Education Planning Group: Important update for start of term

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Important information for term start

dan barton

Dear all,

I hope this message finds you well, and that you have managed to find some time to rest over the holidays.

I write to you ahead of the new term with some updates and advice. The Education Planning Group meeting scheduled for 29th December was stood down due to the absence of any new guidance being published at that point. However, since then, a number of announcements have been made, and we are working to develop guidance and support in response.

Please download this Letter from Director of Public Health, Colin Cox for Head Teachers and setting managers to send to the parents of their children and young people. This summarises the recent national guidance and also makes clear that, due to issues affecting supply of LFD test kits, anyone not able to ‘test-to-release’ from isolation should continue to isolate until either the end of the isolation period, or until and LFD test kit is available. Colleagues may wish to share this letter and the following advice note with governing bodies.

Supply of LFD test kits.

As you will know, supply of LFD test kits nationally has been a concern over recent weeks. The government hopes to have resolved any supply issues before the start of term, however it is possible that there will be some periodic shortages during the first few weeks of term. Secondary colleagues should already have received supplies of tests from DfE ready to support testing of all pupils on entry over the course of the first week of term (one test to be done at home before going back to school, followed by one test supervised in school). However, please note that in the letter above, we are making clear that families who are unable to source LFDs to ‘test to release’ should continue to isolate.

The County Council LFD programme is set up to provide test capacity for community groups, front line essential workers including police, fire and care homes . It is therefore unlikely that we will be able to support schools with mass supply of LFDs from existing stocks. However, where possible, we will look to support schools with any emergency supply if we do have stock. You can notify shortage of LFD kits by writing to this email address:, although we cannot guarantee supply for the reasons above.

Our advice to Head Teachers is to order any further test kits required as soon as possible using the national system.

Staffing levels

Numbers of positive cases of COVID-19 are currently very high nationally and in Cumbria. This means that you may face challenges with staffing levels in the next few weeks which may be more significant than in the period before the holidays.

In the event that you are unable to open fully for this reason, please inform your link General Advisor from the Learning Improvement Service (LIS) and use the County Council School Closures web page to record this. Please prioritise DSL and Senior Leadership capacity in the first instance.

CO2 monitors and Air Purifiers

Colleagues will be aware that in addition to the large number of CO2 monitors now in place an extra 7000 free air purifiers are now being provided by the government. There are some detailed criteria which schools will need to meet in order to qualify to submit a request for a free purifier.

You can follow the guidance outlined in the DfE guidance issued 2nd January guidance on applying for an air cleaning unit.

We will provide Health and Safety advice as to how best to manage risk relating to ventilation which our team will recirculate later this week.


Secondary colleagues will be aware that the government recently announced that pupils in secondary schools should wear masks in classrooms as well as in communal areas. Supplies of spare masks will be provided by DHSC direct to schools from 7 January.

However, as a proactive measure to ensure stocks for start of term, the County Council are sending a bulk order of 2000 spare masks to all larger Secondary schools and 1000 masks to smaller secondary schools, Special Schools and PRU. Council deliveries will commence on Tuesday morning (4th Jan) and will aim to be concluded by Thursday (6th Jan) at the latest which should assist until the DHSC delivery arrives.

Face to Face contact

Given the higher transmissibility of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, it is our advice that face to face contact is limited wherever possible. This means that staff meetings, INSET and any planned parents evenings or open evenings/days should be carefully re-evaluated and, where possible, move to online or virtual format.

Returns to school following negative LFD tests

if you have any concerns about individuals who have tested positive returning to your setting early following 2 x negative LFD results, please contact who will support you to risk assess accordingly.

Living in Scotland

For colleagues who may live in Scotland but work in Cumbria, please follow the Scottish COVID-19 guidance where appropriate.

Best wishes for the start of term and we will continue with our regular weekly updates.


Dan Barton

Assistant Director for Education and Skills

Cumbria County Council