test and a full COVID-19 test?

If you or your child complete an LFD test at home, and the result is positive, you will need to have a follow up ‘full’ (PCR) test. This is because the test needs to be verified if the test has not been supervised by trained individuals. Please find more information here.

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

Letter for parents and carers on rapid testing for household members

Cumbria County Council's director of Public Health, Colin Cox, has written a letter for parents and carers on how they can access twice-weekly rapid testing, to encourage more household members to take up this offer. 

Can you please share this letter with parents and carers at your school?


Primary PE & Sports Grant Balances

As a result of the Coronavirus the DfE have further extended the deadline for spending Primary PE and Sports Grant carried over from the academic year 2019/20 from 31st March 2021 to the end of academic year 2020/21.   Any underspends carried forward from the 2019/20 academic year must be fully spent by the end of 2020/21 academic year.  The 2020/21 conditions of the grant have been updated to reflect this.

DfE Consultation – School Business Rates – changes to the payment process

The DfE have launched a consultation proposing to centralise the payment of business rates for both maintained and academy schools with effect from 2022-23.  The consultation closed on 5 May 2021 and all schools are encouraged to respond.

Insurance confirmation for Year 11s

We've had a number of queries from colleagues relating to summer term planning and the position regarding insurance cover for Year 11s. Cumbria County Council insurers AND DfE have confirmed there are no problems from an insurance point of view of continuing with Year 11s on site right up until the end of term. 

Help with childcare costs for parents

Please help us to remind working parents about support with childcare costs through Tax-Free Childcare and 30 Hours Free Childcare. Tax-Free childcare is available for children up to age 11, and 17 if disabled, school children can claim if they access before and after school clubs.

Please share this poster with your families.

How childcare providers can sign up to claim Tax-Free Childcare.

Cumbria Outdoors is re-opening – we are ready to take your booking!


The great thing about our valued outdoor activities is that they can be delivered as a day or residential visit, and as restrictions lift, we are here to help to put the year we’ve all had behind us.

With a choice of Hawse End Centre on Derwentwater, or Scarness Campsite on Bassenthwaite Lake, we have easy access for all our water activities.  We are also surrounded by Cumbria's stunning fells, crags and ghylls, for mountain walking, rock climbing, abseiling, and ghyll scrambling, so there really is a lot to choose from!

Contact details:  Telephone 01768 812280                                                                  Email:

Cumbrian youth get creative to keep children safe with It’s Not OK

Olivia's story

Today is National Child Exploitation Awareness Day.  To mark this, a group of young people in Cumbria have put their creative minds together to make a series of films about child safety.

The three animated films use the stories of fictional characters to highlight the issues of unhealthy relationships, exploitation and online safety – and what to do if they find themselves in a difficult situation.  They have been made by young people from across Cumbria as part of the Cumbria Safeguarding Children Partnership and NSPCC’s year-long campaign It’s Not OK.

Local government reorganisation in Cumbria

As you will be aware, Cumbria is currently served by a two-tier system of local government, with the County Council and District/Borough Councils responsible for different services.  However, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government invited councils in Cumbria to submit proposals for unitary (single tier) local government towards the end of 2020.  The County Council submitted a proposal for a single unitary authority for Cumbria and the district councils submitted three different proposals, each of which would involve establishing two unitary authorities.

The Secretary of State recently launched a consultation seeking the views of stakeholders on the proposals submitted.  The consultation closes on Monday 19 April and more details about the consultation and each of the proposals can be found here.  Once the consultation is concluded, the Secretary of State will decide, subject to parliamentary approval, which, if any, proposals are to be implemented, considering the responses received and all other relevant information.

I am keen to raise awareness of the consultation across the schools community and encourage you to consider the proposals and respond to the consultation, to ensure the voice of schools across the county is heard.  I will be attending upcoming meetings of PHA and CASH to further raise awareness and answer any questions, so please discuss with your representative over the coming days/weeks.

More details of the County Council’s One Cumbria proposal can be accessed at  It is our view that this proposition will deliver significant benefits and better outcomes for all of Cumbria including its residents, businesses, communities and tourists.  It will also build on the strong countywide partnerships driving continued improvement in Children’s Services and strengthen existing countywide system leadership supporting Cumbria’s schools.

Home learning

This week our focus is on the rhyme Jack and Jill.   Please share with parents to support home learning around the development of speech, language and communication

Chat Play Share – Jack and Jill

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 Food Colouring.

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