Initial lockdown briefing 5-1-21

Remote Learning Guidance and Template FINAL

Dear Colleagues,

The announcement on Monday 4th January about the 2021 national lockdown, has raised many questions that need to be considered. Much of the planning for schools will relate back to the lockdown in March, although the expectation on schools to deliver remote learning was not as prominent during that time. As you work through your planning for establishing the structure for this lockdown there are some initial actions that we would like school leaders to consider.

Key information for education

  • Lockdown starts Tuesday 5th January 2021
  • All schools to move to remote learning except for children of key workers and vulnerable pupils
  • End of key stage 4 and 5 national examinations will not go ahead as previously planned – further details to be announced
  • Early Years settings can stay open

Full lockdown guidance can be found here

Key Workers and Vulnerable children

 Schools should remain open to children of Key Workers and vulnerable pupils. Please find below the latest list of critical workers and vulnerable children – updated 31st December.

Critical workers and vulnerable children who can access schools or educational settings – GOV.UK (

Buckinghamshire Council require only one parent to be a key worker for their children to access schools over this period.

Free School Meals (FSM)

 Pupils who are entitled to Free School Meals should still be able to access a resource during lockdown. We would ask schools to consider urgent temporary arrangements whilst we rapidly review options for broader local systems and seek clarity from the DfE on any national plans. We would anticipate that because payments have already been made to schools for the delivery of FSM, the cost for any delivery mechanism would need to be met by the school.

This further lockdown may result in parents losing jobs and an increase in families needing to apply for FSM. We would recommend that you highlight your school’s procedure on claiming FSM to parents in early communications and that you refer to it regularly over the coming weeks.

Remote Learning

Schools must move to remote learning, a strong action plan is needed that meets the Government guidance.  School leaders should ensure that remote learning opportunities for those who are at home are of a high quality.

The Government has released several documents guiding schools on this:

We have also created some top tips on meeting both staff and students safely online.  Click here.

Please see attached to this email  a document that was sent out just before Christmas to support your planning of remote learning.

Family circumstances may have changed over the Christmas period, so where pupils are unable to access the necessary technology, schools should contact DfE via portal in order to secure the correct equipment for their children.  Information on getting technology for children in need can be found here.

The areas identified above are a long way from an exhaustive list, and schools should refer to information on schoolsweb to support further planning. There are many issues, such as KS1 & 2 testing, for which we will be seeking clarification over the coming days.

Clearly this is a challenging time for everyone and we are committed to supporting schools to achieve the best outcomes possible for pupils. We will be looking at several pieces of work to further support you and will be communicating them to you over the next few days. Please feel free to message us at for further support.

Return to school update for governing boards

Issues relating to the return of pupils to schools
Happy New Year.
We thought it important to update and advise you on the challenging and complex issues relating to the return of pupils to schools in January. The Prime Minister is making a televised announcement at 8pm this evening (4 January), and if you have questions arising, please contact us on

Governing boards up and down the country are working with their school leaders and are acting as a vital sounding board when deciding what is safe for their pupils and staff in the light of guidance and local public health advice. You are likely to have begun those discussions over the school holidays, but as the circumstances are changing daily – and sometimes hourly – you and your leaders will be reassessing.

The current national plan for school opening in January
The current plan for school opening at the time of writing was announced by the Secretary of State on 30 December  alongside an updated contingency framework implementation guidance and further DfE media blog and Q&A.

Health and safety concerns arising from the current plan for school opening in January
The health and safety concerns arising from the current plan for school opening in January has led to some unions advising their members of their individual right to refuse to return to the workplace. We anticipate that school leaders will be working closely with employees and unions who have expressed concerns about the safety of the working environment and attempt to address them in their risk assessments. However, it would not be wise for schools/trusts to take immediate action against members of staff for not attending the school site on this basis.

Some local authorities have advised their primary schools to switch to remote learning from the start of term and prioritise opening for vulnerable and key worker children, while others have informed their school leaders that they would support a decision to not reopen fully from the start of term.

In view of this, many school leaders will have concerns about having sufficient staff attending to ensure the health and safety of all pupils and staff. School leaders will be in the best position, knowing their staff and school circumstances, to decide how to proceed in individual cases and, having carried out a risk assessment, make appropriate decisions as to whether they are to open safely.

