New and updated guidance in relation to COVID-19 – Friday 24 April 2020

This week I highlight some of the new and updated guidance published by the DfE for schools and parents in relation to COVID-19 and information from Schools NorthEast on its Northern Governance Conference which is now being delivered as a series of webinars.

New and updated guidance from DfE in relation to COVID-19
The DfE continues to provide new and updated guidance for schools and parents on a range of issues including:

  • Complaints – confirmation it doesn’t expect schools to handle new or existing complaints while they are closed but should engage with parents where they can.
  • Online learning support package – children “in the most vital stages of their education” will be given free laptops and tablets to make remote learning easier. These devices will be available for disadvantaged pupils in Year 10, pupils who receive support from a social worker, and care leavers, with schools able to keep the devices once they have reopened.  The Government will provide 4G routers to vulnerable pupils who do not have access to the internet and major telecommunications providers. The Education Secretary has also backed a national online academy providing a “comprehensive” virtual curriculum for schools to use during the pandemic. Oak National Academy provides a “sequenced” plan of hour-long lessons and curriculum resources, compiled by 40 teachers from schools across the country.
  • Furlough guidance – state schools that have private income streams, such as catering, sports facilities lettings or boarding provision, can furlough staff in these areas. However, the Government doesn’t “in general, expect state schools to furlough staff”.
  • Managing school premises – guidance on maintaining the school premises with reduced occupancy.
  • Halting of ‘all but essential’ data collections – this aims to “help reduce the burden” on schools and councils amid the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Proper notice regarding schools re-opening – the Education Secretary has pledged that schools, parents and children will be given proper notice of when schools will reopen. He is unable to give an exact date yet because the Government needs to be confident it can meet five tests which are: confidence that the NHS can continue to be protected, a fall in daily death rates, confidence in testing, appropriate PPE capacity, and confidence that changes to the Government’s approach won’t risk a second peak of coronavirus infections.
  • Calculated GCSE and A Level grades – it has been confirmed calculated grades will be published on the dates originally planned for this year’s results days: 13 August for A-levels and 20 August for GCSEs.
  • Admissions appeals – in order to protect parents’ right to appeal to any school which has refused their child a place, new regulations will relax some of the rules surrounding appeal panels. They provide Admission authorities with scope to convene panels remotely in line with advice on social distancing. Also amended are the rules in relation to deadlines, with the DfE recommending that appellants be given at least 28 days written notice of a new appeal deadline.

Schools NorthEast Northern Governance Conference 2020
Due to COVID-19 the Northern Governance Conference has been transformed into a series of online events. The event will be held via webinar every Wednesday for three weeks on 29 April, 6 May and 13 May from approximately 10.30 am to 12.30 pm.

The full programme includes keynote speeches from Sir David Carter, Executive Director of System Leadership at Ambition Leadership and ex National Schools Commissioner, Emma Knights, CEO of The National Governance Association and Emma Ing, Regional Director North East, Yorkshire and Humber, Ofsted.

The cost is £60 per delegate or £100 for your whole Governing body. All delegate and school bookings will receive a recording of all three webinars along with a CPD certificate.

Latest guidance in relation to COVID-19 – Friday 3 April 2020

In my final update this term I report on the latest DfE guidance produced in light of the current coronavirus situation as well as support provided by the NGA and Governors for Schools to assist governing bodies during this time.

DfE guidance
Safeguarding in relation to COVID-19
This week the DfE published new guidance on safeguarding for schools during the coronavirus outbreak, advising them to review and revise policies as the epidemic evolves.

It states that while schools will have an effective child protection policy in place for use during normal operations, it is likely that the policy will not accurately reflect new arrangements in response to COVID-19.

The policies should reflect any arrangements to support children the school is concerned about who do not meet the ‘vulnerable’ definition. Schools should also consider what arrangements are in place to keep children safe while they are not physically attending school, as well as how victims of peer-on-peer abuse might be supported given the very different circumstances schools are now operating in.

COVID-19 Free school meals guidance
This week the DfE also published guidance on providing free school meals whilst schools are closed. Schools can continue to provide meals for collection or delivery themselves, but where this is not possible, a new national scheme will allow schools to provide £15 weekly vouchers electronically or as a gift card for those without internet access.

