Statement from the CEO to all Stakeholder Groups

Dear colleagues

We have now moved into the ‘delay’ phase of the Government’s plan to manage the Coronavirus outbreak and further guidance has been issued overnight. This means that new actions will be taken across the country to reduce the number of people who are affected at the peak of the virus and to delay this peak as far as possible into the summer months when the impact on people and the NHS will be reduced. 

What we are doing as a Trust

We have been working with our settings and other partners across the region to develop solutions to the rapidly changing situation to:

  • Identify vulnerable groups;
  • Identify numbers of key workers;
  • Identify the provision of ongoing services, including school meals;
  • Deal with challenges of the health needs of staff in our settings.

The work being done by our settings in partnership together, and with other agencies across the region, is set to provide a strong basis for whatever requirements the coming weeks present. 

To all our staff – thank you for the exceptional pace and professionalism with which you have collectively responded to these unprecedented challenges.

From Monday 23 March 2020, whilst all schools nationally will be closed for the foreseeable future, all our settings will still be open to care for children of key-workers, vulnerable children and children with EHCP’s. The decision to offer a place, and the continuation of this provision, will ultimately rest with the Trust in consultation with Head Teachers. For these children, their setting’s normal school hours will still apply, along with the usual catering arrangements. The Trust will be constantly reviewing the model of provision available going forward.

Since the decision to close schools was announced by the Government on Wednesday, we have been waiting confirmation regarding the definition of ‘vulnerable’ children and ‘key workers’. The guidance was been published this morning. Full details are available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision

It is essential we get the balance right between those children needing to attend school in lieu of child care. We will need as many key workers available as possible to maintain essential services. All our settings will endeavour to offer children of key workers a place in lieu of childcare, where ever possible. However, in-line with Government guidance, where those key workers can establish appropriate care arrangements for their children at home they should do so, and use schools only as the alternative, rather than ‘default’. Where a key worker parent is having difficulty making such alternative arrangements, they should discuss this with the setting concerned. The decision to offer a place, and the scope of that provision, rests with the Head Teacher.

Vulnerable children are those defined as Child in Need, Child Protection, Looked After Children, i.e. those with a social worker; along with young carers, disabled children and those with EHCP’s. Looking after these children will enable schools to support the country through this incredibly and extremely challenging time. However, whatever the definition, our settings know the identity of the wider group of vulnerable children and will, wherever possible, maintain a pastoral relationship with them.

In terms of Free School Meals, we have been advised that government will give schools the flexibility to provide meals or vouchers to children who are eligible for free school meals. The Government are looking to put in place a national voucher system for every child who is eligible for free school meals. Guidance for schools will be published by the DFE shortly. 

In the meantime, our settings are developing their own ongoing free school meals provision and will contact relevant parents / carers about these arrangements as soon as possible.

HR Advice for the Closure Period

Whilst the Trust continues to offer care for children of key-workers, vulnerable children and children with EHCP’s, all staff who are employed are also considered by the Trust to be key workers and will continue to be required to undertake work, provided they are well enough to do so.

In practice, this means that staff will be required to be available to undertake tasks which are broadly in line with their usual work and commensurate with their grade.   

Staff with children of school age (3 years old to 17 years old), who are having difficulty making suitable childcare arrangements in order to continue to work, should speak to their Head Teacher, as our settings have been asked to make provision in lieu of childcare available to staff where possible. Staff with children under school age (younger than 3 years old) should make their own arrangements; however, please speak to your Head Teacher if you’re having difficulty doing this. Staff who would prefer to stay at home to look after their children, despite the offer of a place, may make an application to their Head Teacher for unpaid compassionate leave. Such applications will be considered on a case by case basis.

In cases where a staff member is having to self-isolate, or has been identified by their setting as at significant risk, or lives with another adult or child deemed at significant risk, the work may be undertaken from home and would not involve direct pupil contact. Examples of work which may be undertaken would include but not be limited to preparing resources, setting of work for pupils to complete remotely, planning, updating monitoring etc. Staff who are available to work during the school closure period will receive full pay.

Staff who have previously been available for work but then become incapacitated by any illness and unable to work, should ensure that they report this in the usual way to their line manager using the correct reporting arrangements for their setting; they will then be considered to be off sick for the duration of their illness and will receive full sick pay entitlement for the period of which they are unwell. Upon recovery, they should advise their line manager that they have returned and are now available to undertake work.

Where it is not possible for an employee, either in self-isolation or in a high risk group, to complete any work from home during the school closure period due to the nature of their role, the employee will continue to receive full pay.

As already stated, school employees are key worker staff and able to access school provision in lieu of childcare. For our staff, their children of school age (3 to 17) can attend the setting at which they work if this is appropriate; the preference of the parent/carer; and with the permission of the Head Teacher.  

Current Health Advice

It is important that we follow the medical evidence and take the right actions at the right time to help and support each other.

Current advice is:

  • To wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you have symptoms, such as a new and continuous cough or a temperature of 37.8 degrees Celsius or above, self-isolate by staying at home for 7 days. If you live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms. If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days. If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible. There is more information about staying at home that you can read by clicking here
  • Reduce social contact, by not visiting pubs, clubs, theatres etc. 
  • Schools to remain open for children of key workers and vulnerable children at this stage, but this situation will be monitored on an ongoing basis.

Those who are at increased risk of severe illness from Coronavirus (COVID-19), including the over 70s, need to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures. You can read more about this by clicking here

If you need to self-isolate because of the symptoms mentioned above, please call your immediate line manager and report this immediately, as you would any other absence.