Decisions about whether to open or close schools – the role of governing boards
Currently a decision to open or close the school resides with the executive leader and is taken in consultation with their governing board. The key messages here are:

  • The executive leader knows the unique circumstances of their schools best and therefore are best placed to make the detailed decisions required when it comes to safety.
  • It is recommended that legal advice (eg through the local authority or trust) is sought before taking a decision not to follow the government’s proposals for bringing back pupils at the start of term.
  • School leaders should also seek the advice of their governing board. As circumstances permit this could be through the chair, vice-chair or an emergency meeting of the governing board held remotely.
  • The governing board as a corporate entity remains accountable and responsible for the decision. Therefore, the board should be prepared to test the robustness of the school leader’s risk assessment and whether, based on the evidence, the school(s) should open for all pupils or close for pupils except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers and remotely educate other pupils. The governing board should also be prepared to ratify the decision and support the communication of it to stakeholders.
  • The governing board has collective responsibility for health and safety, rather than individual responsibility. It would be very rare for individual governors and trustees to be personally liable for health and safety issues.

Remote education – expectations, support and monitoring
In light of the developing situation with the new COVID variant and the likelihood of more schools having to close to most pupils, it becomes even more important that governing boards scrutinise their school’s strategy and plans for delivering remote education to pupils at home. In particular, the ability of the school or trust to switch quickly and efficiently to online (blended) learning should circumstances require.

The DfE’s guidance on remote education good practice details some of the characteristics of effective remote learning. NGA’s COVID-19 resource centre also includes information on remote education.

Asymptomatic COVID-19 testing for all pupils and staff from 4 January 2021
DfE guidance updated on 30 December states that all schools with secondary-age pupils (including special schools and alternative provision) should offer tests for their pupils, with time to prepare from week commencing 4 January and reaching as many pupils as possible from the week of the 11 January. Testing for primary staff under the weekly and daily testing programmes will begin in the second half of January. A £78 million support fund will be shared by schools and colleges to help with mass testing costs.

Large scale testing is an important priority, and a valuable resource in helping to ensure a continuity of education for as many pupils as possible. In our statement released on Friday 18 December, we emphasised concern for the wellbeing and welfare of school leaders as a result of the timing of this announcement and the perceived expectation it places on schools.

The wellbeing of staff, especially school leaders
While it is our role as governors and trustees to support and challenge our school leaders and their staff to do the right thing, we should never underestimate the huge amount of work they do on behalf of others and also the importance of considering their health and wellbeing. Getting the support right for others is not easy and the encouragement that school leaders receive from their governing boards goes a long way.

NGA representing your views
NGA continues to represent the views and interests of our members in conversations with other education organisations and with ministers and civil servants. For example, about the need for school staff to be on the vaccination priority list. Thanks to those of you who have taken the time to contact us. Please email if you would like to share any comments.

Spring Term return for Primary Schools – Latest information

Sent on behalf of Gareth Drawmer, Head of Achievement and Learning

Dear Colleagues,

As you are probably aware, there has been an announcement from the NEU this weekend advising its members in primary schools that it is unsafe to return to work on Monday.

This guidance, if followed by the majority of NEU members, is likely to have a significant impact on staff attendance at the start of this term. We are currently reviewing this statement with our Health and Safety team and HR with a view to providing guidance for all Buckinghamshire schools. In the meantime it is clearly vital for you and us to understand the likely impact that this will have on your schools, as such please find below a model letter for you to use or amend to support you in asking staff their intentions.

We would ask all headteachers to use the information from staff in order to complete the attached form.

Spring Term return 825

Please use the drop down menu to identify the status of each of your classes as soon as possible to provide a clear picture of the number of staff who will not be attending. Please return it to by 3pm on Monday 4th January, saved with your school’s 7 digit (825****) DfE number at the end of the filename . This will enable us to understand the impact of this action on a county wide basis and to help plan accordingly.

Clearly these are unprecedented times and we appreciate your hard work during this period. We will work with you to ensure that education can continue for our children and that everyone is kept safe.

This is a fast moving situation so we may need to update this position in the coming hours.

Warm regards,


Gareth Drawmer

Head of Service

Achievement & Learning

Dear All,

You will have seen in the news over the last few days the discussion around whether all schools should move to remote learning due to the increasing number of Covid-19 cases across the country.

The NEU have now advised their members in primary schools that it is unsafe to return to school on 4th January.