The vouchers can be spent on food at a range of shops including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose and M&S, with the DfE working to get more shops to join the scheme as soon as possible.

Changes to induction for newly qualified teachers
The DfE has recognised that the current coronavirus outbreak will likely have a profound impact on the number of absences newly qualified teachers (NQTs) take this academic year.

Current arrangements state that ad-hoc absences totalling 30 days or more automatically extends induction by the aggregate number of days absent. However, Government intends to amend the regulations to ensure that any absence related to the current coronavirus outbreak, including school closures, sickness or self-isolation, will not count towards this limit. This means that NQTs who are currently undertaking statutory induction can complete their induction this academic year as expected, provided they meet the Teachers’ Standards.

KCSIE consultation suspended
Given the current circumstances the DfE has suspended the 2020 consultation on revisions to Keeping Children Safe in Education statutory guidance.

Governance support
NGA webinar on virtual governance
On Friday last week the NGA delivered a webinar on virtual governance and also made its GOLDline advice service available to all governing bodies that have questions about maintaining their business in the current circumstances. You can contact GOLDline by emailing or by calling 0121 237 3782.

Governors for Schools
School governance during the coronavirus pandemic
Yesterday a webinar was held to provide governing bodies with an understanding of key, relevant Government advice and to secure governors confidence in holding schools to account during the coming months.

Microsoft Teams for school governing bodies
A webinar in conjunction with Microsoft will be held on Tuesday 7 April 2020 from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm to help schools get the best out of working remotely using online communication and collaboration platform Microsoft Teams.

The webinar will look at how the platform can support schools to hold productive governing board meetings online and deliver remote learning for pupils effectively. Microsoft Teams is currently free for all schools and educational institutions.

You can sign up to the webinar using this link.

Latest DfE governance guidance – Friday 27 March 2020

This week I highlight the latest DfE Governance advice, a new publication from the NGA on business continuity and holding virtual governing body meetings and a new texting service to support teacher wellbeing.

Latest DfE Governance advice
As you are all aware the DfE published updated governance advice yesterday and its key advice for governing bodies was:

  • Boards can agree to hold meetings via telephone or video-conferencing without having to meet first. The chair or clerk can contact governors directly to agree to alternative meeting arrangements during this lockdown period.
  • Please note: the department will not be making any changes to the statutory governance functions in any upcoming regulations related to COVID-19. The School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances) (England) Regulations 2013 (regulation 14) allows for governing bodies in maintained schools to approve alternative arrangements for governors to participate or vote at meetings of the governing body, including by telephone or video conference. The model articles of association for academy trusts state that trustees can attend meetings remotely subject to certain stipulations set out in article 126.
  • The department urges governing boards to be pragmatic in what they cover in meetings during this time, and to be proportionate in the decisions that they are planning to take. We expect governors to focus on urgent, time-bound decisions. We understand that you are likely to want to defer non-urgent decisions/agenda items until future meetings.
  • Boards should prioritise providing support to their school leaders and staff where needed, to allow them to get on with operational matters. School leaders should stay in touch with the governing board in a proportionate way, including providing information on the welfare of staff and pupils, so that they can retain a strategic overview of the situation and the school.
  • We urge schools’ Get Information About Schools (GIAS) gatekeepers and individuals who have their details on GIAS to keep email addresses up to date. Important information being communicated from the department may require quick and effective action.
  • We also recommend governing boards have in place contingency plans in case the chair and/or vice chair become unavailable, so that there is clarity about who will be the conduit of information for the board.

I have already taken part in a successful virtual governing body meeting this week using Zoom (a videoconferencing app) and will liaise with Chairs and Headteachers to ensure that we can move forwards in the Summer term with virtual governing body arrangements. Bearing in mind the advice from the DfE agendas will be modified to ensure key information is provided from the school and urgent decisions are prioritised.

NGA Governing in challenging circumstances – Business continuity and holding virtual meetings
This week the NGA published new guidance on how the work of governing bodies can continue during these uncertain times. It provides helpful information on business priorities, how governing bodies can meet virtually and the work of panels.  It also includes a sample protocol governing bodies can follow when using alternative arrangements to participate and vote in meetings.

