Education Planning Group: Schools update... 09 December

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In today's update:

dan barton

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the penultimate education planning group bulletin before the welcome Christmas break.

This week has seen more measures brought in nationally to deal with the Omicron variant, so we have included a summary of what Plan B means for schools, where essentially the advice for educational settings remains the same.

We have also included some updated guidance regarding COVID-19 related absences, an update from DfE about inspections and much more.

So let's dive in to this week's update.

Best wishes,

Dan Barton, Assistant Director - Education and Skills

Public Health

Implementation of Plan B: implications for educational settings

Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced the implementation of Plan B: COVID-19 Response: Autumn and Winter Plan 2021 - GOV.UK (

The advice for educational settings remains the same:

  • Educational settings should continue to ensure that routine control measures are in place, including regular handwashing, cleaning, and ventilation.
  • Staff, visitors, and students in year 7 and above should wear face coverings in communal areas unless exempt. Students in year 7 and above should also wear a face covering when travelling on public transport and on dedicated school transport, unless they are exempt.
  • All staff and secondary school aged children (who have not tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 90 days) should self-test twice-weekly with lateral flow devices.
  • Settings are encouraged to ask parents, guardians and other visitors to take a lateral flow device (LFD) test before entering the setting.
  • All individuals who have been identified as a close contact of a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, irrespective of vaccination status and age, will continue to be required to self-isolate and asked to book a PCR test. The national guidance may introduce an option for daily LFD testing as an alternative to self-isolation for contacts of positive Omicron cases who are fully vaccinated or under the age of 18 years and 6 months in the future. However, this is not yet in place.
  • Settings should encourage vaccination uptake for eligible students and staff.

Guidance on repeat PCR testing within 90 days of a positive PCR test.

The national guidance has been updated in light of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. This now states that anyone who has previously received a positive COVID-19 PCR test result, should not usually be advised to be re-test within 90 days of this result. However, people should have a PCR test within 90 days of a previous positive PCR test if:

  • they develop any new symptoms of COVID-19
  • they are a close contact of someone who has been identified as a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19
  • they are required to take a PCR test upon entry into the UK

Further details can be found in the national stay at home guidance and in the guidance for non-household contacts of positive cases.

Updated letter templates

The letter templates that can be used by schools to communicate with parents and carers about positive cases of COVID-19 within the school setting have been updated. These now take into account the updated guidance relating to the Omicron variant and mask wearing in communal areas.

All updated letter templates, along with other useful resources are available on the Cumbria County Council webpages: Coronavirus (COVID-19) - information for schools and early years settings | Cumbria County Council

Outbreaks of diarrhoea and vomiting

We are now seeing a small increase in schools reporting cases of diarrhoea and vomiting within the setting.

Viral infections that cause diarrhoea and vomiting are extremely common in children and young people, and outbreaks in educational settings are more common over the winter months.

As such, we have produced a document that provides information for schools about diarrhoea and vomiting, and about the approach that should be taken if an outbreak of diarrhoea and vomiting is suspected within an educational setting.

The document can be downloaded below:

Diarrhoea and vomiting in educational settings in Cumbria during periods of COVID-19 transmission.

If an outbreak of diarrhoea and vomiting is suspected, schools should consult the national guidance (Health protection in schools and other childcare facilities - GOV.UK (, and contact their local UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) Health Protection team (Cumbria and Lancashire) on 0344 225 0562 or email

COVID-19 related absences

Updated guidance which sets out how schools should record where pupils are not attending in circumstances related to coronavirus in the 2021/22 academic year has been released.

Click the link below to view the guidance on COVID-19 related absences:

COVID-19 related absences guidance

Update from DfE: School inspections

In order for Early years settings, schools and colleges to consider contingency measures for January, the secretary of state for education and her majesty’s chief inspector have agreed that early years settings, schools and colleges will not be inspected next week unless there are safeguarding concerns.

Guidance states schools should revisit their existing outbreak plans to “ensure they are well prepared for any future changes."

What's new in the Schools Portal?

School Portal updates since 02 December 2021:

Simply click the name of the document to open the file.

