Schools guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check how schools in Suffolk are affected by COVID-19, including closures and the provision for key workers.

We understand this is a very challenging time for everyone, and there are lots of questions that we all have around school provision. The national picture is changing very quickly and colleagues in Education and Learning are continually reviewing the latest guidance and how this may affect you and your schools. We hope you will be able to check this page regularly and find it an additional support. 

You can check the Department for Education (DfE) website on GOV.UK for latest information on schools, colleges and early years.

Our thanks to all our schools and staff who have managed to remain open and for your incredible efforts in helping our most vulnerable children remain safe and in supporting our key workers during these unprecedented times.


Guidance for parents, school management and staff

Last updated: 3 April 2020 (reviewed daily)

0800 046 8687

Open:

  • Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm
  • Weekends 10am to 4pm

The helpline is for schools and other educational establishments in England only.

You can also email DfE.cornoavirushelpline@education.gov.uk.

What about scheduled Exams/SATs?

For this summer’s awards, schools and colleges are being asked to provide centre assessment grades for their students. These should be fair, objective and carefully considered judgements of the grades schools and colleges believe their students would have been most likely to achieve if they had sat their exams and should take into account the full range of available evidence.

Further guidance for schools about GCSE, AS and A Level awarding on GOV.UK.

Ofqual have also published a letter to all GCSE, AS and A Level students answering some of the questions they may have about what this means for them. Read the letter here published by Ofqual.

You may wish to consider sending this out to your pupils, as we are sure this is a very anxious time for them also.

Latest information for parents about Free School Meals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.


What are the arrangements for children who receive free school meals?

Read the Government announcement about the closing of schools and early year settings (GOV.UK).

To support children eligible for free school meals, schools will be able to purchase meals or vouchers for supermarkets or local shops.

The government has also confirmed that the total value of vouchers offered to each eligible child per week will exceed the rate it pays to schools for free school meals, recognising that families will not be buying food in bulk and may therefore incur higher costs. The final amounts will be confirmed shortly.

Effective immediately, schools will be able to order vouchers directly from supermarkets or shops in their communities to be emailed or printed and posted to families, and they will have their costs covered by the Department for Education. Guidance for schools will be published shortly.

We are aware that the DfE have warned that scammers are asking parents who believe that they’re eligible for free school meals to send them bank details to check eligibility. Please do not respond. We will never ask for your personal bank details.

Who do I advise how many free school meals I need?

You will need to make your usual supplier aware as to how many meals you require. If you use Vertas email mail@vertas.co.uk. Vertas are currently working with suppliers to ensure they have the appropriate provisions.

Please let your regular contact at Vertas know if your plans change. If you are fully closing, please also email mail@vertas.co.uk in addition to the local authority.

Should I provide supermarket vouchers for free school meals or are there other options?

Read the latest guidance on GOV.UK about free school meals.

Some schools have adopted a packed lunch and hamper model. The school ascertains how many packed lunch or hampers are required this order is placed in advance with the catering contractor, hampers are delivered to school and collected once a week by parent(s).

Packed lunches are prepared on a daily basis and collected daily where possible. For any households that are unable to attend the school to collect the hamper or packed lunch this can be delivered by school staff but this is at the school’s discretion.

What advice do we give to parents/carers about whether they send their child to school?

If children can stay safely at home, they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading. That is why the government has asked parents to keep their children at home, wherever possible, and asked schools to remain open only for those children who absolutely need to attend.

Read the latest advice from Public Health/111 at GOV.UK.

If a child comes to school feeling unwell what should we do?

If the child has any symptoms of a new continuous cough or a fever over 37.8 please contact Public Health/111 (GOV.UK) 

We have planned a school trip, should we cancel this?

Read the travel advice from Public Health/111 at GOV.UK.

Do school staff need to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?

Current guidance from Public Health England does not require school staff to wear PPE. Pupils who are symptomatic should be kept at home in self-isolation. We want pupils and staff to remain safe and healthy, therefore schools should implement social distancing practices alongside good hygiene practices. Further information is available on the DfE website.