New text messaging service launched to help teacher wellbeing
A free text messaging service is being launched to support the wellbeing of teachers during the coronavirus crisis. The TeachTogether service will send weekly text messages to teachers including supportive quotes from other professionals, advice and links to useful activities during school closures and beyond.

It is being launched by The Chartered College of Teaching and the Behavioural Insights Team following a pilot of a similar service in the United States and Canada for teachers and emergency service call handlers.

To join the messaging service, teachers will need a UK mobile number or email. To sign up visit

Closure of schools today and list of key workers – Friday 20 March 2020

Closure of schools and list of key workers
Clearly the situation regarding COVID-19 has changed considerably since this time last week.  Schools will close their doors this afternoon to the majority of children until further notice. Only children of key workers – those considered critical to the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic – and vulnerable pupils will attend schools for the foreseeable future.

In guidance published late yesterday evening, the Cabinet Office and DfE published a list of roles that are considered to be those of key workers, and these are listed below as published.

The Government has also clarified that vulnerable children include those who are supported by social care, those with safeguarding and welfare needs, including child in need plans, on child protection plans, ‘looked after’ children, young carers, disabled children and those with education, health and care plans.

The Government has said that “many parents working in these sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home”, and that “every child who can be safely cared for at home should be”.

It has also been confirmed, in separate guidance for parents, that children will be eligible to attend school even if just one parent or carer is identified as a “critical worker”.

List of key workers

  • Health and social care – includes but is not limited to doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributers of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.
  • Education and childcare – this includes nursery and teaching staff, social workers and those specialist education professionals who must remain active during the COVID-19 response to deliver this approach.
  • Key public services – this includes those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services, those responsible for the management of the deceased, and journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting.
  • Local and national government – this only includes those administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the COVID-19 response or delivering essential public services such as the payment of benefits, including in government agencies and arms length bodies.
  • Food and other necessary goods – this includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines).
  • Public safety and national security – this includes police and support staff, Ministry of Defence civilians, contractor and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of key defence and national security outputs and essential to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic), fire and rescue service employees (including support staff), National Crime Agency staff, those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including those overseas.
  • Transport – this includes those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the COVID-19 response, including those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass.
  • Utilities, communication and financial services – this includes staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure), the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage), information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the COVID-19 response, as well as key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services), postal services and delivery, payments providers and waste disposal sectors.

Governance during this time
As you are aware I have been emailing you all the latest NGA guidance as it has been published.  During these uncertain times school governance should continue albeit virtually/electronically. I am liaising with Headteachers and Chairs to agree how we will conduct our business going forwards.  I will be in touch via email to share our plans in due course.

In the meantime I will continue to send you the latest Government and NGA guidance to keep you updated.






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.

Potential impact of coronavirus on the Education sector – Friday 6 March 2020

This week I report on the Government’s plans in relation to education should the coronavirus escalate, the updating of RPI so that maintained schools can enjoy the same benefits as academies and the announcement of a multi-million pound Government investment in the future of UK science.

Pupils could be sent elsewhere under UK coronavirus plans
The Government is drawing up a series of emergency laws should the coronavirus escalate. Children and teachers could be made to transfer to alternative schools if their own is shut but the Prime Minister played down the risks of widespread school shutdowns at a press conference to deliver the Government’s coronavirus “battle plan” on Tuesday. He didn’t believe schools should close in principle but confirmed that school authorities should follow the advice of Public Health England.

The legislation is expected to permit the relaxing of constraints on class sizes and the sending of pupils and teachers to other schools if theirs is closed or demand is created by staff being off sick. The powers would be strictly temporary, either through the inclusion of a sunset clause or by allowing the legislation to lapse once the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Officer declare that the disease is no longer an epidemic.

Risk Protection Arrangements (RPI)
The DfE’s RPI have been updated with new membership rules for community schools, voluntary aided, foundation and foundation special schools and voluntary controlled schools, as they can now save money by joining the scheme (provided by industry professionals on behalf of the DfE) rather than purchasing commercial insurance.

Local authority maintained schools can join the RPA using the DfE’s online portal from mid-March with cover starting from 1 April. The cost is £18 per pupil, per year and £18 per place, per year, for special and alternative provision academies, special schools and pupil referral units. For academies, this covers the academic year 1 September 2019 to 31 August 2020 and for local authority maintained schools this covers the financial year 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021.

