This is the first of my daily blogs principally related to COVID-19.
The situation is currently very fluid, so there will be days when the updates I provide are brief and other days when there’s a lot to talk about. Whilst the death toll announced today is alarming, there are encouraging signs in the data that if society continues to adhere to the PHE guidance we could make faster progress in tackling the virus than was initially anticipated.
Earlier today, the Government released an announcement regarding FSM, and this has had a mixed response from the sector. Most schools welcome this measure as a way of ensuring eligible children can enjoy an important daily meal. Much of the criticism has been leveled at the lack of supermarket choice, which currently includes the major market leaders: Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. Some are calling for the inclusion of budget supermarkets including Aldi and Lidl; however, the Government has made it clear that it is still negotiating with other outlets and that the list is likely to be extended.
The daily increase to £3 per eligible child is also welcome, but there are some concerns that the economies of scale enjoyed by caterers is not adequately compensated for with this small increase. These are areas that ISBL has raised and will continue to raise on behalf of the sector. (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance)
The DfE is currently pulling together guidance on improving infrastructure and moving to remote working and e-learning. We should take care not to rush to solutions if this kind of technical procurement is beyond our skill set. There are many reputable providers supporting schools, but this is also a time when rogue operators may seek to take advantage. We should avoid knee-jerk procurement that will not serve us well in the medium to long term and, worse still, not provide us with the immediate solutions we are seeking. Make sure you seek help and advice from reliable sources, such as ISBL and the DfE’s Schools Commercial Team. Here at ISBL, we are more than happy to point you in the right direction. We are working with the DfE on repurposing SRMAs to provide this kind of support and advice to schools soon.
The DfE is currently collecting data that will help build a national picture of educational provision so that it can focus support more effectively, monitor the impact of the virus, and ensure children are safe. By completing the following forms, you will be helping the national effort: https://bit.ly/EducationalSettingsDfE
For a list of up-to-date DfE guidance, visit: https://bit.ly/COVID19ISBLUpdates
Beyond the FSM announcement today, the Risk Protection Arrangement scheme is being rolled out to maintained schools tomorrow:
DfE looks to help the education sector make savings with an expansion of RPA to Local Authority Maintained Schools
The Department for Education’s Risk Protection Arrangement (RPA), which was initially offered to academies only, has enjoyed a high rate of take-up across the country. Prior to 2014, some academies were typically paying in excess of £45 per pupil per year for commercial insurance and these costs were rising year-on-year. RPA currently costs just £18 per pupil per year which means academies are able to make significant savings. Due to the fact that 68% of academies have signed up to RPA, the cost of traditional education-based insurance provided by other suppliers has also been driven down.
As of March 2020, the DfE has expanded RPA so that Local Authority Maintained Schools can join the scheme. The Department has been working closely with stakeholders to ensure they understand all the benefits RPA can offer and that it can be purchased by both schools and LAs directly. Over 300 Local Authority Maintained Schools have already signed up which means even more savings are being made across the education sector.
If you are interested in finding out more or would like to sign up to RPA, please click here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-risk-protection-arrangement-rpa-for-schools