COVID19 - GUIDANCE FOR GOVERNORS

A new way of working for schools

  • There is an expectation that ‘vulnerable children’ will attend provision (unless underlying health conditions put them at severe risk)
    • vulnerable children are those who have a social worker, and those with education, health and care (EHC) plans. Eligibility for FSM is not a determining factor
    • where a parent does not want to bring a vulnerable child to an education setting, the school and social worker should explore the reasons for this directly
    • schools should monitor the welfare of vulnerable children who don’t attend, and other pupils they might wish to keep in touch with, for safeguarding purposes.
    • schools are being asked to make welfare calls to vulnerable children
  • Headteachers / DSLs should ensure they understand whether there are reasons particular teachers may not want to do this and adjust process accordingly
  • Children with at least one parent/carer who is critical to the COVID-19 response can go to school if required
    • schools can take a judgement on these pupils
  • During this period, schools do not need to take an attendance register but the DfE is asking schools to submit a short daily return,
    • schools should follow up non attendance of pre-arranged care and notify social workers if a vulnerable child doesn’t take up or discontinues a place at school
  • Where possible, schools should continue to look after critical workers’ children and vulnerable children throughout the Easter holidays
  • Schools must think carefully about staffing
  • Staff, with serious underlying conditions (a shieldedcategory) should not attend work
    • staff with conditions that put them at increased risk with COVID-19 should work from home where possible
    • staff members that live with someone in the above categories – including those who are pregnant, can attend school as long as stringent social distancing measures and hygiene are in place and they can’t work from home
    • pupils in one of the above categories, can attend school as long as stringent social distancing measures and hygiene are in place (and pupils are able to understand and follow instructions).
  • Social distancing and good hand hygiene should be practiced at school
  • Staff must implement the measures as far as they are able, whilst ensuring children are kept safe and well cared for within their settings (schools should work with the LA and parents to decide how best to proceed for pupils with EHC plans).
  • Boards will want to ensure that:
    • parents and communities are informed about the measures being taken,
    • guidance on cleaning is being adhered to
    • budgets reflect any changes
    • staff feel comfortable with the restrictions imposed
  • In order to protect staff wellbeing, and minimise additional hours in, schools should be considering:
    • adopting rota systems and offering time off in lieu
    • approaching the LA/Trust for support from other institutions
    • making appropriate use of their supply budget
    • if schools still have unavoidable additional staffing costs they should discuss these with their Regional School Commissioner.

Recruitment

If recruitment of staff is taking place via video interview, ID documents should be sent in advance so that interviewers can confirm they are interviewing the right person.
  • Schools advised to include a probationary period in the contract if they don’t already
  • Schools should be clear in any offer letter than the offer is dependent on receipt of references
 
Please note these temporary changes to ID checking guidelines (for both staff and volunteers/governors).
  • DBS checks need to be carried out as normal
  • Instead of seeing the physical documents, however, they can be scanned and sent or seen by video link    

Ofsted

  • Routine inspections of schools are all suspended.
  • Urgent inspections can still go ahead prioritising safety of children where necessary (e.g. when complaints or whistle-blowing information suggests children may be at risk of harm)
  • Inspection reports from recent inspections will not be published until schools reopen
  • If Ofsted have asked schools to post documents to them, they should be sent with the school URN to enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk.

 

Assessment

The Department of education have confirmed that :

  • Exams won’t be taking place this year
  • School performance tables won’t be published this year
  • Data from this year won’t be shared with schools via ASP
  • Any organisation looking for performance data from a school should use the data from last year
 

Exclusions

Timeframes set out in the School Discipline (Pupil Exclusions and Reviews) (England) Regulations 2012 remain in force. This applies to all exclusions, including those that were issued before 23 March 2020.
 
The government appreciates that it may not be possible to meet the timeframes set out in regulations for review meetings and IRPs, due to the disruption caused by coronavirus (COVID-19), and the health risks of holding meetings. The Regulations themselves envisage that the timeframes may not always be met, which is why they specify that meetings and panel hearings must still go ahead even if the relevant deadline has been missed.
 
It is for the governing board, or arranging authority, to assess the facts of the case, and decide whether the statutory deadlines are achievable or whether, in the circumstances, the meeting has to be delayed or alternative technology (such as telephone or video conference facilities) should be used. Governing boards and arranging authorities should continue to take reasonable steps to ensure meetings are arranged for a time when all parties are able to attend.

Admissions

Please note the DfE have issued revised guidance on admissions appeals to ensure they can go ahead during the period of school closure /partial closure. This can be found here.  

Free School Meals

The DfE are temporarily extending free school meal eligibility to include some children of groups who have no recourse to public funds (NRPF).
  • children of Zambrano carers (the primary carer/parent of a British citizen child or dependent adult, where requiring the primary carer to leave the UK would force that British citizen to leave the European Economic Area (EEA) too).
  • children of families with no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the UK on grounds of private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights
  • children of families receiving support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 who are also subject to a no recourse to public funds restriction
It covers both children who are attending school and children who are at home.
  • the extension will take place immediately and end when schools have reopened to all children.
  • schools should ask families to sign a self-declaration form and provide evidence
  • documents can be reviewed electronically if the family are comfortable and able to provide them in this way.
  • schools can be flexible and use discretion when asking for supplementary evidence.
  • schools are not required to retain copies of evidence provided and should advise applicants of their data protection regulations and processes and ensure that these are abided to.

 

More information is here.

A new way of working for governors too

How this crisis is managed at school is an operational matter and boards must be mindful of the need to allow leaders to lead. All governors, should, however remain up to date with the latest guidance and work to:-
  • support their leaders,
  • understand their school’s unique response to the situation,
  • monitor impact on outcomes, well-being and budget,
  • focus on ongoing strategic direction.
 
