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

DfE Educational Status Form

Sent to all HTs


Dear Colleagues,

As I am sure you are aware, the DfE has updated their educational status form and it is now live, it can be found here. At the local authority we receive the data from the form on a daily basis and this helps us to plan our support effectively. It is crucial for us that there is a full response from schools so that we can better understand the situation in schools across the county. We use this information to:

  • Plan support for all schools such as the start of our ‘lockdown huddles’ which begin this week
  • Identify schools that may need personalised support so that we can contact them
  • Note trends and issues that we can articulate back to the DfE in our regular meetings

We cannot do this without schools filling in the return, so we would support the DfE in requesting that you work to complete the form each day by 2pm. This removes the need to fill in the return that we have asked you to complete. You only need to fill in one return each day.

On a point of clarification, during the Director’s briefing on Thursday evening we were asked if the DfE devices scheme would be available to pupils in Key Stage 1. We have sought further information from the DfE on Friday and they have confirmed that the scheme starts at Year 3 and they have no current plans to extend this.  We have requested that this position be reconsidered.

I hope that you and your staff found an opportunity to rest this weekend, as always we will be bringing further information out as it develops.

Warm regards,



Gareth Drawmer

Head of Service

Achievement & Learning

Monitoring priorities for governing boards during partial school closures

Monitoring priorities for governing boards during partial school closures

Updated 8 January 2021


Given the challenges schools are responding to, governing boards should continue to balance their responsibility to hold leaders to account with providing much needed support. This information sheet compiles the monitoring priorities that we recommend governing boards pay particular attention to at this time.

Monitoring priorities covered in this information sheet include:

  • Risk management and safeguarding
  • Wellbeing across the school community
  • Providing remote education
  • Maintaining the curriculum and continuity of learning for all pupils
  • Support to reduce the impact of lockdown on disadvantaged pupils
  • Resource allocation and management
  • Asymptomatic COVID-19 testing for all pupils and staff

The Department for Education (DfE) have updated their guidance Actions for schools during the coronavirus outbreak, detailing what all schools will need to do from the start of the autumn term.

Further reading

Summary of DfE Announcements and Guidance for Schools


Dear Colleagues,

We are aware that there has been a mass of information, announcements and updated guidance coming out of the DfE this week.  To support your planning, we have summarised the key updates and guidance for you in the document attached above.

The document is structured in two elements:

We have tried to group the information into themes to make it easier to read.

Please do refer to the full documents for the full guidance, we have put links throughout the document to simplify this for you as much as we can.

Summary of DfE Announcements and Guidance for Schools wc 4th January

Warm regards,


Gareth Drawmer

Head of Achievement and Learning

Daily Attendance Return


Dear Colleagues,

You may be aware that the DfE attendance portal is not currently operating as they revise it to meet the needs of the new lockdown. In the interim we have devised a daily return that will allow us to understand the situation in schools across Buckinghamshire. It is vital that we receive this information on a daily basis so that we can understand the pressure on schools and look to solutions which will help you. We cannot do this without you and although it is (hopefully a small) administrative burden, it will ultimately be of benefit to you.

The file will be in Anycomms for your staff to return. I would ask that it is completed by 3pm each day to enable us to carry out daily analysis on the situation.

I thank you in advance for your co-operation,


Gareth Drawmer

Head of Service

Achievement & Learning

Section 44 letters – model response letter

Sent to all HTs


Dear Colleagues,

Please find attached a model letter for you to use and personalise with staff if you receive a section 44 letter from them. The response has been written by the Buckinghamshire HR team and we hope that you find it useful.

response to S 44 letter (2)

Warm regards,


Gareth Drawmer

Head of Service

Achievement & Learning

Further return to school update for governing boards

Dear NGA member,

As you will by now be aware, primary and secondary schools across England have closed their buildings to most pupils from today (5 January) following the announcement given by the Prime Minister on Monday night. As a result, only vulnerable children and children of critical workers will now be able to attend school or college until at least after the February half term. All other pupils and students will receive remote education.

We are sorry that we are not yet able to provide you with fuller information as it has not yet been clarified by the Department for Education (DfE) and we know many of you will already be busy supporting your executive leaders as they seek to respond to last night’s announcement. We wanted to take this opportunity to reassure all NGA members that we are engaging in discussions with the DfE and other key sector organisations, seeking the answers to the questions you and so many others are asking across the country.

NGA continues to represent the views and interests of our members in conversations with other education organisations and with ministers and civil servants. We have already gathered a significant amount of feedback from members and we are working with partner organisations and liaising directly with the DfE to establish responses to the concerns raised, in particular:

  • Clarification on the continuation of vocational exams including the safety, scientific rationale and logistical issues and capacity for going ahead with exams this month
  • What will be offered in place of the 2021 Summer A-level and GCSE exams
  • Rationale for continuing to keep nursery schools open and the impact across early years settings and the protective measures required including the need for published detailed guidance
  • Further clarification regarding the children of critical workers and vulnerable children and the extent of the list for eligible critical workers – you can read the guidance here
  • Free School Meals arrangements
  • The prioritisation of vaccines for school staff and leaders
  • Testing including whether secondary schools should continue to test staff and pupils remaining on site and the future approach to lateral flow testing and the role of clinical supervision
  • Clarification on the expectations placed on special schools and alternative provision including the need for support, existing care needs and the rationale behind the approach taken
  • Access to remote learning including the rollout of devices and access to online content and data.

We appreciate that this presents a list of issues to be addressed, rather than the answers that you will rightly be seeking. NGA will be updating our guidance as the government continues to update us and we will hopefully be in a position to provide answers to the above issues in this week’s newsletter. In the meantime, GOLD members can raise specific questions through the GOLDline and if any of you have feedback or requests for particular information then please do get in touch with covidfeedback@nga.org.uk.

NGA continues to seek to respond rapidly to the ongoing situation and we are here to assist you through the wide range of services and support that we offer. You can access NGA’s full range of COVID-19 resources in the Knowledge Centre.

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 (www.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 sis@buckinghamshire.gov.uk 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 covidfeedback@nga.org.uk.

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 covidfeedback@nga.org.uk if you would like to share any comments.