Coronavirus (COVID-19) - information for education settings

Education Tactical Co-ordination Group (ETCG)

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak Cumbria's Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordination Group (SCG) has established a number of sub-groups include an Education Tactical Co-ordination Group (ETCG). This group will lead on managing educational impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The ETCG comprises members of the County Council, Local Resilience Forum, Director of Public Health and sector representatives from Early Years, Primary and Secondary Schools, FE Colleges, Independent Schools, PRUs and Special Schools.

The ETCG will provide all Cumbrian education settings with single central source of advice and information in relation to management of the COVID-19 outbreak.

If you have any matters that you wish to bring to the attention of the ETCG please email education.tcg@cumbria.gov.uk.

Update for all schools 31 March 2020

Free School Meals urgent update

Update for all schools - 2 - 31 March 2020

Emotional wellbeing and mental health support

Update for all schools 25 March 2020

Childcare hub locations confirmed

Update for all schools 18 March 2020

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) helpline for staff, parents and students

The Department for Education (DfE) has launched a new helpline to answer questions about COVID-19 related to education.

Staff, parents and students can contact the helpline by telephone and email:

Phone: 0800 046 8687

Email: DfE.coronavirushelpline@education.gov.uk

The helpline is open from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday

School closures and essential visitors

  • Advice from central government continues to be for schools to remain open.
  • In all cases Head Teachers are advised to minimise non-essential visitors, meetings and trips.
  • We advise that, in the case of trainee teachers, effectively part of the staff of schools, colleagues should continue to attend as normal.
  • Where Social Workers are visiting schools for planned meetings which are essential in supporting safeguarding needs, schools should allow colleagues to enter as planned.
  • In the event that staff absence levels reach a point at which safe ratios are not possible in the school even with collapsed classes, Head Teachers should take the decision locally to close, and inform the local authority as normal. Clearly, these possible decisions will be impacted by staff members who may very well be symptomatic or self-isolating (either for themselves, or for family members). In all of these cases, the impact on ratios of qualified staff will be the deciding factor, regardless of the reason for absence.

Planned closure of Special Schools

All Cumbria's Special Schools will close from Thursday. This reflects the latest Government advice on protecting vulnerable people and the realities of staff self-isolation meaning staffing ratios are reaching unsafe levels. This decision gives parents/carers some time to make arrangements. We understand that this is challenging but is required to safeguard children.

Supporting vulnerable pupils if schools close

In anticipation of school closures being mandated nationally, we are keen to enlist the support of Head Teacher colleagues to help identify vulnerable groups of children.

This includes your intelligence about those children on Free School Meals whose families may struggle to feed them over a protracted period of time at home.

In extension of this, leaders of Further Education and Adult Learning settings are asked to support in identifying the vulnerable cohort of young adults in the 16-24, who may struggle due to school, college or learning setting being closed with no appropriate adult support at some. In most cases this cohort comprises young people and young adults who have SEND, but also those who have underlying health conditions.

Please provide this information in an Excel file to the education.tcg@cumbria.gov.uk address, column headings should be:

  • Unique Pupil Number
  • Name
  • Age
  • Reason for concern (i.e., type of SEND, underlying health need, lack of adult supervision)

We will use this information to share with other agencies across the County and District Councils and 3rd sector in order to prioritise visiting and support in the event of closures.


Supporting colleagues on casual contracts

Many schools will have members of staff working in school on a casual or supply basis covering for medium and long term needs, we would ask in the event of school closures that you continue to pay these staff, given both the knock on community impacts of these staff losing income and the likelihood that they will continue to provide support to the school in terms producing resources for home learning etc.


Pooling of online study resources

It is recognised that colleagues will all be independently creating banks of online resources ready to use in the event of mass closures. Clearly it makes sense to share this work rather than duplicate. Therefore, the County Council is aiming to create a curated list of online resources which we will make available to all schools, similar to the TES website.

If Head Teacher colleagues are happy to share their work in this area, we will create a simple page, searchable by subject area and Key Stage. Please use the education.tcg@cumbria.gov.uk address to send links to online resources. Links should be marked with:

  • Subject
  • Key stage/Year group
  • Please do not send files, online links to online resources.


Wellbeing during isolation

Staff members and parents, carers and young people will understandably be concerned and anxious as the current situation escalates. As increasing numbers of people are self-isolating at home, it is important to consider the impact of that isolation on our mental and emotional health.

Please use this document - advice on keeping safe and well (PDF 427KB), adapted with permission from Hong Kong Mind, for sharing across your staffing bodies, and for attaching to any communications which go home to parents.


Short breaks for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities and their families (information for sharing with families as necessary)

We are working closely with providers to maintain services such as Short Breaks, but as you can appreciate, things may change at very short notice due to the release of new guidance from Government or because of an outbreak of COVID-19 within the services.

As each child, young person and family's needs are different, we will work with families to plan the support required should services temporarily close during this period. If families are concerned about how they will cope in the short term, they should contact 0300 3033 249 (The Safeguarding Hub) directly so that we can work together with them to put a plan in to place.

As of now Short Breaks Services are still running, however, please check with the provider directly before travelling to the service.

  • Mencap - 01228 674 393 (Covering Carlisle and Eden and Barrow and South Lakes)
  • West House - 01900 605585

Thank you!