We will continue to review the situation and will update this guidance as needed.

Once my school is closed, or partially closed from Friday evening, should I conduct a deep clean of the premises?

This is an ideal time to ensure that areas undergo a deep clean, especially if you are completely closed. If you have contracted cleaners (e.g. Vertas) this can be ordered through them. If you have directly employed cleaners, contact them to ask if this is something they can facilitate.

If you have a partially closed school (i.e. you are providing continuing schooling for vulnerable and key workers’ children) then it would be prudent to order the deep clean to occur for either priority areas (toilets / dining halls / catering facilities) in rotation or to order a complete clean for a weekend period. Follow the guidance about decontamination in non-healthcare places on GOV.UK.

My school is closing completely. Do I need to do anything special to ensure the security of the premises?

Your security measures should be the same as if you were closing for any usual period of time. Consider having a checklist where you tick off the major vulnerable points of your school buildings (e.g. gates being locked, fire alarm systems working, swimming pools and pond areas secured with warning notices etc). Use a self-assessment check at www.suffolklearning.co.uk

Many of my staff and pupils are very anxious about the current situation. I am concerned about the mental health wellbeing of my staff and pupils. What can I do?

The majority of schools contract into an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) which is available to all staff. These programmes have 365/24/7 online and / or telephone assistance for staff who require assistance with their mental wellbeing.

Other national organisations are also available and a document entitled ‘Mental Health and Stress at Work Resources’ can be found at www.suffolklearning.co.uk . Please ensure you advertise your EAP to your staff as schools close, and print off, or bring attention to, the document linked above on Suffolk Learning.

Mental Health resources for pupils can be found at Stem4 (for teenagers) the Samaritans (special school resources), Young Minds and many other nationally recognised charities and organisations.

Schools may have their own protocol for ‘keeping in touch’ with those pupils who are more vulnerable to mental health concerns.

Some of the online information seems confusing about the Coronavirus (COVID19). Which sites should I be accessing?

From the beginning of this challenging time we have been signposting all schools to the Government information via the Department of Education, and the NHS website. Both sites are updated frequently.

I am concerned that our school will be continuing to accept some children in school who have challenging behaviours and we are not fully staffed, or specialist staff are not at work.
How do we ensure everyone’s safety?

All schools should have a Risk Assessment and / or Business Continuity Plan which addresses the loss of staff or key staff and this can be adjusted to fit this situation.

You may need to support extra staff in de-escalation techniques and positive behaviour management. If required, there are companies within Suffolk who can facilitate this.

Traditionally we have used BellsCroft Consultancy for this accredited training, but bear in mind that they will also be in demand at this time.

Our school is going to be open to a reduced pupil and staff base. How do I ensure hygiene and welfare facilities measures are continued?

You current vigilance and processes should continue as before, with attentiveness to cleanliness and appropriate supplies (e.g. toilet roll / liquid soap dispensers / sanitizer) being ordered.

We appreciate that there will likely be a reduced ability to order these items currently and you may have to amend your ordering supply to other companies. If you are concerned about on-going contracts we advise you to discuss this with relevant procurement personnel

I am concerned about the cover of staff who are first aiders / fire wardens and premises caretakers in terms of safety to those who are remaining in work and education. What should I do?

You should refer to your ‘Loss of Staff’ risk assessment or business continuity plan. Otherwise, conduct a dynamic risk assessment to check whether you have adequate staff cover for health and safety measures within your premises.

Please check relevant sources of guidance from the Health and Safety pages on Suffolk Learning (see pages on first aid / Supporting Children in School with Medical Conditions and Fire Precaution guidance) to review the requirements. If you come out with a result which you deem unsafe, please contact your Health and Safety Advisor or Competent Person / Consultant (non LA Maintained schools and VAs) for further advice.

We are very concerned about allowing any visitors to the school to conduct planned maintenance checks such as fire alarm testing and water hygiene tests. What should we do?

This letter from Suffolk County Council's Schools’ Commissioning Manager (PDF, 74KB) has outlined health and safety tests. The letter provides you with information about how to proceed.