Multi-million government investment in the future of UK science
To mark the start of British Science Week, Business Secretary Alok Sharma and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson have announced funding to support up to 11,000 students through 41 Doctoral Training Partnerships, as well as encourage more young people, particularly girls, to study STEM subjects at school and university, and pursue a STEM-related career. The investment includes:

  • £179 million for PhDs, formally known as Doctoral Training Partnerships, at over 40 UK universities in physical sciences, maths and engineering to develop the skills for ground-breaking research and high-tech industries like cyber security and chemical manufacturing.
  • £8.9 million to continue funding science education programmes including Science Learning Partnerships and Stimulating Physics Networks, which aim to improve science teaching and increase the take up of science at GCSE level and A level and ultimately encourage young people to pursue a STEM-related career.

KCSIE consultation opens – Friday 28 February 2020

This week I report on the opening of a consultation on updating Keeping Children Safe in Education statutory guidance which will come into force in September, publication of latest guidance for schools about coronavirus, confirmation that the KS1 SATs replacement will be rolled out from September and plans launched by Great Minds Together for a new independent inspection and resolution service to support schools and councils to find solutions for families of children with SEND or SEMH needs.

Keeping Children Safe in Education consultation
On Tuesday the DfE opened a consultation on the changes it’s proposing to make to Keeping children safe in education for 2020. The DfE is working to release the updated guidance for September and the consultation will close on 21 April.

The aim is to help schools and colleges better understand what they are required to do by law and what the DfE strongly advises they should do to fulfil their safeguarding responsibilities. Many of the proposed changes are technical in nature. They are intended to improve the clarity of the guidance and ensure consistency throughout. A list with an explanation of all the proposed substantive changes is set out at Annex G of the draft guidance. The consultation document asks a number of questions about the substantial changes the DfE is proposing to make to KCSIE. The responses to these questions will inform the final guidance.

Public Health England (PHE) issues further guidance to schools about coronavirus
This morning PHE has published updated guidance for schools and other educational settings about how they should respond to the threat of coronavirus.  It has also produced a poster that educational settings should display.

Key stage 1 SATs replacement to be rolled out from September
From September all new primary school pupils will take the new reception baseline assessment (RBA) that will replace SATs in year 2.  Following successful pilots all over the country, the RBA, a one-to-one exercise done in 20 minutes with a teacher in an informal setting, will be taken by all children in their first six weeks of primary school.

The move paves the way for the removal of the national curriculum assessments at the end of Key Stage 1 from 2022/23.  It comes after a validity report based on a national pilot confirmed that the new assessments provide an accurate assessment of a pupils’ starting point from which to measure the progress they make in primary school.

Behaviour Hubs programme
The DfE believes that Behaviour hubs will enable schools and multi-academy trusts with exemplary behaviour cultures and practices to work in partnership with those that want to improve their behaviour culture.  It is now recruiting up to 20 lead schools to become behaviour hubs and work with new advisers to support at least 500 schools over three years.

The programme is based on Tom Bennett’s 2017 review of behaviour in schools Creating a culture: how school leaders can optimise behaviour and the first wave of lead schools will be matched with partners and start work this September.

Plan launched for new independent inspection and resolution service
Great Minds Together, an organisation which works to support families of children with SEND or social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs, has developed an idea for a new inspection and resolution service to support schools and councils to improve and find solutions for families of children with such needs.

Great Minds Together is also proposing to create a new SEMH code of practice for schools and LAs to follow and has recommended that schools face inspections focused on whether they are inclusive for pupils with SEND.

Curriculum transition extended for a further year – Friday 14 February 2020

This week I report on Ofsted’s curriculum transition arrangements being extended for a further year, the outcome of this week’s Cabinet reshuffle on education, a consultation on a new national plan for music education and updated PSHE guidance in line with the statutory changes that come into force in September 2020.

Curriculum transition extended for a further year
Ofsted’s national Director of Education Sean Harford announced in his blog yesterday that schools will get an extra year (until July 2021) to bring their curriculum into line with Ofsted’s new inspection framework.

The new framework, which places greater weight on curriculum content and less on outcomes, came into effect last September. However Ofsted had originally worked in a year-long transition so that judgements were made based on where schools currently were in implementing curriculum changes, rather than expecting them to be “fully ready”.