Throughout this pandemic, I have worked with you to manage safety in our school. Our risk assessment is robust and has been adapted and considered when concerns have been raised.

I am working closely with the Local Authority who are in close communication with the DfE on this matter. I am also working closely with our community of schools.

Whilst I am confident that we have managed the risks of being at school as a team together, given the continued risks and the rise in cases due to the new variant of Covid-19, I would appreciate your feedback as to whether there is anything further that you feel should be done to ensure that you are safe in school. I would appreciate feedback from all members of staff, but if you are planning to follow the NEU’s advice, it is especially important that you explain what else you feel could and should be done to ensure you are able to work in ‘safe conditions’.

Thank you for your continued hard work and efforts during such challenging times.


Will you be attending school this week?  
If no, please explain the reason why not and the mitigations to our Covid-19 risk assessment that would need to be made to enable you to return to the classroom.  




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Spring Term Return Dates


Dear Colleagues,

In line with the guidance that we set out yesterday this graphic from the DfE hopefully helps to clarify expectations that have been placed upon schools.


I am aware that during an interview with breakfast TV this morning (Thursday), the Secretary of State implied that remote learning was only to be delivered for exam years for the week beginning the 4th  January.  This appears to be at variance with the graphic above, and as such we hold to our guidance from yesterday for secondary schools: “only vulnerable pupils and children of keyworkers should attend, for all other pupils as far as possible there should be remote learning, with pupils who are in exam year groups receiving as close to normal lessons as possible remotely”

Currently our area is not under the contingency framework and schools should maintain an approach in line with Tier 4 guidance.

I have had several enquiries today regarding the ‘Major Incident’ that was declared yesterday and whether this changes the situation with regard to the contingency framework.  The major incident relates to the number of beds available in our hospitals, which as we know are under extreme pressure at the moment.  Whilst we all have a part to play in supporting the NHS, the decision to implement contingency planning from the DfE is not directly related to this.

We will, of course, update you if we have any further information or updates.

Warm regards,

Gareth Drawmer

Head of Service

Achievement & Learning

Start of the Spring Term


Dear Colleagues,

I am sure you will have seen the announcement from the government today regarding the start of term and changes that need to be made in light of the national situation regarding the start of the spring term. I know that you will be working hard to understand how this affects you and your school. We have reviewed the announcement and believe the implications for schools are as follows:

Primary Schools

Week beginning 4th January – Schools are expected to resume face to face teaching from the 4th January as planned. Schools should review their risk assessments to ensure that they are robust and are being followed in the classroom and in all other areas of the school. Testing of staff in primary schools is likely to start before the end of the month, when we have more information on this we will share with school leaders and offer support at that time.

Secondary Schools

Week beginning 4th January – only vulnerable pupils and children of keyworkers should attend, for all other pupils as far as possible there should be remote learning, with pupils who are in exam year groups receiving as close to normal lessons as possible remotely. Testing resources are due to be delivered on the 4th January and schools should prepare to test all staff as soon as is practicable. Pupils in Years 11 & 13 should be bought in for testing during this week.

Week beginning 11th January –  vulnerable pupils and children of keyworkers should continue to attend school with pupils in Years 11 & 13 attending too. Pupils in other year groups should be bought in for testing during this week and continue to be educated remotely.

Week beginning 18th January – all pupils should be attending face to face education. Staff should be tested weekly as well as contacts of any positive cases.

Special Schools

All pupils in special schools, due to the fact that they have EHCPs, are classified as vulnerable. Schools should therefore be preparing to re-open fully to pupils from the 4th January, allowing for any INSET days that are already planned. Shielding advice is currently in place in tier 4 areas, and so all children and young people still deemed clinically extremely vulnerable are advised not to attend school. Guidance specifies:

Those who remain under the care of a specialist health professional may need to discuss their care with their health professional at their next planned clinical appointment – more advice is available from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Where a pupil is unable to attend school because they are complying with clinical or public health advice, we expect schools to be able to immediately offer them access to remote education. Schools should keep a record of, and monitor engagement with this activity but this does not need to be formally recorded in the attendance register.

For pupils who are self-isolating, or shielding and are within our definition of vulnerable, it is important that schools put systems in place to keep in contact with them, offer pastoral support, and check they are able to access education support. Our published definition of vulnerable children includes children and young people who have a social worker or an education health and care (EHC) plan or those who are deemed otherwise vulnerable by the school or the local authority.


