Emails to schools from Chris Snudden, Director of Learning & Inclusion

Norfolk County Council Children’s Services have been in frequent contact with schools. Emails to Headteachers are reproduced here for the information of governors. Chairs of governors should be in close contact with their Headteacher to ensure they are well supported and that the school is fulfilling the national requirement to remain open over Easter for the children of critical workers, or alternatively that the school is part of a MAT wide or cluster plan that accommodates those children.

26th March 202

Dear Head Teacher, 

 

This letter contains updates on the following issues:

  1. School Closures 
  2. Feedback from schools regarding Easter
  3. Free School Meals 
  4. Food for Children attending School
  5. School transport
  6. Key links for data reporting 
  7. Supply Teacher offer

These communications are intended to reflect developments day by day in our effort to work with you and support the system. This does mean that the fast pace of this nationally and locally will affect our decision making. We know that that is not always helpful to you at a time when you are looking for clarity. Of course, we are all looking for that too and we are all trying to make sense of this on a daily basis.  

We ask therefore that you please make allowances for the pace, lack of national clarity on some things and the complexity of this when you read these communications.  We continue to work hard to try to provide the right kind of support and co-ordination and appreciate your feedback both to us directly and through Educate Norfolk. What I can say definitively is that we are listening to everyone, trying not to over-complicate, and trying to steer a course through this to help.   

School Closures 

 

The national and local expectations continue to be that schools are open for key worker children and designated vulnerable children. The lengths many schools are going to in securing this are impressive.  This is of course dependent on staffing levels and it is for the head teacher to decide where a school cannot cater for these children safely 

Some schools have been making arrangements at a local level with partner schools or through the cluster.  Most schools are open with very small numbers in the building.  Even if you have very small numbers (e.g. 0 to 5 children and young people) the expectation is that provision remains available.  Please contact your Cluster Adviser if you wish to makean arrangement with another school.  Please also continue to use the Emergency School Closure system and the daily data returns.  

Feedback from schools regarding Easter 

 

Your data returns (thank you!) show that approximately 70% of schools are planning to be open and we will work with those of you  who have indicated that you may require additional support/resource.

 

Free School Meals  

We continue to await further information from the DFE with regard to the national scheme.   In the meantime, some schools have bought vouchers from supermarkets and distributed them to families of children in receipt of FSM.  They are using purchasing cards for this purpose and we have worked with corporate finance to agree a temporary increase in purchasing card limits to facilitate this.  

 

We are also now aware that there are scam e-mails advertising voucher schemes asking schools to pay by BACS. We are looking into a number of these. 

We asked you if any families would benefit from a food box, and we are grateful for your replies. We will feed this into the planning group that is looking at this, however we currently are not planning to issue boxes over the Easter period specifically for children in receipt of FSM.  The boxes were intended to cover school term time initially, but this has run into Easter, which was not our original intention.  We do not want to add confusion by providing food for children during the Easter holidays that would not normally be in receipt of a free school meal during that time. We apologise for a change of direction on this issue.  

 

Food for Children attending School 

Where children eligible for FSM, or children of critical workers are attending school, they should still be receiving a meal each day.  Where schools have a contract with a third-party provider, that company should be making provision in some way for those children, even if it is a packed lunch.  Where schools self-cater, they may have sent their kitchen staff home.  In those cases, other staff may be preparing packed lunches for children attending school.  If they are struggling to cater appropriately for the children, they are asked to let us know.  

 

School transport 

Our intention is to cease normal school transport for all children from today, but we are contacting individual schools to agree and make these changes.  All children attending school, will have transport if they currently rely upon on it to get to school. So to be clear at the moment transport is still operating to normal timetables unless the transport team have heard from you about your individual requirements and have already changed arrangements for you. They have been trying to contact you all, but if you have not yet made contact with the transport team then please email ptgnetwork@norfolk.gov.uk with your requirements and they will work it through with you.  

Transport is still currently available to those who need it, including for the Easter holidays if required. The transport team are trying to organise things so you have one transport operator per school or cluster so that it is easier to manage and easier to change requirements each day if necessary. 

If you have any queries or need further clarification about the situation then please call Niki Park on 01603 224351. 

