Schools in England to close, for the majority of pupils

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced earlier this week that all schools in England would close with effect from Friday 20 March. As the country battles coronavirus, the Government clarified that this was the next step in protecting those most at risk. Schools are expected to play a major role in doing this while ensuring children of key workers are supported.

The message from Boris Johnston clearly states that the overriding principle of this measure is to reduce social contact and that we must all play our part in supporting this. In the North East we are slightly behind London in terms of the rate of infections and deaths and if we all work to this guidance we can help protect those living in this region.

However, the announcement that schools would close came with a significant amount of uncertainty and mixed messages from the media. Gavin Williamson and Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised that they would remain staffed for vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers. The official advice clearly states that children will be safest at home and that whenever possible they should be looked after in their home environment thus reducing social contact. For the most vulnerable children, and the children of those key workers where this is not possible, alternative solutions are to be put in place around the region’s schools.

The announcement left a number of questions and uncertainty around how schools are to move forward. The question of who qualified as a ‘key worker’ and whether one or both parents must qualify was only just clarified earlier this morning when the DfE released – Guidance for schools, colleges and local authorities on maintaining educational provision.

Many school leaders have been concerned that smaller, more isolated schools would close due to staffing issues, but in guidance released for parents the DfE confirmed that they will bus vulnerable and key worker pupils to other schools if theirs can’t stay open.

As part of the announcement it was confirmed that exams would not be going ahead in May/June. Clarification on arrangements has just been release by the DfE: Further details on exams and grades announced

Throughout this crisis, Schools North East will continue to support schools and school staff, and encourage everybody to support the Government guidelines on social distancing. We will work to keep you informed and help to answer the questions you have at this difficult time. In place of our physical events we will be offering a programme of webinars to support school staff in all job roles and levels.

Finally, we will be offering support through our online community ConnectEd  – a completely free online platform where you can connect with other school staff in the North East, whether school leaders, SBMs, Governors or teachers.

This is a place to share advice and resources, to ask questions and to collaborate. We also have ‘Subject Hubs’ which are areas for teachers to connect and discuss specific topics as they work to support students, either in school or remotely in the coming weeks.

ConnectEd is a place to connect with peers; contribute to discussion; add ideas; support and be supported in your role; share case studies, best practice and information; collaborate; engage in and debate research; and unite schools through networks. If you would like to be a part of this please join ConnectEd.

Regional links – W/C 16/3/20

These schoolchildren have been commended for their acts of goodwill with Kind School of the Year award (The Shields Gazette)

Yarm school raises thousands at synchronised dance (The Northern Echo)

School leaders ‘extremely disappointed’ after academy is rated ‘inadequate’ (Gazette Live)

Secondary school league tables: How are they ranked and what is Progress 8? (Northumberland Gazette)

Scammers target families over free school meals during the coronavirus crisis (Chronicle Live)

SATs, GCSE, AS and A-Level exams cancelled as UK schools go into coronavirus lockdown (Chronicle Live)

Newcastle headteacher slams latest government advice for schools as ‘absolute madness’ (Chronicle Live)

West Park Academy Provide Support for Free School Meal Students

Staff at West Park Academy have introduced “grab and go” packed lunch bags for students who are entitled to Free School Meals. The take-away lunches began Thursday 19th March as a response to some pupils having to self-isolate.

The bags will be distributed from a central location to families who contact the school and are symptom free, but there will also be staff who will deliver the lunches to the door for those who are showing symptoms.

This has come with awareness that families who are entitled to Free School Meals may have to go into self-isolation, leaving these already vulnerable students without access to their lunch. Also, now that school closures have been confirmed for an extended period in these uncertain times, there is further concern from Head Teacher, Samantha Hirst, that certain families will struggle without this resource. With all this uncertainty and worry it is great to see that Schools in the North East are showing care for their wider communities.

Plans going forward – Dame Nicola Stephenson

In light of the recent announcement regarding school closures and the possibility of schools staying open for vulnerable students and children of key workers, Dame Nicola Stephenson, CEO of Valour Multi-Academy Trust has shared her plans. 

My senior team and I are currently gathering school data on which families we think will be returning next week, and working on plans for supporting them in the coming weeks, and possibly months. 

I have been looking into how feasible it would be to still provide a daily hot meal for children entitled to free school meals, particularly those entitled due to low income. I am enquiring with catering services if they are still operating over Easter, May half term and potentially the summer holidays. We need to plan ahead and assume we will be the community hub for childcare during this ongoing crisis .

If catering services don’t operate during holidays I will be asking can we take over the kitchen? Do we switch to food vouchers during times catering staff are not in, perhaps?

This is our time to show our values – love, safety, happiness. I would like to add with a warm meal at lunchtime.

My initial thoughts around staffing are based on working in shifts , one week in school and two weeks social distancing by working at home. If we have enough healthy staff this should work. We also need to be flexible around Easter holidays, which will need to fall at different times for different people, as well as for childcare for our own staff. 

I know, as school leaders, we’ve all had a sleepless night worrying about children who fall through the cracks; those not with a social worker or EHCP. Well, not on our watch they won’t. We will decide together who is vulnerable, they will be cared for by school too. The last place we want a neglected child is at home for months. Fortunately we know our families and we know who needs us.

