Covid

DfE extends Covid school workforce fund until Easter

Staff fund extended until April 8

A magnifying glass over money

The government has extended its Covid workforce fund for schools again, this time until Easter.

The fund is to cover supply costs at schools and colleges facing “significant staffing and funding pressures”, so they can continue to “deliver face-to-face, high quality education to all pupils”.

Ministers initially re-launched the scheme in the autumn in response to rising staff absence rates, then extended it to February half term.

The DfE wrote to school leaders today, informing them the fund has now been extended for a second time, until Friday April 8.

In its email, the DfE said guidance on the fund would be updated later this week to reflect the extension, with the claims window due to open “in the spring”.

The fund had been reintroduced in November following the emergence of the Omicron variant. It was originally established in 2020 and provides supply funding for supply staff and to increase hours of part-time teachers.

The current DfE guidance says schools are told to “use any existing financial reserves” before claiming money back.

It adds: “Schools will be eligible for this additional funding if their reserves at the end of the funding year are down to a level of no more than 4% of their annual income. Trusts will be eligible to claim for any of their academies once their level of reserves is down to 4% of total trust income.”

The latest attendance data estimated that around 9 per cent of schools staff were absent on February 3, with heads warning there remains a “major headache” over cover.

Staff absence also remains concentrated in some schools. Twenty-three per cent of state schools said they had more than 15 per cent of teachers and leaders absent on February 3, down slightly on two weeks before.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of schools leaders’ union ASCL, welcomed the extension as the support is “badly needed to help them to plug the gaps in budgets left by the extraordinary expenses run up during the pandemic”.

But he added the bar for eligibility is “set far too high” and “out of reach” for many schools.

“The government should be providing more support to schools with these costs in such extraordinary circumstances rather than putting obstacles in their way. The support the Covid workforce fund offers is vital and should come without so many strings attached.”

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