COVID-19 School Management Update: National Restrictions - 4 November 2020

David Kilgallon, Director of Learning and Systems Leadership has shared an update on Tuesday 3 November 2020. Here is the update: 

Welcome back to what I am sure will be another event filled half term.  It really is proving to be a  challenging experience for senior leaders running schools in these eventful times.  Thanks as ever for your absolute commitment and good humour.

There will be many communications from the Government as they identify the details of the national restrictions and what that means for schools.  We will endeavour to clarify the local position and views of Waltham Forest to complement this guidance.  We hope that you will find these to be of value.

The first local communication is seeking to address some questions and concerns expressed by Headteacher colleagues over the weekend in light of the Prime Ministers announcement on Saturday evening.

Process for school closure

All schools are expected to remain open to pupils.  Where there are confirmed cases of COVID associated with a school community local Public Health colleagues, the DfE helpline and the London Coronavirus Response Cell (LCRC) will continue to discuss and agree with Headteachers the necessity for asking pupils/students to work remotely.  This will be up to and including decisions to require “bubbles” - either individual classes or whole year groups to work remotely.

Unfortunately, there may be occasions where wider school closures than this may become necessary.  In discussions with the RSC they have confirmed their expectation that all Schools (including Academies) should inform/consult the Local Authority prior to any decision to close a school. 

In Waltham Forest any proposals to close schools temporarily above and beyond “bubble“ management must follow the following gateway process.  This will assist all parties in giving legitimacy to the decision making process that should stand up to external scrutiny from the RSC and/or Ofsted.  Schools are therefore expected to;

  • Confirm in writing the reasons and rationale for the proposed partial closure of the school.  This will obviously need to include reference to the Public Health advice and support you have received in arriving at this recommended position.  Schools are reminded that they are expected to stay open to children of key workers and vulnerable children throughout and you should therefore confirm that this expectation is being met as part of the rationale. 
  • This document must include details of your remote learning offer to pupils/students expected to learn away from school.  It must also include details of how you will maintain contact and assurance regarding vulnerable pupils/students working remotely. 
  • This should be signed off by the Headteacher and Chair of Governors and sent to me at David.kilgallon@walthamforest.gov.uk and copied to Gerry Kemble at Gerry.Kemble@walthamforest.gov.uk
  • We will then urgently consider the information provided and refer to the Waltham Forest Gold Group chaired by the Chief Executive.  A decision will be confirmed within 24 hours (or sooner as necessary).   

Staff classified as Extremely Clinically Vulnerable

For this group of individuals and not those that are “just” clinically vulnerable or individuals living with people that are Extremely Clinically Vulnerable the Government guidance issued on Saturday 31 October 2020 states that (my highlights);

“There is a further group of people who are defined, also on medical grounds, as clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus – that is, people with specific serious health conditions. Over this period, we are advising the CEV to work from home. If you cannot work from home, you are advised not to go to work and may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA). You are encouraged to stay at home as much as possible, but are encouraged to go outside for exercise. The full new guidance will be published on Monday 2 November 2020 and the Government will write to everybody who is clinically extremely vulnerable to set out detailed advice while the new restrictions are in place. Current advice is in place at each local COVID alert level”.

We are updating the template individual risk assessment considering this announcement and will review the further Government guidance that has been promised. In the meantime, we would advise schools to plan on the basis that staff formally classified as clinically extremely vulnerable should not be in school from Thursday 5 November 2020 or for the foreseeable future.

David Kilgallon, Director of Learning and Systems Leadership