Coronavirus: Schools

Lancashire schools have been doing a magnificent job throughout the lockdown period. The majority have stayed open to accept our 'valuable' pupils, which is what we call our vulnerable children, and those of key workers, with thousands of pupils attending each day.  All schools have maintained close contact with all parents and pupils. We have been in daily contact with schools and have been supporting them with issues that have arisen, as well as sharing all the latest guidance.

The government's aspiration is to have schools accepting more pupils from 1 June in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6, with a goal of having all primary school children back in classes for a month before the summer break. 

Secondary schools will remain closed, although the government says it expects some one-to-one contact between teachers and pupils in Years 10 and 12. The government has said that this should be subject to review. 

We have been in discussions with our schools and with teaching and support unions. Lancashire is a large and diverse county. Our legal advice, supported by the Chief Medical Officer, is that the decision about how many pupils it is safe to have in a school is one for individual head teachers, in consultation with their governing body.

We will continue to support the decisions that our head teachers and governors make. Schools will send us their risk assessments as they are best-placed to make the right decisions for the safety, welfare and education of their pupils. We are also monitoring the background public health risks posed by Covid-19 and will be advising the schools as and when it is necessary.

Parents will of course choose whether or not to send their children back to school and we support the decision they will take. The council will not be issuing penalty notices regarding attendance at this time. There is also government guidance available for parents.

We've brought together some online educational resources for parents to help children to learn at home.

National voucher scheme

(updated 31 March 2020)

The Department for Education (DfE) have issued guidance about a national voucher scheme for pupils eligible for free school meals. The guidance explains what schools should do to make sure eligible pupils have access to free school meals when they are attending and are not attending school.

The Department for Education’s chosen supplier for the scheme is Edenred. Further information including frequently asked questions for parents is available on the Edenred website.

 

(Updated 7 April 2020)

Following the recent guidance from Ofqual, our Lancashire schools and colleges will be working hard to ensure that GCSE, AS and A-Level students receive an accurate assessment of the grades they were expected to achieve, following the cancellation of formal exams this year.

During this extraordinary time, results will be assessed using classwork, coursework, mocks and other internal assessments, to assess what grade it is believed that students would have got, if they had sat a formal exam.

Our teachers have until the end of May to send to the regulator what they believe each student was on track to receive, and these assessments will be used to decide on the final grade. Students will also be given the chance to sit exams at the earliest opportunity in the new academic year. If a student chooses to do this, both grades will stand.

The guidance, issued on Friday 3 April, is available on GOV.UK:

(updated 9 April 2020)

Schools have been asked to remain open for children who are vulnerable and for those children of key workers critical to the COVID-19 response who absolutely need to attend. If you require a school place, please contact your child's school first, as they are responsible for providing a place either on site or in partnership with another local school.

If your child's school has been forced to close and they are unable to identify an alternative school, please contact your local school admissions team on the numbers below. The County Council has a list of all the schools that remain open and we will contact the nearest school to your home address, on your behalf, to find a place.

Lancaster, Wyre and Fylde: 01524 586417 or 01524 581134
Preston, South Ribble, Chorley and West Lancashire: 01772 531797 or 01772 531859
Hyndburn, Ribble Valley, Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale: 01254 220707 or 01254 220722
Central: 01772 531878

(Updated 25 March 2020)

Some buses will continue to operate for those students who will still be attending school, for example the children of key workers.  We will be advised by the schools who these children are and there will be no charge for this transport.

School bus season tickets

(Updated 19 March 2020)

In light of the school closures due to coronavirus (COVID-19), we will be arranging for direct debit payments for season tickets and denominational transport to be suspended until further notice.

Please do not cancel your direct debit.  A calculation will be done when schools return or at the end of this school year depending on the situation and invoices will be credited for the missed days.  If any refunds are due, they will be issued to the bank detailed on our records.

Please note if you choose to cancel the direct debit, the passes must be returned to the school transport team, the address can be found on the back of the pass.

If you have paid in full for a season ticket or denominational transport please contact us at the end of the academic year for your refund.  We will require contact information and bank details to process the refund by Bacs.

(Updated 18 May 2020)

Despite the restrictions that are in place, as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, appeals will still be considered over the summer months following emergency legislation from the Department for Education (DFE).

Whilst social distancing measures are in place, we are currently exploring how appeals can be considered.

A new timetable of hearings will be published as soon as this is available.

We are currently writing to all appellants who have already submitted an appeal to gather further information from you so that we can consider how the appeal will be heard. An e-mail should be with you within the next couple of weeks.

Full guidance can be found on the school admission appeals section.

Updated guidance and letter from ministers

(updated 7 May 2020)

On 30 April 2020 the Department for Education (DfE) published guidance on temporary changes to education, health and care legislation during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Since then we have been considering the detail and talking to our partners, including the Parent Carer Forum, to agree how best to meet the requirements.

Having done this, we plan to continue to work within the current timescales for all EHC plan processes, unless there are exceptional circumstances, such as a child or young person arriving in the area that we do not have any information about.

 We will also build on the processes we have put in place with schools and partners over the last few weeks and record any changes in provision that need to be made.

A letter from the Ministers responsible for children and young people with SEND has been written to parents/carers and families which outlines the changes and provides a link to the guidance. 

Updated DfE Guidance on children and young people with an education, health and care (EHC) plan

(27 March 2020)

The DfE updated their guidance this weekend including:

  • temporarily lifting the statutory duty on local authorities to maintain the precise provision in EHC plans, as long as Local Authorities use their 'reasonable endeavours' they will not be penalised for failing to meet the existing duty in section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014
  • enabling local authorities to prioritise their efforts to support those with the most complex needs on a temporary basis
  • reviewing regulations over matters such as the timescales in EHC needs assessments, and the reviews, re-assessments and amendments processes.

Waiting for an EHC plan to be agreed or the outcome from a tribunal

If the local authority has not yet issued an EHC plan for your child, then they will not automatically fall within the definition of 'vulnerable children' for the purposes of attendance at an education setting during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, their educational setting and local authority have discretion to undertake a risk assessment and offer support if that is needed.

If your child has an EHC plan the local authority remains responsible for maintaining it, including until any appeal to the tribunal has been heard and resolved.

(updated 24 March 2020)

If you are a parent governor please do not visit your school at the moment.

(updated 24 March 2020)

Children and young people should remain in uniform so that they are clearly identifiable.

(Updated 25 March 2020)

Yesterday we received a copy of a letter from the Minister responsible for SEND which we have been asked to share as widely as possible.

(Updated 19 March 2020)

The 2019/20 national curriculum assessments will not take place. This means the following assessments planned between April and July 2020 are cancelled:

  • end of key stage 1 and key stage 2 assessments (including tests and teacher assessment)
  • phonics screening check
  • multiplication tables check
  • science sampling tests
  • all statutory trialling

Primary school performance measures will not be published for the 2019/20 academic year.

(Updated 31 March 2020)

Healthcare provision in and connected to schools, including therapies, continues to be supported, however it is unlikely to be in the same form that you are used to.

Healthcare practitioners have been reviewing their caseloads and prioritising support for the most vulnerable children and those with the most complex needs. This support is being delivered remotely whenever possible, such as by phone or video conferencing, unless there are specific requirements for it to be delivered in person. This is to safeguard children and young people and their families and healthcare practitioners.  

There will be some children and young people, who do need to receive physical support from therapists, either because of their specific on-going needs, or because of an emergency situation.

The Department for Education (DfE) has clarified that it does not expect schools to handle new or existing complaints whilst they are closed.

Complaints can be considered once the government confirms schools can safely reopen. The guidance can be found at: