The Government is to make extra funding available for schools to cover the unique challenges and financial costs of the coronavirus outbreak.
While teachers, pupils and parents would normally be beginning the Easter break, the coronavirus pandemic means that where possible, schools will continue to care for vulnerable children and those of critical workers.
The money will cover unforeseen additional costs including for cleaning and keeping schools open over Easter.
Today (7 Apr), the Government has also published a list of high-quality resources that parents and schools can consider to support education at home.
The list includes a wide range of resources for all ages that schools can consider using as part of their planned curriculum and will be updated over time. Schools have already been drawing on existing resources and tools they are familiar with to support children to continue learning at home and should continue to do so.
This follows the BBC announcing that they are working with experts to create a package of education materials for TV and online to support learning at home.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
“Schools across the country are going above and beyond to support children during this hugely challenging period.
“We must support them every step of the way, which is why we are making extra funding available, on top of existing budgets, to any school facing unavoidable costs incurred due to the coronavirus crisis.
“We are also ensuring parents and schools are able to access high-quality resources to support children to continue learning while they stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.”
The Liberal Democrats have welcomed the announcement of additional coronavirus response funding for schools and called for “the Government’s support to extend to ensuring all children have the ability to learn from home.”
The Lib Dems tabled an amendment to the Coronavirus Bill calling for additional coronavirus funding to reimburse schools for additional purchases they would need to make.
The party's Education Spokesperson, Layla Moran, said “schools badly needed this support to ensure they can continue to care for key workers’ and vulnerable children”, but commented that they were nevertheless “under enormous pressure.”
The MP added there should be no financial limits set on the cashback, with the Department for Education’s guidance stating that the funding is only available to schools unable to meet costs from their existing resources. She highlighted that schools with higher numbers of pupils on free school meals were disproportionately affected.
Commenting, Layla Moran said:
“This is welcome reassurance from the Government — schools badly needed this support to ensure they can continue to care for key workers’ and vulnerable children.
“The financial limits set in the guidance concern me, and with every school in a unique situation such caps should be removed.
“This funding will help ensure that the vulnerable children and key workers’ kids in school can be cared for, but more needs to be done to ensure that all children can learn from home, no matter their background.
“That’s why the Liberal Democrats are calling for extra money to be ring-fenced for learning resources including for kids with no access to laptops or broadband. We can’t let the disadvantage gap be widened by this virus.”
The Government has also confirmed today that it will extend financial support to children eligible for free schools meals who are not attending school during the Easter holidays.
While many schools already have local arrangements in place, this funding means that schools which do not will be able to order vouchers for families through the national scheme or, where they have alternative arrangements in place, be reimbursed for additional costs.
The additional funding for schools will be available on top of core funding allocations that will be paid as normal to schools for the 2020-21 financial year.
It will cover specific costs incurred as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, where schools are unable to meet these from their existing resources.
The specific costs schools can claim for are:
- Additional cleaning required due to confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases;
- Increased premises related costs needed to keep schools open during holidays; and
- Support for free school meals for eligible children who are not attending school, where those costs are not covered by the national voucher scheme.
The Department’s guidance on additional funding for schools is available here.