Advice has been clear. Governors should no longer visit schools or have face to face meetings but we would like to offer our view on best practice at this time.
 
Find alternative ways to meet rather than cancelling meetings (there have been no changes to statutory governance functions and the whole board should be well informed)
  • be pragmatic about agenda items – focussing on the most urgent
  • understand that governors have different capabilities and don’t forget your clerk (videos are easier to clerk than phone calls)
  • establish a new set of ground rules that ensure ALL can participate.
  • GovernorHub have provided some practical advice on different meeting platforms to help you decide which route to take
  • The following BEP model policy has been produced to help governing boards complete their duties whilst embracing the messages of social distancing (Virtual Attendance at Meetings Model Policy March 2020 (1))
 
Make sure reporting doesn’t stop
  • if the chair is communicating with the head, make sure summaries are cascaded to the full board and your clerk is kept informed of plans
  • parent governors can cascade school communications to triangulate what is being reported at meetings
  • whilst visits can’t be made, there still may be items to research, understand or ask questions about for each of the specific role holders (e.g. does your PP governor understand what is happening to support FSM pupils?)
  • ensure contingency plans are in place in case the chair and/or vice chair become unavailable – think about who will be the conduit of information for the board
  • ensure GIAS contact details up to date
 
Our schools are dealing with a variety of issues (numbers of vulnerable children, staffing and illness levels etc.). Some will need to strip back to COVID-19 only meetings and some will be able to carry out a full governance programme. Boards must work to gauge the correct balance and ensure that robust governance continue.

New 2020 Model: Covid-19 Headteacher Report

The purpose of this Model COVID -19 HT Report 2019 is to ensure that the governing board has the information it needs to monitor and challenge the impact of the current COVID-19 situation alongside overarching aims and strategy. The intention is for boards to use this instead of the HT report (not as well as) alongside the School Development Plan and SEF to allow for focussed and pragmatic discussion during this difficult time.

Parental Engagement

If governors are approached by parents/carers / members of the community or press they should direct them to the school office and not offer advice or comment. Parental support is however an aspect of operations that should be monitored. The British Psychological Society (BPS) and Division of Educational and Child Psychology (DECP) have produced the following advice for schools and parents/carers.
 
The DfE does not expect schools to handle new or existing complaints while they are closed. Schools should, however, still engage with parents and pupils where they can. Complaints can be considered once the government confirms schools can safely reopen.

 

Safeguarding Governors

  • Governors should be ensuring that schools have back-up arrangements in place to ensure Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) remain available/their work continues
    • arrangements can be made with a DSL team at another school to stand in should your DSP become ill
    • safeguarding guidance allows for safeguarding to be delivered by DSLs onsite, online / by telephone or sharing with another setting
  • DSLs won’t be considered as untrained if they can’t get to their refresher training this term.
    • new staff induction material on safeguarding should remain the same and should be delivered remotely by the DS
  • Changes have been made to KCSIE to help schools meet their duties as Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) may now not be on site and to include arrangements for monitoring vulnerable children during partial closure.
    • all schools must either redraft their Child Protection policies to cover this or, as we recommend – approve an addendum to the existing policy.
    • the addendum/new policy should be published on the school website asap.
    • although the CP / Safeguarding policy annex should be approved by the governing board, if there is any delay on this, the policy should be added to the school website asap by the HT / DSL and governors to sign it off as soon as possible.
    • Bucks CC have produced this Model Addendum and here is one from Browne Jacobsen – do make sure, if you use either of them that you change it according to your unique needs

Pupil Premium Governors

  • Schools are expected to continue to provide meals for benefits-related FSM children who are not at school during term time
    • if providing through current mechanisms, schools must ensure meals are distributed within social distancing guidelines
    • if unable to provide through current mechanisms, schools can use a DfE voucher scheme
      • funding for this is additional to existing FSM budgets
      • schools order vouchers and payments met centrally by DfE
      • ‘eCodes’ or physical gift cards for a range of supermarkets available
  • Schools can accept new FSM children during the crises
    • do ensure parents know to apply to ensure they get appropriate support (especially important in the light of recent job losses)
    • are there details on this on your website?

Finance

Governors need to be aware of changes to school finances due to COVID-19
  • The government will continue to provide usual funding
    • FSM and universal infant FSM will continue as before the crisis
    • where schools pay top-up or other funding for pupils attending alternative provision (AP), or pay for other SEND or AP services, these payments should continue
    • schools should fund placements and services for the summer term on the basis of previous patterns
  • There is DfE funding for exceptional costs incurred (to end of 2019-2020 summer term).
    • for costs that can’t be covered with existing resources or can only be met by undermining long-term financial sustainability.
    • for specific items that are necessary to provide appropriate support due to COVID-10 only
      • increased premises costs associated with keeping schools open during holidays, for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers
      • support for free school meals (FSM) not covered by the FSM national voucher scheme
      • additional cleaning
      • for other costs, schools should make a case to DfE.CoronavirusHelpline@education.gov.uk.
      • funding won’t cover costs relating to changes in SEND provision by LAs for pupils with EHC plans.
  • Limits
    • mainstream schools (250 pupils or fewer: £25,000, 251 to 500 pupils: £30,000, 501 to 1000 pupils: £50,000, Over 1000 pupils: £75,000)
    • special schools and alternative provision (All schools: £50,000)
  • Headteachers / School Business Managers are asked to keep records of all expenditure related to coronavirus.  Further guidance, with details of how to claim funding will be published in June.   
  • Schools that have short term cash flow issues as a result of the current situation are asked to contact the Local Authority or ESFA. 

National Guidance

Local Guidance