Mr Harford has now said “The transition arrangements will only apply when it’s clear that a school is well on the way with its curriculum journey – but isn’t quite ‘there’ yet. This is not an amnesty for schools where teaching is weak or pupils’ outcomes (including, but not exclusively, national tests and examination results) aren’t good enough.”

Impact of Cabinet reshuffle on education
Gavin Williamson will continue in the role of Education Secretary following a reshuffle yesterday that saw a number of his colleagues return to the backbenches. Williamson’s re-appointment signals that the direction of travel is unlikely to change. The Education Secretary previously signalled that he would not seek to enact major system change in the near future.

Nick Gibb has also been re-appointed as Schools Minister, a role he has had since May 2015.   This morning it was confirmed that Lord Agnew, the School Academies Minister has left the DfE and Baroness Elizabeth Berridge has been appointed parliamentary under secretary of state.

DfE consultation on new national plan for music education
To help reflect advances in technology in the way music is created, recorded and produced, and to reassess the music education young people benefit from at school the DfE has launched a call for evidence to inform proposals for a refreshed national plan for music education. The consultation will run until 13 March 2020 and the updated plan will be published in the Autumn.

Updated PSHE guidance
On Tuesday the DfE updated its guidance for schools on Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education. The guidance document focuses on the statutory changes to the curriculum requirements in respect of; relationships, sex and health education from September 2020.

Proposal to cut the cost of school uniforms – Friday 7 February 2020

This week I report on the member’s bill hoping to make school uniform guidance statutory and the release of updated GCSE results from last academic year showing the gap between disadvantaged pupils and others has increased for the second year in a row.

Government backs proposal to cut the cost of school uniforms
On Wednesday a private member’s bill was introduced to seek to make the DfE’s 2013 school uniform guidance statutory. The Government has announced it will back this draft law aimed at cutting the cost of school uniforms and discouraging deals between schools and single uniform suppliers which potentially restricts competition and drives up costs for parents.

Private member’s bills rarely get past the early stages of their development because of Parliamentary time, but the Government’s backing means the school uniform bill is likely to pass. The bill is called the Education guidance about costs of school uniform bill and will have its second reading in the House of Commons on 13 February.

Attainment gap widens between disadvantaged pupils and their peers
An updated breakdown of GCSE results issued by the DfE this week showed the gap between disadvantaged pupils and others increased slightly for the second year in a row. The DfE classes about one in four state school pupils as disadvantaged, defined as having been eligible for free school meals within the five years before sitting GCSEs or if they have been in care or adopted from care.

While more than two-thirds of non-disadvantaged children achieved grade 4 or higher in maths and English, just 36% of those eligible for free school meals did so.

Guaranteed funding for schools next year – Friday 31 January 2020

This week I report on the guaranteed funding for primary and secondary schools for next year, the publication of the Opportunity North East delivery plan and updated DfE guidance on the statutory policies schools and academies must have.

Guaranteed minimum funding levels for all schools
New legislation laid in Parliament on Wednesday guarantees every secondary school at least £5k per pupil next year, and every primary school at least £3,750 per pupil, with funding per pupil for primary schools rising to £4k the following year.

Parents will now also be able to find out how much extra funding their local school will attract next year using a new, easy-to-use website which allows anyone to look up allocations under the National Funding Formula for schools in England for 2020-21.

Publication of the Opportunity North East (ONE) delivery plan
At the Schools North East Academies Conference held on Wednesday, the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson announced the Government would not stop in its drive to transform the lives and prospects of young people across the North East.

This comes as the Department published its Opportunity North East (ONE) delivery plan, setting out a series of ambitions to deliver on the programme’s long-term commitment to level up on educational outcomes and unleash the potential of young people in the region.

Updated guidance on statutory policies for schools and academy trusts
This week the DfE has updated its guidance on the policies and documents that governing bodies and proprietors of schools must have. It has:

  • added a link in section 8 ‘Relationship and sex education’ to statutory guidance published in June last year which schools must follow from September 2020;
  • added references to specify if policies also apply to maintained or non-maintained nursery schools;
  • updated the ‘Register of business interests of headteachers and governors’ section to reference that it is a live document;
  • updated the ‘Capability of staff’ section to reflect that academies can set their own terms for approval.