Voucher Reminder – Helping Hands vouchers (half term) and FSM vouchers (term time)

Dear Colleagues,

  1. Half term Helping Hand voucher reminder

For all schools – Vouchers provided by Buckinghamshire Council Helping Hand Project, funded by the Winter Grant Scheme for every benefits-related free school meal pupil, to provide £15 support for vulnerable families with food during the half term holiday.

Please remember to download the letters from Any Comms Plus that contain the £15 voucher codes for pupils eligible for free school meals for the half term break.  We really do appreciate your help in getting these letters out to parents and remind you that these need sending before the end term.

If you have any enquiries about the half term voucher provision, please email helpinghands@buckinghamshire.gov.uk

  1. Term Time Free School Meal Vouchers reminder

For those schools who are ordering term-time FSM vouchers from Blackhawk Incentives through Buckinghamshire Council Traded Services.

Vouchers ordered for the week after half term will be delivered electronically  by Friday 12th February, for you to send out to parents when the school returns on Monday 22nd February.

Please contact tradedservices@buckinghamshire.gov.uk with any queries.

Kind regards,

The School Improvement and Helping Hand Teams


FW: Funding for Digital Devices – Deadline Extension

Dear Colleagues,

We note that we have not yet had a return from your school detailing the pupils in your school that still do not have sufficient access to a digital device in their home to enable them to participate in remote education.  I attach a copy of the original email which was sent on 9th February.

Please can you provide details on the spreadsheet attached above of which pupils you will be claiming for and confirmation that they meet the four criteria. Once complete, please save your file with the filename 825LLLL_825xxxx_Remote Learning Support.xlsx, where xxxx is your school number, then upload the file to AnyComms Plus selecting “Remote Learning” as the file type. We have extended the deadline until end of school day today, Thursday 11th February, to allow you extra time to submit this information.  We would be grateful if the school could submit a ‘nil’ return if there any no pupils in the school that meet the four eligibility criteria for our records.

 We will then confirm the number of eligible pupils and the maximum amount of funding available for your school and provide more details on how to process your claim tomorrow, Friday 12th  February.  To participate in this scheme, all claims must be made by Friday 26th February.

825LLLL_825xxxx_Remote Learning Support (002)

Kind regards and thank you for your support,

Gareth Drawmer

Head of Achievement and Learning

Update on testing from Public Health

Dear Colleagues,

Please find below three guidance updates on testing in schools:

  1. Confirmatory PCR tests.  Colleagues will be aware that the requirement for a confirmatory PCR test, in the event of a member of staff getting a positive lateral flow device (LFD) result, has been removed for all such tests not being conducted at home.  Primary school staff who get a positive LFD test are therefore still required to get a PCR in order to confirm the result, whereas Secondary school staff are not.  The DfE have just released a helpful FAQ clarifying how Primary schools should treat a positive LFD from a contact tracing point of view: [Primary schools should still] send home those people who have been in close contact with the person who has tested positive, as defined in the actions for schools during the coronavirus outbreak guidance. Those who have come into close contact with staff who have a positive LFD result should isolate straight away rather than waiting for the staff member’s confirmatory positive PCR test. The staff member’s household should also isolate immediately after the positive LFD result, as per the stay-at-home guidance.
  2. Asymptomatic LFD testing for staff who are post-COVID.  Staff who have had COVID-19 within the last 90 days can be assumed to have sufficient acquired immunity to make re-infection extremely unlikely, and are also more likely to get false positive PCR results, during that time period.  On this basis, anyone who is within 90-days of confirmed COVID-19 (with their onset of symptoms or initial positive test counting as day zero, whichever came first) do not need to be included in routine asymptomatic LFD testing.
  3. Twice weekly staff testing.  National guidance now recommends that staff are tested twice weekly.  Obviously, some schools – particularly Secondaries who have to conduct testing within the school day – will vary in their capacity to test this frequently, but if it is possible then twice-weekly is now the recommended option.

We are awaiting a national decision on full school re-opening, as well as on how this will change the above testing guidance.