 

Key links for data reporting: 

 DfE link (you do have to log in):  

https://form.education.gov.uk/service/educational-setting-status 

 LA Link: 

https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=fhcZFOBXD0-v8P1htUnRDmCW9VApAhZEuaf3LMqwQHRUQTM2SVRTR1VVVlpDVEMxM0laWlFJVExMUiQlQCN0PWcu  

Supply Teacher offer 

As part of the Local Authority’s support to schools during the current period of providing care for some vulnerable children and children of key workers, we are making the Norfolk Supply Register available to all educational establishments.  The aim is to offer the available supply teacher resource to help keep schools open where normal staffing levels are reducing and other flexible resource is not available locally.  In cases where a supply teacher from the register is booked via this method and is used to help keep a school open, it will be funded by the Authority and paid through NCC Payroll at no charge to the school. 

 

We have surveyed teachers currently on the register to establish their availability for work and willingness to travel.  We anticipate that the numbers of teachers available will increase over the coming few days.  If you need additional resource in order to keep your school open, please contact the Educator Solutions Supply Teacher Team at supply@educatorsolutions.org.uk and provide the following details:- 

 

  • Your name
  • Your contact details (email and phone)
  • Your school name
  • When you need a supply teacher (start date/duration, daily start and finish times)
  • Basic details of responsibilities (i.e. what you will be asking them to do)
  • Arrival logistics (e.g. where to go and who to report to)
  • Number of children to care for / teach (if known)

The team will deal with your request as quickly as possible.  

 

Thank you as always,

Chris

 

Chris Snudden, Director of Learning and Inclusion

Children’s Services

Tel: 01603 223492 | Mobile: 07770 771432

8th Floor, County Hall, Martineau Lane, Norwich, NR1 2DL

 

27th March 2020

Dear Head Teacher,

 

  1. Thank you!
  2. Plans for Easter opening

First of all a continued and heartfelt thank you for all that you are doing. I know it has been another difficult week. We have not missed a single opportunity to tell the Regional DFE team how hard Norfolk schools are working. I do hope that this weekend you can take some time to rest and recuperate. I know many of you worked last weekend and this level of pressure takes its toll.

Easter

Easter school holidays are nearly upon us. We have been collecting information from you about your plans locally, and the vast majority of you are telling us you will be open for key worker children over this holiday period. We know that some of you have said that you will need additional support, but others of you can manage. It remains the expectation that wherever possible schools will open for key worker children.

The latest Government guidance and joint union guidance assumes that schools will remain open on weekdays throughout the school Easter holiday, with the exception of the two Bank Holidays.  Wherever possible, Headteachers will deploy their staff on a rota basis to ensure that all staff get a two week break before, during or after Easter.  This should also take account of staff health and childcare circumstances. 

We have this afternoon received definitive confirmation that the focus of Easter opening is for the care of the children of critical workers and NOT vulnerable children. We had earlier today already informed the DFE that in Norfolk that we would expect our schools to cater for the children of critical workers only and that vulnerable children will be at home during the Easter holidays, unless they are the children of critical workers. We will ensure that for the most vulnerable children other arrangements are made to support them over Easter as needed.  We are delighted that the DFE now officially agree with this position.  This will help to protect schools more, so that they can focus on the smaller group of critical workers, be ready for any spike during Easter (especially to support NHS workers), and be ready for the Summer Term.

For all schools that are closed, or intend to close fully over Easter, where this is not part of a MAT wide, or cluster plan we need to know what is needed to enable you to be open to the children of critical workers. Staffing capacity can be supplemented, and whilst this may not be ideal, all schools that can be, should be open. Some of you have already made sensible arrangements for children to go to neighbouring schools, but for those of you that have closed, or plan to close this will mean the children of your key workers will have to attend other schools. This obviously places greater pressure on other schools which is challenging for them. Please contact your Cluster Adviser to discuss how we can enable you to open over Easter.

As we may see the expected spike over Easter for cases of Coronavirus COVID-19 I would ask that you ensure, if you have not already done so, that you have communicated a contact directly to all parents who are critical workers, especially those working for the NHS, even if they have not so far asked you for support. There may be a time over Easter when their working pattern changes and they may need childcare support from you. We need you to be ready to provide this. We cannot have this falling to some schools only, so wherever possible this must be shared by all schools.