Resources from Ambition Institute

Resources from Ambition Institute for teachers and school staff:

Kick-starting positive behaviour through the use of small but fertile habits – Sara Cottingham

Revisiting the science of learning with adults and teachers across the school – Harry Fletcher Wood

Revisiting learning and how to catalyse it – Peps Mccrea

Thinking about deliberate practice to support learning: a handbook for educators – Harry Fletcher Wood

Supporting the mental health of children in your school(s) – Lisa Fathers

Revisiting intentional curriculum design – Chloe Wardle

Schools Advisory Service Resources

Schools Advisory Service ‘Ask the’ services – a bank of Q&A developed by their health and wellbeing experts. General health and wellbeing related FAQs are available on the following links:

Ask Andy – School wellbeing Culture advice

Ask A Nurse – FAQs by SAS nurses

Ask The Counsellor – FAQs by SAS Counsellors

Ask the Physio – FAQs by SAS Physio

Pupil Worksheets – Be A Champion themed pupil worksheets including :
Colouring pages, Crossword, Word Search, Creative Writing

Sharing on SAS social channels – pages are being updated daily with wellbeing information, blogs and resources for schools regularly which are vetted or supplied by SAS NMC registered nurses and former headteacher and NAHT president Andy Mellor.


Contact SAS – SAS are following up to date government guidelines. SAS will be available by telephone 01773 814 400, email and social channels listed above throughout any potential closures.

No new spending announcements for schools

No major new spending was announced for schools in Rishi Sunak’s budget earlier this week. Gavin Williamson’s promise to provide every region in the country with specialist 16-to-19 maths schools, was reiterated, as was the Conservative manifesto promise of £25,000 per year on average for every secondary school to invest in arts activities, and £30 million a year to improve PE teaching.

The Chancellor also reiterated spending commitments of £7.1 billion extra for schools by 2022, with plans to increase per-pupil funding next year by an average of 4%. Schools North East’s previous analysis of these figures showed that there will be a regional disparity in funding levels and that fewer North East schools would see benefits, despite our higher levels of disadvantage.  

However, it has also been revealed that the DfE’s capital budget has been cut with £100 million less next year, meaning less money to repair school buildings. 

The bulk of funding was for Further Education with £1.5 billion promised over five years to improve college buildings.

Schools North East Director Chris Zarraga said ‘Schools North East recognises that this budget will focus on responding to the current crisis, and that major announcements for school spending were made last year. However, we reiterate that this funding is not enough to reverse the real time cuts felt by schools. The increases are not spread evenly, and some of the areas which need it the most will lose out. We hope that the next budget will bring a focus on severely underfunded areas such as SEND and high needs.’ 

Funding for SEND and high needs is of particular concern to Schools North East as the North East has the highest proportion of pupils with SEND, with 15.8% of students reporting SEND, compared to a national average of 14.9%. The region also has a higher proportion of students with EHCPs than the rest of the country. We are supporting the WorthLess? Campaign in conducting a survey on SEND and high needs funding. Please complete the survey to help us offer a complete picture which properly represents the North East. 

Regional links W/C 9/3/20

Northumbria University cancels classroom teaching for students amid coronavirus outbreak (Chronicle Live)

Schools could be closed for a month as coronavirus crisis deepens (Chronicle Live)

Portland Academy in Sunderland gone from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’ after Ofsted inspection (Chronicle Live)

Coronavirus: 40 pupils at Longbenton High School to go into isolation after Italy trip cut short (Chronicle Live)

South Tyneside primary school closes for cleaning after pupils catch scarlet fever (Chronicle Live)

Yarm students bag awards in international netball (Darlington and Stockton Times)

New Northallerton school plan leaves room for growth in pupils (Darlington and Stockton Times)

Talks over reopening of South Shields School as special needs facility given go-ahead (The Shields Gazette)

Schools North East Coronavirus Update

All Schools North East events are to go ahead as planned, including the upcoming Patron’s Dinner on Thursday 19th March.

Following advice from the UK government on Thursday 12th March, we are continuing as normal. We will update the advice and inform schools and attendees as necessary.

You can see current guidance for educational settings on the Department for Education website

Please keep an eye on our website and social media channels for further updates.

Regional News Links 3/3/2020

Fire ravaged North Tyneside School to be removed ‘at the earliest opportunity’ (Chronicle Live)

Durham schoolgirl wins an award for her modern-day re-write of a childhood classic (Chronicle Live)

Walker secondary school responds to Coronavirus concerns after going ahead with trip to northern Italy (Chronicle Live)

New nursery told it can open in Hebburn (Chronicle Live)

Newcastle primary school confirms three pupils tested for coronavirus (Chronicle Live)

A Sunderland mum told her daughter would never talk or read has backed an appeal to help her autistic school (Sunderland Echo)

Sunderland’s children services target ‘good’ rating after ‘positive feedback’ from inspectors (Sunderland Echo)

High-tech vision for Alnwick’s future revealed with ambitious plans for a new Northumberland technology centre (Northumberland Gazette)

Pupils of St Andrew’s Primary School stage protest for road safety awareness (The Northern Echo)