What is the key message for hygiene?

Stuart Keeble, Director of Public Health at Suffolk County Council has reminded staff that good hygiene continues to be important wherever you are – washing your hands regularly is the most effective way to prevent and slow the spread of Covid-19. Soap and water are the most effective method, but where this is not possible, hand sanitiser should be used.

There are some staff who by the nature of their health conditions are more vulnerable to harm from infection than others. Local arrangements may mean that these staff should work from home and follow the guidance for social distancing. If you have any concerns or need further clarity on this point please discuss this with relevant colleagues at Education and Learning.

For meetings you need to hold or contact with colleagues and others, please consider the use of digital channels available through your local and the council's systems such as Skype. Please ensure you still consider the security of all communications where required both for Safeguarding and general Data Protection needs. Follow the guidance about decontamination in non-healthcare settings on GOV.UK.

The schools closure website publishes updated information on all schools in Suffolk. 

See a list of closed schools

Which parents are classed as key workers, and should I be identifying these parents?

The government has published guidance on who is classed as a key worker. Schools should refer to the government's definition of key workers.

As I am sure you appreciate, school provision is limited and must only be used where absolutely required or where a child needs specialist support. Please refer to the guidance on who is classed as a key worker.

Many parents who are key workers may be able to ensure their child is kept at home. Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be.

Do both parents have to be classed as a key worker?

Current Government guidance states that “children with at least one parent or carer who is critical to the COVID-19 response can attend school if required.

However, many families with a parent or carer working in critical sectors will be able to ensure their child is kept at home. Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be, to limit the chance of the virus spreading”.

If I am identified as a key worker how will my child get to school?

With the schools that remain open we will continue provide transport for these students. Schools will be contacting us directly to advise which students will be attending their school and their home locations. This is a very fluid situation and we will provide updates on this as soon as possible.

For stability, week commencing Monday 23 March, school routes will run as normal, except for those schools which are already fully closed. This arrangement will be reviewed as the situation is very fluid as we are sure you can appreciate.

My child’s school has closed to pupils of key workers and I can’t make alternative arrangements, what should I do?

Suffolk County Council have launched a helpline for parents which will assist them if their usual school is not open or has been unable to make alternate arrangements for pupils.

Parents who are are classed as a key worker or have a child that is classed as vulnerable can call the helpline. Suffolk County Council will then liaise with schools and parents to find a suitable alternative provision as close to the pupil’s current school as possible.

The helpline number is 01473 263985.

Which pupils will be prioritised for education provision?

Please refer to the guidance from DfE.

Can the school use video calling and WhatsApp to stay in contact with pupils?

Schools should have in place an online learning platform that can facilitate learning and communication with pupils or the use of the school’s website. To safeguard both pupils and staff, schools should not use video calling and other social media platforms to keep in contact with pupils. Staff need to safeguard themselves and pupils during this challenging time and we are concerned that staff may make themselves and pupils vulnerable if they were to use video calling. School staff should not use their personal devices for contacting pupils or parents. Schools should never use WhatsApp or any other encrypted social media platform to contact pupils. The school should work to develop a learning package for students and then communicate this to parents.

The school should avoid agreeing different communication processes for every student and should ensure the suitability of modes of communication. All students should have fair access to the learning package being offered.

My child’s school has closed, and I am a key worker, what do I need to do?

Suffolk County Council have launched a helpline for parents which will assist them if their usual school is not open or has been unable to make alternate arrangements for pupils.

Parents who are are classed as a key worker or have a child that is classed as vulnerable can call the helpline. Suffolk County Council will then liaise with schools and parents to find a suitable alternative provision as close to the pupil’s current school as possible.

The helpline number is 01473 263985.

Under what circumstances should I self-isolate my child?

Please refer to guidance provided by Public Health/111.

I am concerned about hygiene and food contamination

Read the guidance for schools on these issues published on GOV.UK

How do I know which children will be prioritised for education provision?

Schools and the Local Authority will be working with parents and carers to inform you about this. You can read the guidance from Department for Education.

How will the time be made up?