Where we need to contact you, we will use the contact details we have for you as head teacher and the Emergency Contacts & Keyholders (from MySchool site) details for your school.  We will only do so if there is an urgent need and we will ask our staff to refrain from contacting schools during the Easter break, so that those who can, have a rest. Please make sure we have up to date emergency contact details if they change. 

Transport will be provided for children who need it over Easter, and we ask that you ensure that you have communicated your transport needs in the usual way.

Just a small reminder, the contact email for Transport is ptgnetwork@norfolk.gov.uk and if you have any queries or need further clarification about the situation then please call Niki Park on 01603 224351.

 

Have a good weekend, take care of yourselves and your families. I will continue with updates next week as needed.

 

Best wishes

Chris Snudden

 

Chris Snudden, Director of Learning and Inclusion
Children’s Services 
Tel: 01603 223492 | Mobile: 07770 771432 
8th Floor, County Hall, Martineau Lane, Norwich, NR1 2DL

31st March 2020

Dear All 

Another hectic two days for all of us in getting ready for Easter provision and hopefully at least a short break for many of us through mutually agreed rotas etc.

This email covers:

Free School Meals 

Easter planning  

School transport 

Safeguarding policy 

 

Free School Meals 

Last night, the government published details of how their new Free School Meals voucher system will work. The guidance is available here 

The guidance applies to children who were eligible and had been receiving free school meals, prior to the closure of schools on March 20. 

Although the system is now in place, the government is expecting schools to continue to provide meals, wherever this is possible. 

For those staying at home it states: 

  • Meals should be provided using a contracted catering service or an in-house catering team.
  • The current meal provider may be able to provide food parcels to be delivered to, or collected by the parents/carers of pupils staying at home
  • It is important to note that schools should ensure that any food parcels that are delivered should be done so within social distancing guidelines 
  • Schools may be able to provide food vouchers locally for supermarkets or local shops.

The government has developed a national voucher scheme to support children where schools can no longer provide a meal. The preferred supplier for this is Edenred. 

Schools do not have to pay for this scheme. 

  • Schools will receive an e-mail with information in how to access and administer the scheme
  • The vouchers will be accessed via the Edenred portal using a password provided by an activation e-mail.
  • The activation e-mail and other instructions from Edenred will be sent to all schools today. You may already have received it.
  • Schools can follow the instructions to create vouchers for eligible children to the value of £15 per child per week, which is greater than the usual value of FSM.
  • For families with more than one child, vouchers can be combined.
  • Vouchers can be in the form of an ‘e-code’ e-mailed to the parent/carer or in the form of an e-gift card for posting, where internet access is not available.
  • Parents will need internet access to be able to choose which supermarket to access with their e-code.
  • If they cannot access the internet, schools can select a supermarket for them.
  • There are a limited number of supermarkets currently available, although the government are actively trying to get more added.
  • Where families cannot access one of these supermarkets, schools are encouraged to continue with a local scheme.
  • Before ordering schools should check that children are eligible for free school meals.

Parents who have not been accessing free school meals but who may be eligible can apply online here 

 

Easter planning  

We are pleased with the fantastic response from the vast majority of school to ensure that keyworker children can be accommodated over the Easter Break.  As you know, schools should remain open, even if it is for an individual child. Almost all schools are open or have made a direct arrangement with a partner/cluster school.  Most of you have confirmed to us that you also stand ready to increase provision flexibly, if demand increases.   Many of these local arrangements include a ‘sharing of the load’ through staffing rotas etc.  We are required to report back to the DfE regarding any schools where this is not the case.   

As mentioned previously, schools are asked to remain available for keyworkers even if they have no child attending at the moment.  The school website needs to have access details for parent to contact in an emergency and clear indication of what their provision is over Easter. 

Emergency School Closure site – please continue to update daily, where the school is fully closed.  Please use the comment to clearly identify the other school(s) you have made an agreement with to support key worker children.  Obviously, you need to have made the agreement first and your cluster adviser can assist.  We are updating the guidance on the right-hand side of the comment box. 

 

School transport 

If your school is staying open for pupils over the Easter holidays and transport is needed, please can you make sure you contact ptgnetwork@norfolk.gov.uk so that transport can continue. 