Guidance states that:

In local restriction tier 4 areas, individuals who are clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to work from home and where this is not possible, they should not go into work. Individuals in this group will have been identified through a letter from the NHS or from their GP and may have been advised to shield in the past, most recently in November 2020.

Staff should talk to their employers about how they will be supported, including to work from home where possible. Schools should continue to pay clinically extremely vulnerable staff on their usual terms.

All other staff in local restriction tier 4 can continue to attend work, including those living in a household with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable.

Remote Learning

We sent out a Remote Learning Guidance and Template last week which we hope will be a useful aide memoire to use when reviewing the quality of your remote learning provision.  I have attached this again for your convenience.

Remote Learning Guidance and Template FINAL

The School Improvement Team will be here if we can support you in any way, please contact the team by emailing  We are awaiting additional information from the government on mass testing in schools, following the announcement of the deployment of armed forces support for schools yesterday, and will send information as soon as it becomes available. We know that this is a very difficult time and that information is coming out very rapidly, thank you for your professionalism and


Please remember to log your partial closure on SchoolsWeb, instructions are at the bottom of this email.

Warm regards,

Gareth Drawmer

Head of Achievement and Learning

How to log an partial closure via SchoolsWeb


  1. Log into SchoolsWeb and click ‘Emergencies’ from the
  2. Click on ‘Register a Closure’ to go to the Closures
  3. On the form, under ‘Add new closure’, fill in the closure’s dates; this defaults to the current day, returning to normal the next
  4. Select the Status: this creates an automatic headline to indicate the reason for a


Please select:  Partially closed – specific circumstances

Use the following (or similar) wording:

Following Government guidance we will be open only for children of Key Workers, pupils with an EHCP and vulnerable pupils from the 4(5)th (delete as appropriate) January.  For pupils eligible for Free School Meals our arrangements during this time can be found at <insert link here>.

Please revise this on a weekly basis until the 18th . We would recommend that you set a reminder to yourself to review it the day before.


King Regards


Gareth Drawmer

Remote Learning – Guidance and Support

Sent to all HT’s

Dear Colleagues,

Please find attached a useful aide memoire that we have prepared for you to use when reviewing the quality of your remote learning provision. We hope that this is useful for you.

Remote Learning Guidance and Template FINAL

Warm regards,


Gareth Drawmer

Head of Service

Achievement & Learning

Urgent! Arrangements for the start of the Spring Term

Sent on behalf of Gareth Drawmer, Head of Achievement and Learning

Dear Colleagues,

As you will have seen in the news over the last couple of days, there have been two announcements that affect schools in January. These are:

  1. A staggered start for secondary pupils
  2. COVID testing for secondary pupils

In terms of the staggered start, the following is required:

  • Pupils in years 11 and 13 return on Monday 4th January;
  • Pupils in other year groups are able to return in a staggered way as per the timetables arranged by individual schools;
  • Pupils in Special Schools and Alternative Provision return as normal on Monday 4th January;
  • Vulnerable pupils and Keyworker children return as normal on Monday 4th January.

NB – If INSET is planned for 4th January, the above applies from 5th January

In terms of COVID testing for secondary pupils, the position is as follows:

  • No planning or logistical arrangements are required by schools between now and 4th January;
  • No testing in schools will be possible until after 18th January;
  • The Local Authority, Headteachers and Health Professionals will be working to apply the guidance to what will work best for us locally.

As and when the situation develops, we will of course provide further updates.

Yours sincerely,


Gareth Drawmer

Head of Service

Achievement & Learning

DfE Covid Testing Announcement

Sent in behalf of Gareth Drawmer, Head of Service Achievement & Learning

Dear Colleagues,

The DfE have announced this afternoon that there will be mass testing of staff and students in schools after Christmas. The announcement is here and we understand that messaging is going directly to schools as well. We have spoken to the DfE today and have an assurance that schools will need to take no action regarding this until the new term in January. There is no expectation that testing will start on January 4th, we have been informed that this is the date that further guidance and training will start to be available.

We appreciate that school leaders will want to do the right thing with regard to this announcement, but you should be reassured that there is no action that needs to be taken right now or indeed over the Christmas break. We will be reviewing the ways in which the LA can support this work in time for further communications when schools return in January.

We have drafted a letter below that you may wish to use with parents – please feel free to amend as needed.

