DfE Coronavirus latest advice – Friday 13 March 2020

This week I highlight the latest advice regarding the Coronavirus and the impact of the 2020 budget on the sector.  Please be aware that the situation with Coronavirus is dynamic and could change at any time.

DfE Coronavirus latest advice
The Prime Minister last night confirmed that  anyone with a new persistent cough or high temperature is now advised to self-isolate for seven days, as the UK government moves to the “delay” phase of its plan to tackle coronavirus.

Schools have been advised to cancel trips abroad, and older people and those with pre-existing health concerns have been told not to go on cruises.

The DfE has launched a helpline (tel: 0800 046 8687) which “complements the advice being provided by Public Health England (PHE) and the regular updates the DfE has been sending to all educational settings since the start of February”. The helpline is open from 8:00am to 6:00pm on weekdays.  The DfE has notified all educational settings that the helpline is now open to school staff, leaders and parents.

Impact of the 2020 budget
The chancellor Rishi Sunak has delivered his budget address in Parliament this week and the announcements relevant to schools were as follows:

  • Freelance workers affected by coronavirus can claim benefits more easily – supply teachers and other freelancers in the education sector will be able to access benefits more easily if they cannot work due to coronavirus. To help freelance workers, who do not qualify for statutory sick pay, they will be able to access benefits from day one of their absence and will be able to sign up online rather than by going to a job centre.
  • Spending pledges – a list of spending pledges was highlighted during his speech, including funding for specialist 16-19 maths schools in every region, £25,000 on average for each secondary school to invest in arts activities and £29 million a year to improve PE teaching.
    However, none of these are new as the Education Secretary, made the maths schools pledge last year, and the funding for arts and PE were in the Conservatives’ manifesto.
  • The ‘reading tax’ is being abolished – VAT currently charged on digital publications will be removed from December 2020 and as this is charged on things like digital fiction and textbooks and education resources this move may prove helpful to schools.