 

Safeguarding policy 

Coronavirus (COVID-19): safeguarding in schools, colleges and other providers, DfE (March 2020) 

 

On 27th March 2020, the Department for Education (DfE) published supplementary safeguarding guidance for education settings. The guidance acknowledges that although schools and colleges will have an effective child protection policy in place reflecting business as usual. It is likely that the policy will not accurately reflect new arrangements in response to COVID-19 and the guidance highlights the importance of schools and colleges reviewing and revising policy accordingly, keeping it under review as circumstances continue to evolve. The guidance suggests that, a COVID-19 annex/addendum summarising any key COVID-19 related changes might be more effective that re-writing and re-issuing the whole policy.  

The LA response:

  • Appendix 5 has been created within the Norfolk Model Safeguarding Policy to support schools to review their safeguarding policies
  • We are developing addition safeguarding guidance for DSLs that we will publish in the next few days.
  • We are exploring opportunities to provide online/remote training and support for DSLs. 

Summary of the key points:  

  • Schools are expected to review and revised their safeguarding policy and keep it under review as circumstances continue to evolve. 
  • All staff and volunteers should be aware of the new policy and are kept up to date as it is revised. The revised policy should continue to be made available publicly.
  • The guidance provides clarity on expected cover arrangements for the DSL with the optimal scenario for any school or college providing care for children to have a trained DSL or deputy available on site. But other options are available e.g. working remotely, working with trained DSLs from other schools.
  • Where a trained DSL or deputy is not on site, the Department recommends a senior leader takes responsibility for co-ordinating safeguarding on site. 
  • DSL Training: the guidance acknowledges that DSL training is very unlikely to take place during this period. For the period COVID-19 measures are in place, a DSL (or deputy) who has been trained will continue to be classed as a trained DSL (or deputy) even if they miss their refresher training. 
  • Attendance: whilst it is clear thatschools do not need to complete their usual day-to-day attendance processes, schools/colleges and social workers should be agreeing with families whether children in need should be attending education provision. The school should then follow up on any child that they were expecting to attend, who does not. In all circumstances where a vulnerable child does not take up their place at school or college, or discontinues, the school or college should notify their social worker. 
  • Staff training and safeguarding induction: existing staff should have awareness of any new local arrangements, so they know what to do if they are worried about a child. Where new staff are recruited, or new volunteers enter the school or college, they should continue to be provided with a safeguarding induction. 
  • In relation to the movement of staff to another school on a temporary basis, the receiving school should judge, on a case-by-case basis, the level of safeguarding induction required. In most cases, all they will require is a copy of the receiving setting’s child protection policy, confirmation of local processes and confirmation of DSL arrangements.There is no expectation that a new DBS check should be obtained where that member of the workforce temporarily moves to another school or college, but assurances should be sought from the current employer about suitability to work with children.  
  • The guidance contains specific advice on supporting mental health, online safety including for those children who are not expected to attend.

Yours

 

Chris

Chris Snudden, Director of Learning and Inclusion

Children’s Services

Tel: 01603 223492 | Mobile: 07770 771432

8th Floor, County Hall, Martineau Lane, Norwich, NR1 2DL

1st April 2020

Dear All

Today’s communication focuses on:

Easter provision, including staffing and reporting FSM
Emergency School Closure and Key Holders National Offer Day and School Admissions Preparations for the Summer term

Community Support

Easter provision

We have been immensely impressed with the response to making provision for children over the Easter break. Over 1000 children are being cared for by Norfolk Schools on a daily basis. All, but a very small number of schools are opening over Easter or have made provision for their families of key workers with schools across Cluster, MAT or federation locally. We continue to work on ensuring that all schools are open to key worker children or have arrangements in place for their families who need childcare over Easter.

The meetings we have had today have reinforced the view that there is an enormous amount of goodwill to ensure that provision is made. We know that increasingly, in response to a growing sense of concern about an impending spike in COVID-19 cases, schools are planning to open over the bank holiday weekend to provide childcare for key worker children or are at least preparing for that scenario. We decided not to ask schools to open as a matter of course over the bank holiday, however we know that day by day the situation nationally worsens. We ask that all schools consider this so that provision is ready if needed where possible.