A final note of thanks and appreciation to everyone for all their hard work and commitment in incredibly difficult and volatile circumstances. As the situation changes, we will continue to provide updates twice weekly through this channel on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and at other times by exception. Should colleagues need urgent advice, or wish to communicate intelligence about the evolving situation locally, please do so by using the education.tcg@cumbria.gov.uk address.

Letter for Parents and Carers

The letter for parents and carers (PDF 558KB) sets out the advice being given to schools by Cumbria County Council. Please can you make sure all parents and carers receive a copy of this letter today.


Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Advice to schools

We understand that the current situation is causing concern amongst schools trying to determine how best to respond in the absence of a clear direction from Government. This is leading to schools taking varying approaches, often in the same communities. This is understandable but also risks creating confusion amongst families.

While we await further Government direction please can all schools follow the advice set our below which has been agreed with Cumbria's Director of Public Health Colin Cox.

  • Schools should remain open unless advised otherwise by Public Health England.
  • Take steps to reduce contact with people outside of the school. For example, only essential visitors, stop non-essential out of hours meeting/gatherings, postpone school trips.
  • In school, stop large gatherings unless educationally essential. Note that in small schools this is less relevant because the whole school population is likely to be in regular close contact throughout the school day.
  • It should be expected that some pupils and families will have to self-isolate. The school should remain open unless advised otherwise by Public Health England. (It is not necessarily the case that people will be tested for COVID-19, meaning it may not be known for certain that the infection is present.
  • If staff absence means that staffing ratios become too low to operate safely, schools should close.
  • For Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) where staffing ratios are lower than in mainstream schools, and where pupils are particularly vulnerable, early intelligence about the changing situation should be communicated urgently via the e-mail address below.
  • Where pupils have specific vulnerabilities that put them at higher risk, particularly in Special Schools, individual risk assessments should be carried out. It may be appropriate for parents/carers to remove their child from school and self-isolate. Some parents/carers may already have done so and should be supported, Special School Head Teachers should make this recommendation to parents where risk assessments indicate this is necessary. Email education.tcg@cumbria.gov.uk for specific tailored advice on individual cases.


Supply Teaching

It is acknowledged that the evolving situation will place a significant additional pressure on the supply teacher market in Cumbria. I have spoken to the main supply agencies in the county today, to discuss the situation. Whilst all schools will have difficulty in managing absence at this time, our Pupil Referral Units will feel this pressure more than most due to the uniquely complex nature of the cohort, with particular regard to the safeguarding implications of potential closures in these schools. With this in mind, I have asked supply agencies to work with the Cumbrian system in a co-ordinated way to prioritise the allocation of supply resource in PRUs wherever possible.

This is a fast developing situation and this advice may be rapidly superseded.

Any questions can be sent to education.tcg@cumbria.gov.uk

School Closures

In their recent (12 March) announcement moving to the 'delay' phase of the outbreak, Government chose not to implement school closures at the current time (unlike some other countries).

School closures not only have an impact on families and the local economy, but in situations like this, can adversely affect the ability of the NHS and Social Care sector to care for people who are seriously ill, by drawing human resource away from hospitals in order to look after children who are at home.

That said there may be specific local circumstances that make a closure the appropriate course of action. Any decision to close schools, either locally or centrally, should only be taken after serious consideration and consultation with Public Health England.

We understand that DfE is currently updating its guidance for education settings and this will be published soon. We hope this will give greater clarity on how closure decisions should be made. We will update when this information is available.

 

Continuity planning

It is our recommendation that all settings review their business continuity arrangements immediately, with a view to making sure that children and young people are able to study at home. This might take the form of printed materials, online resources, webinar-based teaching or other media. Testing your business continuity arrangements might take the form of simulating heavy load on your IT servers, carrying out dry-runs of your telephone cascades and ensuring routine checks of airport contingency plans are established (for international or boarding students).

 

School Attendance (age 2 to 16)

The DFE advice is that schools they can use the Y code for cases of self isolation. If families are keeping children at home because they are concerned about the risk of infection the DFE have advised that schools should consider each case individually and determine whether there are other vulnerability factors such as illness, elderly relatives etc. In these circumstances schools are asked to use their discretion and if they feel there are genuine concerns they can use the Y code. If none of these criteria apply then the absence should be unauthorised. (This replaces previous guidance given by Cumbria County Council that Code C should be used).

 

Examinations for Year 11 and Year 13 students

The timing of the outbreak overlaps with preparations for students in exam year groups ahead of level 1, 2 and 3 qualifications in the summer term, and it is possible that exams themselves, quite apart from preparations may be affected. We are writing directly to the JCQ and Ofqual to seek advice in relation to this issue. We are advised that the current position is to continue as normal, although this may change. Any changes will be communicated through this briefing. In the medium term, settings which will be conducting exams are advised to:

  • Ensure all predicted grades are submitted by the deadline
  • Ensure that revision materials are made available online through your Virtual Learning Environments

 

Special Schools and other priority settings

As it stands, the advice for Special Schools is the same as the Public Health England (PHE) advice for all schools. However, this may change, and we are awaiting specific advice for settings which educate more vulnerable young people from PHE. It seems likely that parents/carers of children with particular vulnerabilities may take the decision to keep their children at home from a certain point. This is clearly a matter for individual families, and absence in these cases should be treated as per the advice above.

 

Transport

In some cases, the ability of transport providers to continue to run particular routes may be compromised. As yet, we are not aware of any such incidents, but we will share updates with you as they occur. Please share any intelligence relating to transport resilience through the email address above.