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Schools can afford Covid reopening costs from existing budgets, DfE insists



Schools that incur extra costs during the process of reopening more widely will have to meet them from their existing budgets, the Department for Education has confirmed.

In updated guidance on its exceptional costs fund for schools, the government states that schools are “not eligible to make claims for any additional costs associated with more pupils returning to school”.

We anticipate that schools will typically be able to implement the measures set out in our guidance (including increases to routine cleaning) within their existing resources

The decision not to allow schools to claim for things like preventative cleaning measures and equipment such as screens and signage was first revealed by Schools Week earlier this month, along with calls from school leadership unions for the scope of the reimbursement scheme to be widened.

But it seems their pleas fell on deaf ears, as the government’s latest guidance states that “we anticipate that schools will typically be able to implement the measures set out in our guidance (including increases to routine cleaning) within their existing resources”.

The department has told schools to increase the cleaning of surfaces and equipment, and provide hand sanitiser for pupils. They are also encouraged to implement one-way systems and alter classroom layouts.

School business leaders had hoped they would be given permission to claim from the exceptional costs scheme, which only currently covered costs associated with keeping schools open for key worker and vulnerable children, providing free school meals for eligible children not in school, and for cleaning following a confirmed or suspected case of Covid-19.

“Schools are not eligible to make claims for any additional costs associated with more pupils returning to school that are not covered by these categories”, the guidance update states.

Schools Week revealed earlier this month how some schools have spent thousands of pounds on preventative measures to make their premises safe for pupils and staff.

At the time, NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said it was “essential that the department extends the scope of its exceptional funding guidance to include costs associated with the wider readmission of pupils as a matter of urgency”.

ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton added the fund “needs to be updated to reflect the fact that schools are bringing in more pupils, and to ensure that any extra costs are covered”.

 



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8 Comments

    • Crispin Cadwaladr

      Why unacceptable? Most schools have managed to save money during the shutdown. This is a reasonable move if we are to get our schools open for pupils. Schools should be using their budgets for this and for opening during the summer holiday for catch up learning and activities.

  1. Denise Phillips

    So the Government have only offered additionally funding for extra cleaning/ safety measures to keep schools open for keyworker children and vulnerable children, which is only right. However when all the rest of our kids are expected to return to school with no social distancing, schools will be given no further funding to cover all the additional costs for extra cleaning / soap etc. Our schools have been struggling as it is and have had to make cuts and not be able to offer as much opportunity to our kids as a couple of years ago.
    It is a disgrace. The schools shouldn’t be put in the position of having to spend so much of their time worrying about their budgets when the staff joined the profession to teach our children and help them reach their goals. The Government say publicly how important education is for our kids is but have not made nearly enough investment to give the next generations as much support and opportunities as possible. Clearly, the Government now even disregard the additional funding needs to keep both our kids and the teaching staff safe when the schools fully return, never mind the safety of the parents and the wider community. Why do the Government not value the safety of our dedicated teaching staff who have been doing an incredible job in keeping the schools open throughout lockdown?
    The Government have a poor test track and trace system in place, no app to reach the people who are not known to someone who has tested positive with Covid but has been close to them; and we will be able to travel to several countries shortly with little safety measures in place. Unfortunately COVID has not disappeared and there is no vaccine for it. Let’s hope we don’t have to go into another lockdown; loose another significant amount of our loved ones to this dangerous virus, damage our NHS system even further and loose even more of our incredible NHS staff. Never mind the financial costs to everyone.
    Of course it has to be a balance, but costs for safety should be an absolute priority so we can all get going again, including our children who will be the next workforce.

  2. Bill Kiely

    I would agree that it’s unacceptable that schools should have to pay for Covid-related costs out of their own budgets.
    Money is extremely tight in the education sector and this is putting more pressure on already tight finances. The talk that we can clean the school to a high anti Cv19 standard is not possible. We were looking at automatic hand sanitizer dispensers and these are £250 each plus gel costs, so that has gone out of the window.

  3. Jo Jackson

    ‘My’ school and many more have saved money throughout the crisis by not paying any supply teacher costs. The government RECOMMENDS that supply staff are paid during this time but schools have just said no ‘it’s only a recommendation’. Schools must have budgeted for supply staff costs, so have saved money.

  4. Cath Webber

    I am astonished at this response.I am a governor of a Federation of nursery schools and we have been asking asking for this exceptional costs fund to be extended to our sector which had been initially omitted.To learn that the extra costs of e.g. installing gates to facilitate one way flow for parents bringing their children to the buildings ,outdoor sinks and taps in all areas,extra cleaning equipment and hours etc… will be considered as being covered by current budgets is extremely worrying.I would urge that this decision re criteria for admissable costs be reconsidered.Nursery school budgets are at a very fragile point and these costs are not reasonable.Support funding has to be offered.

  5. No surprise they won’t pay a penny as always teaches just like NHS workers left to fend for themselves. No claps and thanks for those that have maintained schools for key workers no ppe for staff and no health assessments for those working. Almost like cannon fodder for the war on this virus. Why should it be any different that now they will be made to stretch very thin budget even further. Claps the govt. Way to go sure we will rush back to that sort of situation… Not.

  6. No surprise they won’t pay a penny as always teachers just like NHS workers left to fend for themselves. No claps and thanks for those that have maintained schools for key workers no ppe for staff and no health assessments for those working. Almost like cannon fodder for the war on this virus. Why should it be any different that now they will be made to stretch very thin budget even further. Claps the govt. Way to go sure we will rush back to that sort of situation… Not.