Warm regards,


Gareth Drawmer

Head of Service

Dear Parent / Carer,

 The Department for Education have announced that there will be mass testing of staff and students in schools after the Christmas break. This will be initially for secondary schools with the plan for primary schools to deliver this as well from February.

 There will be a period of training and preparation after Christmas. This means that testing will not be starting immediately upon pupils’ return to school.

 We wish to keep you fully informed of this as it develops and as such will be writing to you again in the Spring Term when the government has released full guidance and we are clear as to the delivery of this project.  We will also be asking for your permission to test your child/ren in January, we will not test students under the age of 16 without this.

Kathryn Hathaway

Side by Side Team Leader

Childrens Services

Buckingham Council

New coronavirus testing for schools and colleges

Coronavirus testing for schools and colleges from January

Today we have announced that teachers and students will have access to rapid testing to help keep schools and colleges open throughout the spring term.

From January, starting with secondary schools and including all special schools and alternative provision, the education workforce will be eligible for weekly on the spot tests. This will help identify asymptomatic cases – which make up a third of all cases – limiting the spread of the virus. This will be backed up by daily testing for staff who have been in close contact with a positive case therefore eliminating the need for self-isolation and allowing them to continue to come into school or college.

Students will be eligible for daily testing if they have been in close contact with a positive case.

Key information

You can read the press notice and the guidance on GOV.UK.

Below is a summary of the key details of the announcement:

  • Weekly rapid tests will be available to all secondary school and college staff from January.
  • Staff and students who are close contacts of cases will be eligible for daily testing, preventing the need for immediate self-isolation. Only if a daily test returns a positive result will the staff member need to isolate.
  • Test kits will begin arriving at secondary schools and colleges for the first phase of rollout to staff from the first week of January.

There is no expectation that school and college staff will need to work on this over the Christmas break. Existing staff meetings or inset days can be used for training as appropriate for each individual setting.

We have published a Q&A to answer some of your questions.

What other schools have said

Rapid testing builds on the success of testing pilots in schools and colleges over the past few months.

Wye School in Kent took part in the COVID-19 testing pilot. Their Principal, Luke Magee, answers questions for senior leaders on the DfE Teaching Blog.

Hamid Patel, CEO of Star Academies, a trust with schools participating in the autumn testing trials, said:

“Testing was arranged to be as unintrusive as possible, and the benefits have been tremendous.

“Attendance has improved as fewer close contacts have been required to self-isolate. Parents who may have been wavering have gained confidence to send their children to school, and staff have been reassured by the availability of testing.

“Testing has allowed us to refocus on teaching and learning. I am heartened that the scheme is to be rolled out nationally: it is a game-changer for the sector.”

Gerard Garvey, Principal of Newcastle Sixth Form College, a college participating in the autumn testing trials, said:

“Testing at Newcastle Sixth Form College has given all of our students and staff the reassurance that the college is a safe environment for them to work and study.

“The testing process is smooth and has minimal impact on teaching and learning.

“The daily testing of close contacts has enabled students who would normally have had to self-isolate to continue to attend and enjoy the benefits of face-to-face teaching.”

Coronavirus helpline: Christmas opening hours

After 24 December, the Department for Education coronavirus (COVID-19) helpline will close for the bank holidays, and have shortened opening hours on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

Phone: 0800 046 8687

Opening hours:

24 December – 8am to 4pm

25 to 28 December – Closed

29 to 30 December – 8am to 6pm

31 December – 9am to 4pm

1 January – Closed

2 to 3 January – 10am to 6pm



Self isolation periods – URGENT

Sent on Behalf of Gareth Drawmer, Head of Service Achievement & Learning

Dear Colleagues,

I hope and trust that you are all keeping well during this final stretch of the term. You will all be aware of the government change to isolation – revising it from 14 days to 10.

Having confirmed with public health, we can say with clarity that this applies to all those currently self-isolating, with regard to schools this applies to both staff and students.

Therefore, if you currently have groups that are self-isolating it would be appropriate to  revise the timeline through which they can return to school and notify parents that their period of isolation ends sooner than originally planned.

We are aware that this will necessitate changing your plans for this week (again) and I apologise for asking you to do this, but the change in this period will mean that more children can have an end to their term in school and more vulnerable children will have contact with professionals prior to the holidays.

Thank you for your patience, forbearance and flexibility throughout this time.

Warm regards,


Gareth Drawmer

Head of Service

Achievement & Learning