Kind regards,

 Daniel Flecknoe

Consultant in Public Health

Adults and Health Directorate

Buckinghamshire Council

Remote Education


Dear Colleagues,

In these unpredictable times, circumstances and contexts are ever-changing. We hope that the adapted DfE document and support material attached will give a useful platform to review, reflect upon and adapt your remote education offer as and when you need to. In addition, the adapted document invites discussion of lessons learned through  your experiences of remote education that can inform planning for the re-opening of your school.

The package of support material and the adapted template itself are offered to you and your schools in the spirit of support, collaboration and openness. It is not intended that this should be burdensome, judgemental or threatening. A group of Headteachers and senior leaders trialled the original DfE template and have been instrumental in supporting the creation of both the package of support material here as well as the adapted template. Thank you so much to The Grange School, Great Kingshill School, The Disraeli School and Sir William Ramsay School for their time, consideration of and invaluable contributions to this initiative.

The adapted DfE document can be modified to suit the requirements of different leaders/schools at different stages of the remote journey and beyond. Please be aware that there is no statutory compulsion to use either the DfE original or our adapted version. However, we share with you our honest opinion of the inherent usefulness of this material, for your consideration.

Remote Education – Review and Reflect

Kind Regards

Gareth Drawmer

Head of Achievement and Learning

February Half Term Helping Hand Vouchers


Dear Colleagues,

Action needed in readiness for February Half Term FSM Vouchers

Buckinghamshire Council continues to provide its Helping Hand service and is preparing to provide all pupils eligible for Free School Meals with a £15 food voucher for February half-term break. As per the Christmas holiday, we will be providing voucher codes to eligible pupils and will again provide these codes on individual letters for you to send to parents/carers.

For us to order and send the correct number of vouchers to you, we need you to confirm the details of the pupils who are eligible for Free School Meals. To do this we will be sending a file to each school today, Monday 25th January, via AnyComms Plus.  We have listed those pupils we believe are eligible for free school meals, based on the October 2020 School Census and the vouchers provided for the Christmas holidays. Please check this list, noting the below –

  • please ensure that the “February half term voucher required” column is set to “No” for any pupils who no longer attend your school
  • please add any newly eligible pupils or eligible pupils who have joined your school this term to the bottom of the list.  Please only add pupils eligible for Free School Meals – do no include pupils eligible for 2 year old funded places or Early Years Pupil Premium (vouchers for these children will be provided separately).
  • for all other pupils please review the “February half term voucher required”  column and amend as necessary.  Where a voucher was issued for the Christmas holidays but hasn’t been activated by the family we have set the voucher required status to “No” by default.  You can request a February half term voucher for these pupils by changing the status to “Yes”, but please check with the family first to find out why the Christmas voucher has not been activated – if they are struggling to redeem the Christmas vouchers then please let us know using the Notes column as we may be able to look at alternative ways of supporting these families.

Once complete please save your file with the original name (825LLLL_825xxxx_HHFebWinterGrantSchemeFeb21.xlsx – where xxxx is your school number), then upload the file to AnyComms Plus selecting “Winter Grant” as the file type. Files need to be returned by midday on Thursday 28th January.

Many thanks for your support with this task,

Gareth Drawmer

Head of Achievement and Learning

Model Risk Assessment for Workforce COVID-19 Testing in Primary (inc. Nursery) Schools


Dear Colleagues,

To support you with the introduction of lateral flow testing for all staff in primary (including school-based nurseries and maintained nurseries) we have developed the attached generic risk assessment, should this be useful.  This is based on the information provided through the webinars and associated documents, the government guidance: delivery of rapid asymptomatic coronavirus (Covid-19) testing for staff in primary schools, school-based nurseries and maintained nursery. and a review of risk assessments and learning which has been kindly provided by some of our secondary colleagues.  It is unlikely to cover all scenarios and each school/setting should consider their own unique circumstances and adapt accordingly.

The DfE have just uploaded a set of documents to support your risk assessment to the on their sharing platform.  Please review these documents alongside the attached risk assessment.

We are aware that the government guidance on confirmatory PCR test requirements may be about to change, and if it does we will re-issue this document updated with the latest information.  However, at the time of writing this is in accordance with the current position.