Name of document

Date added

Schools IPC Model Operations Risk Assessment FINAL Dec 21

Thursday 02 December 2021

Schools IPC Model Premises Risk Assessment FINAL Dec 21

Thursday 02 December 2021

SIGN 23 Managing the causes of work-related stress

Friday 03 December 2021

2023-2024 Admission Arrangements - Own Admission Authority Schools

Monday 06 December 2021

Cumbria SACRE Newsletter Autumn 2021

Tuesday 07 December 2021

Letter to All Chequebook Schools - VAT- making TAX digital compliance requirements Qtr 3

Tuesday 07 December 2021

Summary of Schools Grants 2020-21

Wednesday 08 December 2021

FSM Offer for Christmas Holidays 2021 - December 2021 Reminder Letter

Wednesday 08 December 2021

Induction Training for Newly Appointed Primary Headteachers and  Acting Heads – Spring 2022

Wednesday 08 December 2021

Level 3 Paediatric First Aid

Wednesday 08 December 2021

Reminder: Christmas Holidays ‘Free School Meal’ Voucher Offer

WONDE FSM ‘LA WINDOW’ CLOSES  Monday 20th December 2021

The county council has committed to ensuring every benefits-eligible Free School Meal young person [including Early Years Pupil Premium and Funded 2’s] is entitled to a voucher over the Christmas holiday. 

The WONDE system ‘LA window’ [where the LA can be selected on the WONDE system to pay for your order] is now open and will close at 5pm on Monday 20th December.

FAQ's, a sample letter to parents and an updated reminder letter to headteachers are included below:

Cumbria Holiday Activity Programme - spread the word

With spaces still available for the winter Cumbria Holiday Activity Programme, schools have an important role in ensuring that children and families are aware of the free activities they can access over the school holidays. 

As such, we are asking that schools print out the e-leaflets below (double-sided) and ensure that all eligible children receive a leaflet showing what's available in their district. 


Visit for further information about the programme and to search the range of activities on offer.

Thank you to all schools who have helped disseminate information about the programme to their students.

School SEN Census 2021-22

The SEN Census gathers data on SEN status and primary need in January of each year. The January census data informs information systems and reports such as Analyse School Performance (ASP) and Fischer Family Trust.

SENCOs should work alongside administrative support in their school to ensure all census information is correct.

Schools will need to use the below form to help them complete the census:

School Census 2021-22

Summary of School Grants 2021/22

The finance team have produced a summary of the main grants available to schools in 2021/22 which have specific timelines and conditions attached to them. 

The summary has been published via the School Portal, but can also be accessed through the link below:

Summary of School Grants 2021/22

We hope you find this summary a useful reference guide

Early Years

New - Speech, language and communication screening tool

Children’s Speech and Language Therapy have launched their new Speech, Language and Communication Screening Tool.

The aims of this tool are:

  • To support parents, settings and professionals in more detailed investigations
  • To help identify children who may require enhanced support with their skills
  • To support further discussions with families, professionals and Speech & Language Therapists when considering making onwards referrals.

The link for the Screening Tool, manual, and a useful ‘how to’ video which will talk through the screener and how you might use it, can be found below

You can also follow the Speech and Language therapy team on Facebook for further updates, advice and information. Find them using the handle @CumbriaCommunicates.

Cumbria 2 year old review - updated template December 2021

With the introduction of the revised EYFS from 1st September 2021, the 2 Year Old Review template was updated and refreshed in order to meet the requirements of the Statutory framework. The format has now been slightly amended. The current version is available on the Early Years website or can be accessed here

Guidance on its use can also be found here Guidance for using the integrated 2 year old review progress check

The 2 Year Old Review remains a statutory assessment for all 2 Year Olds attending an early years setting including childminders. PVI’s and schools. The 2 Year Old Health Assessment remains a mandated contact for health between 2 and 2.5 years of age. Due to the current situation, some children may not have had their 2-2.5 year old visit. however if you have any concerns about the health or development of a child please contact your local health visiting service

In the pilot of the revised template the providers included the completed template in the child’s red book rather than the summary slip and parents provided very positive feedback about the accessibility of this for their family and their health visitor.

Home Learning

This week our focus is on the rhyme 'Twinkle, twinkle Christmas star'.   Please share with parents to support home learning around the development of speech, language and communication.

Chat Play Share: Twinkle twinkle Christmas Star.pdf

For a range of fun activity ideas for children and families, please share What Can I Do This Week? This week's activities all have a Christmas theme. Remember that the activities contained in this communication are for the week starting next Monday.

Monday  Tuesday  Wednesday  Thursday  Friday  Saturday  Sunday