Schools should be providing pupils with suitable learning tasks, and how this will be provided will be specific to the individual school.

Will the school admissions and/or appeals be affected as I am expecting to hear about my child's primary place in April or I am due to appeal against my child's secondary allocation.

The Local Authority is checking with the DfE to see if any statutory processes will be delayed due to Coronavirus.

How will the school communicate any changes to parents?

This will likely be through the method of communication that your school usually adopt. Schools will need to communicate to parents how further messages/information will be relayed.

Are there any other resources I can use to help my child continue with their education while at home?

The government has published a list of resources which may help parents while educating their children at home. All resources are free to use and can be found at GOV.UK.

What about Free School Meals?

To support children eligible for free school meals, schools will be able to purchase meals or vouchers for supermarkets or local shops.

The government has also confirmed that the total value of vouchers offered to each eligible child per week will exceed the rate it pays to schools for free school meals, recognising that families will not be buying food in bulk and may therefore incur higher costs. The final amounts will be confirmed shortly.

Effective immediately, schools will be able to order vouchers directly from supermarkets or shops in their communities to be emailed or printed and posted to families, and they will have their costs covered by the Department for Education. Guidance for schools will be published shortly.

We are aware that the DfE have warned that scammers are asking parents who believe that they’re eligible for free school meals to send them bank details to check eligibility. Please do not respond. We will never ask for your personal bank details.

Will I be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice if my child is not in school?

Suffolk County Council will not issue any Fixed Penalty Notices or prosecute any school absences recorded from 16 March 2020. Read more about Fixed Penalty Notices issued before 16 March 2020.

How can I support my pupil’s wellbeing?

We know that this is a very difficult time for children and young people, the engagement hub has lots of fun resources which you might like to share with your parents.

‘The Art of being 2 Metres Apart’ - a time capsule competition that reflects the time a virus came to Suffolk

The idea behind this time capsule competition is to help children and young people to express and share their feelings during this difficult time through Art, Music or Creative Writing, which could be reflections on current daily life, ways in which we are adapting and how we are managing our fears and hopes. Also, to gather advice for future generations should they face a pandemic or significant period of change again.

The competition is now live for young people to enter. Full details can be found at thesource.me.uk/timecapsule.

The 30 Day Whats Up Challenge - it’s 30 simple things to support young people’s emotional wellbeing

This is a social media campaign where for 30 days we will post a daily challenge for young people to do with family and friends on The Source Facebook page. The re-launch of this campaign includes new challenges to help young people stay well at home. Full details can be found at thesource.me.uk/whatsup.

We plan to launch this campaign from the start of week commencing 13 April 2020.

 

Schools and Early Years Settings in Suffolk are putting in arrangements for children of key workers and vulnerable children to be able to attend during the Easter holidays. In some schools this may include Bank Holidays. E.g. Good Friday and Easter Monday.

Schools and Early Year Settings across Suffolk will all be delivering this in slightly different ways. Some are developing local collaborations. Parents are advised to contact their school directly to find out more information.

If you are a parent who is a key worker or has a child that is classed as vulnerable and your usual early years childcare setting is not available, please contact the Family Information Service who will help you to find alternate provision.

Contact the service on 0345 60 800 33 or visit the Family Information Service page for more information.

Where we have safeguarding concerns about a child and/or family should we keep in contact with them?

Where there are safeguarding concerns about a child, the school should continue to undertake regular checks to make sure the child is safe and well. This contact should be in line with the guidance above. Where the school are aware of social care or early help involvement, they should continue communicating with professionals involved.

Should we be undertaking welfare checks on students and if so, how often should these been done?

If you feel that there is a safeguarding concern around the child, it may be appropriate to undertake welfare checks on the child. Outside of this we would expect schools to follow their usual procedures when dealing with children who are absent from school due to illness.

Where a pupil is dual registered who is responsible for their welfare check?

Where a child is dual registered it is the main school who have the responsibility for undertaking welfare checks in accordance with KCSiE.

I have a respiratory condition, and I am concerned about the potential impact of the Coronavirus. Should I stay at home and self-isolate?