Kind regards,

Gareth Drawmer

Head of Achievement and Learning

Model Risk Assessment for Workforce COVID-19 Testing in Primary (inc. Nursery) Schools v1.0

NGA – Reducing the impact of partial school closures on disadvantaged pupils

Updated 7 January 2021

Despite the best efforts of schools to provide continuity of education for all pupils, there is no doubt that disadvantaged pupils and their families will experience greater challenges than most of their peers.


This information sheet covers:

  • continuity of free school meals
  • catch-up premium: allocation, use of and scrutiny
  • assessing strategic priorities in light of COVID-19
  • considering the pupil premium strategy
  • questions to ask school leaders

NGA Providing Remote Education Guidance

Remote education: safeguarding, expectations, support and monitoring

Updated 15 January 2021 

This information sheet has been updated to reflect the latest DfE guidance. We’ve included additional advice and support for monitoring your school’s remote education provision and outlined the DfE’s minimum expectations. Use this information to build an understanding of what schools are expected to provide and to support your conversations with school leaders.

This information sheet covers:

  • Monitoring remote education
  • Tools to support monitoring conversations – NEW
  • Keeping pupils and teachers safe
  • The expectations for remote education
  • The characteristics of effective remote learning
  • Support available for school


Extended Flexible Furlough Scheme

Sent on behalf of Buckinghamshire HR Department

The extended flexible furlough scheme, (Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)), is open until the end of April 2021. The scheme changes now make it possible for schools to claim a grant while allowing employees to continue to work part-time. Schools may only claim the grant for privately funded posts.

You can claim 80% of an employee’s usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. You can claim for employees who were employed on 30 October 2020. You are not able to claim employers NI or pension contributions.

The changes to the scheme mean that schools can claim for parent/privately funded posts (even if employees continue to work in a post funded by the DSG, (either at the same school, or at a different school). During the hours the employee is on furlough, they cannot do any work for you in the furloughed post.

It is essential that any grant from the CJRS does not duplicate other public funding Schools receive. In the spirit of this intention, Schools should take account of any additional financial support the Government has provided to them to support their continued efforts to address the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic; support that is intended to cover both increases in expenditure and budgetary pressures arising from falls in income. Where staff costs for those on furlough would ordinarily have been met through a mixture of public funding and other income, funding from the CJRS should only cover the costs not previously met through public funding.

To be eligible for the grant, schools must have confirmed to their employee in writing that they have been furloughed. The employee does not have to provide a written response.

From February, HMRC will publish information about employers who claim for periods starting on or after 1 December 2020 as part of their commitment to transparency and to deter fraudulent claims.

You must:

  • make sure that the agreement is consistent with employment, equality and discrimination laws
  • keep a written record of the agreement for five years
  • keep recordsof how many hours your employees work and the number of hours they are furloughed (i.e. not working)

In order to ensure full holiday pay entitlement is paid, Schools must continue to pay 100% of salary for the duration of the furlough.

Please complete the attached form. Claims can only be made retrospectively a month in arrears, if you have employees that meet the criteria above and you have fulfilled your employer obligations please email the form below to payroll@buckinghamshire.gov.uk no later than the 12th of each month in line with the normal payroll deadline.

School Furlough Form

 Please note that we can only process claims from January 2021 onwards, if you do have employees you wish to place on Furlough for January please send the information no later than the 31st January.

 It is the school’s responsibility to inform the payroll department asap of any changes that need to be made with regards to the hours being claimed and start and end dates of the furlough claims being made


Lunch parcels provided by Chartwells


Dear Colleagues,

I am sure you will have seen in the adverse publicity regarding the free school lunch parcels provided by a company called Chartwells.

If you use Chartwells as a catering supplier and have been providing lunch parcels to your free school meal pupils not in school, please do let us know.  Please also let us know if you have delivered food parcels from another provider during this time.

By sharing this information we will be able to brief the Buckinghamshire Council Communications Team, who will be able to support you should this negative publicity affect your school.

Warm regards,


Gareth Drawmer

Head of Achievement and Learning