During the Easter holiday, if you have any concerns about a child’s welfare, or a safeguarding concern please do not hesitate to contact the CAD Service on Tel 0344 800 8021.

School staffing decisions during Easter

Some schools have been asking us for advice on whether a teacher always needs to be present where children are being cared for. The DfE have advised us that the judgement on appropriate qualifications and expertise of staff supervising children is a local decision for head teachers to make. We would advise that school leaders ensure that all childcare provision is appropriately supervised. A cautious approach may involve teacher supervision as well as adhering to other guidance regarding safeguarding including first aid.

Reporting over Easter

We understand that the DFE intends at this time to continue to expect the daily reporting tool to be used over the Easter period. We also will need to ask you to complete a return to us. We see the DFE reporting that you provide to them, but it is in retrospect, a day or two later. This does not enable us to plan and support where needed. We will need to continue to collect daily information from you. Please help us by making these returns to us.

We have reduced the number of questions to focus only on the essential information we need to support you in making provision available for critical workers and vulnerable children. We are asking every school, open or closed, to submit a response tomorrow (02/04/2020).

Where schools are closed as alternative arrangements for pupils are in place, we do not require you to resubmit this information unless this situation changes. If schools can submit the information as early as possible each day, that really helps us to focus our efforts where they are most needed.

Emergency School Closure and Key Holders

Please ensure that you have told us about emergency contact details including key holders via the MySchool site. If there is a special arrangement for the Easter break, it is helpful to amend the details and then please remember to adjust again at the start of the Summer Term.

The guidance on the use of the School Closure site remains as per yesterday’s update. We post some examples for the Emergency School Closure below.

Example A:
School has insufficient staffing and is fully closed: School A Fully Closed today due to staffing shortage. Provision for key worker children has been arranged at X Academy
Example B:
School has no children attending but remains available for key worker children: School B is temporarily closed today as no children require key worker provision – Please see website to contact us if you need provision and we will review daily.
Example C:
School is open to key worker children: [No entry on Emergency School Closure]
Example D:
School has made an arrangement with partner school for children: School D is closed as joint provision for key worker children has been arranged at our Federation School [Name]

FSM

We hope that the guidance sent yesterday and on our website is helpful, although we do know that there are still some unanswered questions. We are aware that schools have started to receive messages from Edenred, although some colleagues had to check their SPAM email folders for the message.


National offer day – Admissions

We are ready for National Offer day on 16 April 2020. We are currently preparing offer letters for both the First Admission and Transfer to Junior for online applicants. For those who did not apply online letters are already being prepared to post. The despatch of these will be reliant on postal services. The Admission Team will be in touch with schools and will provide you with access to the Schools Admissions Module just ahead of the offer day. We are aiming for 13 April for school access.

Preparations for the Summer Term

We will prepare further communication regarding the Summer Term and a joint effort to ensure that we are focusing particularly on vulnerable children who are less visible in the current situation. Safeguarding is likely to rise up the agenda and national messages are going to reflect that also.

Community support in Norfolk – what’s available and how to access it

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic there is a county wide operation being set up to provide urgent supplies including food, medicines and other support to at risk families and vulnerable people across Norfolk.
Families who have children or parents with underlying health conditions and are currently self- isolating may not have access to food, prescriptions and may be experiencing financial hardship. People considered to be high risk are those families with vulnerable children, domestic abuse victims and people with high health needs.

Letters from the district councils are going out to all households across the county informing residents how they can access this support.
It is likely that many families meeting the following criteria may need to access this emergency help:

  • –  Families whose parents/carers or children have serious health issues

  • –  If there is a young carer caring for their parents/ siblings in the family

  • –  If a child currently has a social worker or may be classed as vulnerable

  • –  Families with looked after child

  • –  Families that are currently eligible for free school meals

    For action

    If a parent or carer gets in touch asking for help or if you are aware of any families who have already expressed concerns about how to access support, please signpost them to following information.

    There is guidance there for vulnerable families in need of support, families who run their own business, families who are struggling financially and families who may be able to free up some time to volunteer.

    Yours
    Chris


  • Chris Snudden, Director of Learning and Inclusion