Education Planning Group: Schools update... 24 June

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In today's update:

dan barton

Dear Colleagues

This has been a particularly challenging week for schools in Cumbria, with around 55 dealing with isolated cases of covid among staff or pupils and 10 dealing with larger outbreaks and two schools closed.

The latest data published today from the county's Public Health team shows covid cases almost doubling again in the last week, just as they have in the previous two weeks, so we are in a worsening position.

Everyone has been feeling the pressure as our advice has reverted back to what it was months ago in terms of wearing masks, visitors to schools and so on. Unfortunately it simply reflects the position we're in.

In response we have implemented 'surge testing' aimed at 12-30 year olds in the county - trying to get as many as possible tested quickly to help spot cases and prevent infection spreading.

For school age children we've been working with secondary schools on a priority basis to implement in-school testing, that is now underway and is working well. The intention is to work through all schools over the next three weeks. Huge thanks to schools for the positive and pragmatic approach being taken. 

Some schools have asked about the potential impact on planned Holiday Activity Fund provision in schools over the summer. We have to acknowledge that there is the potential for this activity to be disrupted and we need to be thinking about the implications of that. We want to wait and see what the impact of surge testing is before we provide any further advice, but it is on our radar. 

Cumbrian schools continue to do a great job in difficult circumstances. Let's keep going.


Dan Barton

Assistant Director - Education and Skills

NEW Public Health advice - 24 June

Delta variant symptoms - testing advice

In some cases people who have tested positive for the new Delta variant of the covid virus have reported experiencing different symptoms to the standard three (temperature, cough, loss of taste or smell).

This has not been consistent however and as such we are not able to widen the definition of symptoms which should prompt people to get a covid test.

  • Being pragmatic, if there are known positive cases in the school community, as a precaution schools should advise getting tested if people feel unwell.
  • If there are no known cases, schools should advise getting tested only if any of the three standard symptoms are present.

This is a proportionate approach which will help avoid unnecessary testing. The situation is being kept under review.

Please ensure that all parents and carers are aware of the Covid quick guide produced by the Public Health team.

Bubble size and bubble mixing

When rates of COVID were low in the Spring, many schools began to relax some of their measures around bubble mixing e.g. increasing bubble size and reintroducing activities such as whole school assemblies.

Given the rapidly increasing rate of COVID-19 in schools, public health advice is to re-review bubble arrangements and ensure:

  • Bubble sizes are kept to a minimum where possible
  • Mixing does not take place between bubbles (we know some schools have to share staff across bubbles - where this is necessary, it is important to ensure adherence to other COVID-safe measures)

Secondary school students who have jobs or placements outside of school

There have been some cases who have been asked to isolate by the school (due to being a positive case or a close contact) who also have jobs or placements outside the setting. On occasion, young people have failed to notify the employer.

Please can secondary schools remind students that they should let their employer know if they have tested positive, or have been asked to isolate due to being a close contact.

Free School Meal voucher scheme for the summer holidays

The Free School Meal voucher scheme will be in place again this summer. Arrangements are being finalised and schools will be informed as soon as possible.

The intention is to repeat the arrangements from this Easter.

Cumbria Holiday Activity Programme set to launch

Cumbria County Council is preparing to launch the Cumbria Holiday Activity Programme. The programme is aimed at families with children who receive Free School Meals and will provide a wide range of free activities around the county during the school summer holiday period. This is in addition to activities that will be offered by schools for their own pupils.

We will be asking schools to help us promote the programme to eligible families in their setting. Look out for a special update next week. This is an offer families will not want to miss.

Over 140 exciting activities, from firefighter experiences and dance workshops to visiting the zoo and sword swallowing, will be available. Places are limited and bookings will work on a first-come-first served basis. All children who attend will also be provided with a free lunchtime meal.

The programme is funded by the Department for Education’s Holiday Activities and Food Programme 2021.

All over 18s invited to book vaccination

All over 18s can now book an appointment to receive their COVID-19 vaccine.

The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective. It not only provides the best protection against becoming seriously ill if you catch coronavirus, but also cuts household transmission of the virus by up to 50%. So, it's essential everyone accepts their jab when it's offered to them.

You do not need to wait to be contacted by the NHS, you can book your vaccination appointments via the National Booking Service online or by calling 119 free of charge. 

Celebrating us’ Cumbria Children in Care Council Awards - nominations open

Children in care council

The Cumbria children in care council are working incredibly hard to organise this year’s ‘Celebrating us’ awards ceremony which will celebrate the successes and achievements of children and young people who are looked after, care leavers and the people who support them.

To help make this event a huge success, we would appreciate all schools to nominate any children looked after who have gone the extra mile or achieved something special in the last year. Nominating someone is easy and won’t take more than 5 minutes per nomination, you can nominate as many people as you like, in as many categories as you like. The nine award categories are:

  • Educational achievement of the year (Primary/ Secondary/Further Education)
  • Foster carer of the year
  • Inspirational child or young person of the year (under/over 18)
  • Inspirational worker of the year
  • Small but mighty achievement of the year
  • Young Citizen of the year

The deadline for nominations is Sunday 25 July 2021, please go to for more information and to nominate.

SEND - "All of Us Forum" meeting on 9 July

All of us circle logo

The All of Us Forum is Cumbria County’s forum for young people with SEND to voice their opinions and make suggestions on a range of topics and issues.

The forum's next meeting is on Friday 9 July from 1.30pm to 2.30pm.

The topic for the meeting is 'transition'.

Please make relevant young people in your setting aware of the forum

The session takes place on Microsoft Teams. If you have young people who would like to join please email

Active Travel - Modeshift Stars Education Award Scheme

Cumbria County Council’s Active Travel for Schools service has recently joined with the Active Cumbria Team. 

As part of this merger the new Team are launching the Modeshift Stars Education Award Scheme in Cumbria and you are invited to register your school on this exciting and beneficial Active Travel project. 

As an added incentive, many thousands of pounds worth of active travel resources will be balloted to schools that register before the end of the summer term.

+ Find out more an register your school

REMINDER: COVID-19 advice and information previously issued on 16 & 23 June

Visitors to schools

  • Wherever possible, visits should now move to being virtual until the end of the summer term. This includes peripatetic music teaching.
  • If a face-to-face visit is deemed essential (e.g. for safeguarding or physical/mental/social health reasons) the visitor should be strongly encouraged to LFT test either the night before or on the morning of the visit (staff doing multiple visits should LFT test at least twice a week)
  • If the child being seen is of secondary school age, their parents should be strongly advised to support the child to do an LFT test the night before, or on the morning of the planned visit
  • When the visit is taking place – all the relevant system of controls should be strictly adhered to where possible (ventilation, face coverings, social distancing, hand cleaning, use of tissues, cleaning etc)

Transition visits 

As we know, transition to the next stage in education represents a significant challenge to us and to our young people each year, and proper face to face transition arrangements are always preferred. This year, in some cases, schools’ own risk assessments may preclude a face to face visit.

We advise:

  • Risk assess and ensure system of controls followed.
  • Face to face visits could continue but only if 2 metres distance is maintained between children from different primary schools (and if this is not possible, carry out virtually).
  • We advise against any activity that mixes bubbles/classes who are not currently mixing. 
  • No parent visits to the school – virtual only.

End of year events 

Again we advise careful risk assessment and ensuring a system of controls is in place.  We advise against any event that mixes bubbles/classes who are not currently mixing. No parent visits to the school.

Residential and day visits 

Educational trips and visits can still go ahead. However, these should be undertaken only when your setting’s risk assessment has been reviewed and appropriate mitigations and controls considered. Unfortunately there is no financial support available to schools if trips have to be cancelled.

We advise:

  • If your setting is in outbreak status, trips should be rearranged.
  • Avoid mixing of bubbles (especially on transport, sleeping arrangements etc) unless robust mitigations can be implemented.
  • Visits to Enhanced Response Areas should be risk assessed very carefully. Current Government guidance is to minimise travel in and out of these areas. In most cases trips to ERAs should be avoided.
  • Parents/carers should collect children if they develop symptoms and cannot be isolated while on trips. If that is not practical, consideration should be given to whether the trip can proceed.

Masks in schools

Local public health advice is now that secondary schools should reinstate the wearing of masks or face coverings by pupils and staff in communal areas or when moving around the school.

Masks are also advised for teachers in classrooms, in primary and secondary.

If you have not yet seen it, please note the updated Risk Assessment template from our Health and Safety team.