COVID 19 update - 19/03/20

Latest updates on the government's response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

The government recognises the huge importance of the role you have played in maintaining the education, training and social care of our children and young people during this challenging time. I recognise that you will have the same anxieties as the rest of the country about your health and that of your families. On behalf of the Prime Minister and the entire government, I thank you all for all of your work so far, and your continued support. I am deeply grateful for the civic spirit and dedication of everyone working in education, and I will continue to provide my full support throughout this crisis.

Next steps

It is clear that education and children’s social care settings are increasingly finding it difficult to continue as normal, as illness and self-isolation impacts on staffing levels and pupil attendance. To provide parents, student and staff with the certainty they need we are announcing that schools, colleges and early years settings will be closed to everyone except children of key workers and vulnerable children from Monday, as part of the country’s ongoing response to coronavirus.

Examples of these workers include NHS staff, police and delivery drivers who need to be able to go to work. Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with Education, Health and Care Plans.

A full list of key worker categories will be published by the Cabinet Office tomorrow.

Children who do not fall into these groups should remain at home with appropriate care.

Where schools are unable to provide this reduced provision, local authorities will work with the Department for Education’s regional teams to ensure an alternative option is available.

We are expecting early years providers and sixth form and further education colleges to do the same. We are working with Her Majesty’s Treasury on the financial support required. We are also asking that independent schools and boarding schools follow the same approach.

Where possible, we would encourage settings to stay open for this purpose throughout the Easter holidays.

Many universities and other higher education institutions are already taking necessary steps to keep their staff and students safe and where possible keep providing education. We are confident vice-chancellors are making the right decisions and the Department for Education continues to support them in doing so.

Temporary suspension of Ofsted inspections

Ofsted is to temporarily suspend routine inspections of schools, colleges, early years settings, children’s social care providers and local authorities to reduce the burden on staff who are providing vital services to the nation in response to coronavirus.

Free school meal provision

We will give schools the flexibility to provide meals or vouchers to children eligible for free school meals. Some schools are already doing this, and we will reimburse the costs. As soon as possible, we will put in place a national voucher system. 

Handwashing advice

The most important thing individuals can do to protect themselves is to wash their hands more often, for at least 20 seconds, with soap and water. Public Health England recommends that in addition to handwashing before eating, and after coughing and sneezing, everyone should also wash hands after using toilets and travelling on public transport.  Watch this short NHS film for guidance:

• https://youtu.be/bQCP7waTRWU

Department for Education coronavirus helpline

The Department for Education coronavirus helpline is available to answer questions about COVID-19 relating to education and children’s social care. Staff, parents and young people can contact this helpline as follows:

Phone: 0800 046 8687

Opening hours: 8am to 6pm (Monday to Friday), 10am to 4pm (Saturday to Sunday)

Please note, we are currently experiencing high volumes of calls. We appreciate your patience at this time and apologise for any wait that you may experience. To ensure that we answer your calls as quickly as possible we have now extended our opening hours to cover weekends.

If you work in a school, please have your unique reference number (URN or UK PRN) available when calling the hotline.

Reporting absence / partial and full closures

All schools / childcare settings have received a briefing from the local authority for reporting absence and any possible cases. This information when received will be reported to the DfE / Ministers as requested.  The briefing contained links to an online form, please provide as much detail as possible and keep us updated on any changes.

If your setting hasn't received the briefing or you require the online form links again, please call 0116 454 1120 or email schools.extranet@leicester.gov.uk

Links to the latest information

Updated 19 March 2020