A series of announcements were made by the Department for Education earlier this week, designed for ‘schools and parents to help cope with Coronavirus’.
The DfE recognised that schools would not be closed for the Easter holidays and would instead be continuing to provide care for vulnerable students and the children of essential workers, as well as supporting students at home. As such, the support provided includes funding for ‘unforeseen additional costs’, including the costs of cleaning and keeping schools open.
In a recent Schools North East survey, over 90% of school leaders who responded planned to open their school over Easter, either fully or partially, some in conjunction with other local schools. While it is fantastic to see our schools rallying to provide for their students and local communities, the financial impact of this was a concern. The announcements of additional funding will hopefully support our schools in the critical work they are doing during this time.
The additional funding for schools will be available on top of core funding allocations that will be paid as normal to schools for the 2020-21 financial year. The specific costs schools can claim for are:
- Additional cleaning required due to confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases;
- Increased premises related costs needed to keep schools open during holidays; and
- Support for free school meals for eligible children who are not attending school, where those costs are not covered by the national voucher scheme.
However, the guidance published also stated that ‘funding will be available to schools that are unable to meet such additional costs from their existing resources, or which they could only meet by drawing down on reserves and undermining their long-term financial sustainability.
‘While we are not asking schools to draw on existing reserves to meet these costs, we do not expect schools to make a claim against this funding if they are anticipating that they will be able to add to their reserves in the 2020 to 2021 financial year.’
42% of schools that responded to our survey stated that they would be using reserves to cover the anticipated cost of providing FSM over Easter.
The guidance advised that further information would be published in June in regards to informing the DfE of additional costs incurred.
The DfE also confirmed late last week that it will extend financial support to children eligible for free school meals who are not attending school during the Easter holidays.
While many schools already have local arrangements in place, this funding means that schools which have not made arrangements, are able to order vouchers for families through the national scheme or, where they have alternative arrangements in place, be reimbursed for additional costs. With over two-thirds of North East school leaders who responded to Schools North East’s survey planning to provide some form of meal or food parcel over the break, this will be welcome news to many North East schools. However, the guidance states that for pupils who remain in school, ‘these costs will be met by the school.’
In order to support schools and parents with children at home, the DfE has also published a list of ‘high-quality’ resources. The list includes a wide range of resources for all ages that schools can consider using as part of their planned curriculum and will be updated over time. This follows the BBC announcing that they are working with experts to create a package of education materials for TV and online to support learning at home.
Department for Education links