Please follow current advice from Public Health England.

My school has closed. Will I have to continue to work?

If you are well and not displaying any symptoms of the virus, you should continue to work as directed by your school. Current guidance from the Government reiterates the importance of working from home where possible.

I have a concern that as the school has closed some of our most vulnerable children may be at risk as we will not be seeing them at school to ensure they are safe

Where there are safeguarding concerns about a child, the school should continue to undertake regular checks to make sure the child is safe and well.

This contact should be in line with the guidance above. Where the school are aware of social care or early help involvement, they should continue communicating with professionals involved.

I want to offer my skill set to other pupils and I am thinking about doing this via social media

It is important that children and staff continue to be safeguarded. The Local Authority discourages you from supporting pupils via social media platforms and would encourage you to continue to support pupils via the learning package offered by your setting.

If you wish to support children during this period, please discuss with your headteacher.

Will school travel still run for children attending school?

With some schools still open we will still be required to provide transport for these students.

The schools will be contacting us directly to advise which students will be attending school, and their locations. This is a very fluid situation and we will provide updates on this.

For stability on Monday 23 March 2020 school routes will run as normal, except for those schools which are already fully closed. This may continue past Monday until we have information from schools as to which pupils are continuing to attend.

There are changes in the school’s operational arrangements, who do I need to inform at Suffolk County Council?

Please complete Suffolk County Council’s 'update form' on Microsoft Forms which has been sent to headteachers via Suffolk Headlines.

I am a headteacher and I need to self-isolate. Do I need to let anyone know?

We request if you need to self-isolate you let your SEO/LSEO know and email EducationOfficersResolution@suffolk.gov.uk

Can I ask staff to work from a different site if we are working with other settings?

National Unions are currently discussing this with Government. We will provide further updates accordingly.

Some of my staff want to offer their skills in a virtual way to children outside of the school via social media.

In order to continue to safeguard children and staff we discourage staff from doing this. Staff should continue to support pupils via the learning package offered by the school.

Can I ask staff to work from a different site if we are working with other settings?

National Unions are currently discussing this with Government. We will provide further updates accordingly.

Support for School Leaders’ Wellbeing

We know that our school leaders are working incredibly hard and may be experiencing high levels of anxiety. Support for headteachers and other school leaders in this challenging time has been established with and to support from the headteacher associations. If you feel you would like wellbeing support you can call the team on 01473 260163 or email leadershipwellbeingsupport@suffolk.gov.uk

What additional precautions should we take if there is a need to visit the homes of pupils/families to check on the welfare of pupils?

If staff carry out home visits, they should carry anti-bacterial wipes with them to ensure they are able to clean their hands. After knocking on the door, they should step back to a distance of at least 2 metes. When the door is answered they should enquire whether anybody in the home is symptomatic. Staff should risk assess any home visit and take into account the school’s usual safeguarding protocols with the addition of extra precaution in relation to COVID-19.

You may like to consider keeping a log of where staff have listed, and times so movements can be reviewed should anyone become ill.

How can I support my pupil’s wellbeing?

We know that this is a very difficult time for children and young people, the engagement hub has lots of fun resources which you might like to share with your parents.

‘The Art of being 2 Metres Apart’ - a time capsule competition that reflects the time a virus came to Suffolk

The idea behind this time capsule competition is to help children and young people to express and share their feelings during this difficult time through Art, Music or Creative Writing, which could be reflections on current daily life, ways in which we are adapting and how we are managing our fears and hopes. Also, to gather advice for future generations should they face a pandemic or significant period of change again.

The competition is now live for young people to enter. Full details can be found at thesource.me.uk/timecapsule.

The 30 Day Whats Up Challenge - it’s 30 simple things to support young people’s emotional wellbeing

This is a social media campaign where for 30 days we will post a daily challenge for young people to do with family and friends on The Source Facebook page. The re-launch of this campaign includes new challenges to help young people stay well at home. Full details can be found at thesource.me.uk/whatsup.

We plan to launch this campaign from the start of week commencing 13 April 2020.