Financial and legal FAQs

We are reviewing all FAQs on a regular basis – adding new questions as they arise, updating answers to existing questions as information changes, and removing obsolete questions. 

If you have a question which is not covered here, and you are an ASCL member, please email coronavirus@ascl.org.uk, and we will try to find an answer and share it here. 

These FAQs are provided for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal or professional advice. They represent ASCL’s views, but you rely on them at your own risk. For specific advice relevant to your particular circumstances, please contact your employer’s HR service or legal advisers.
 

On 20 July, the government published more details of how the catch-up premium will be allocated, and the parameters within which schools are expected to spend this money. This guidance also includes some more information about the National Tutoring Programme. 

Key points are as follows:  
 

  • As expected, the £1 billion total is split into a £650 million ‘universal catch-up premium’ and £350 million for the National Tutoring Programme.  
  • The £650 million will be shared between primary schools, secondary schools, special schools, PRUs and other APs, hospital schools and independent special schools.  
  • Most schools will receive £80 per pupil in Reception to Year 11.  
  • Special, AP and hospital schools will receive £240 per pupil. 
  • The money will be paid in three tranches, in the autumn, spring and summer terms.  
  • While the funding has been calculated on a per pupil basis, schools ‘should use the sum available to them as a single total from which to prioritise support for pupils according to their need’.  
  • Ofsted may ask schools how they plan to use, or are using, the catch-up funding during the proposed non-graded visits in the autumn term and once routine inspections resume from January.  
  • The majority of the £350 million being spent on the National Tutoring Programme will be used to subsidise tutors and mentors for 5 – 16 year-olds in state-funded primary and secondary schools. Schools will have to pay a proportion of the costs involved in this, and can use their catch-up premium to do so if they wish.  
  • Tutors will be available from the second half of the autumn term. ‘A portal will open in due course’ for schools to register interest.  
  • £96 million of the £350 million will now be ringfenced for school sixth forms, colleges and other 16 to 19 providers ‘to provide small group tutoring activity for disadvantaged 16 to 19 students’. More detail on this element of the funding will be issued shortly.  

The government has made it clear that the new contingency framework for education and childcare settings, which replaces the previous (never used) four-tier Contain Framework may only be initiated following a ministerial decision on a case-by-case basis. This framework is solely for use by ministers where closures of settings are required to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 in that community. The guidance is clear that the framework should not be used to address operational challenges, including staff shortages. 
 
In those circumstances, the headteacher should undertake a risk assessment to inform the required steps to ensure that the school is able to operate safely. That assessment should be shared with governors/trustees. In addition, according to DfE guidance, contact is required with one of the bodies set out below:

  • childcare and early years settings should contact their local authority
  • schools (both academies/trusts and maintained schools should contact their Regional Schools Commissioner 
  • FE providers should contact their ESFA territorial teams
 
Schools and colleges would need to have substantial reasons to underpin a decision to fully or partially close. Without such reasons, there is a risk of the DfE directing the school or college, under Schedule 17 of the Coronavirus Act 2020, to remain open. However, if schools or colleges do have grounds to close, this is a decision that is open to them to take in line with their duties under health and safety legislation. 

This FAQ has been written in conjunction with our education law partner, Browne Jacobson

 

ASCL recommends that any school, college or trust in receipt of a FOI request, regardless of the subject matter, promptly seeks advice from their legal advisers and Data Protection Officer as the school, college or trust will have to comply with its relevant legal obligations under the Freedom of Information Act.  You should also note that strict time limits apply in respect of responding to FOI requests and these have not formally been waived by the Information Commissioners Office despite the pandemic.
 

Students are not normally funded to resit courses within a programme of study. ESFA funding guidance states “When learning programmes are designed to enable students to resit or retake examinations and assessments these are not generally eligible for funding as the activity has already been funded”. 

There are existing exceptions to this rule though (para 89):

When there are exceptional circumstances outside the control of the student or institution, such as a period of long term sickness or good educational reasons then the retake delivery hours for individual students may be included in the funded study programme hours. These students must only make up a small percentage of the total 16 to 19 student cohort.”

Where there is good reason to consider that a student has been disadvantaged by the approach to grading in 2020, such as in cases where their school or college placed greater weight on the centre’s past performance when determining centre-assessed grades than other centres, this should count as a “good educational reason.”  We asked the ESFA about this and they replied as follows: “Schools and colleges themselves need to decide for individual students where there is a case under the guidance for them to re-take some of a course previously taught.” So, if a small number of students are repeating some subjects then this should be funded under the existing guidance.

Note - it may be more appropriate to point students towards the autumn series though, rather than resitting a full year. Schools and colleges are unlikely to be funded if students leave after taking the autumn resit exam.

 

The government has updated its guidance for local authority maintained schools about setting up and reviewing complaints procedures. This now includes best practice guidance about handling complaints during the coronavirus outbreak.

The DfE does not expect schools to handle new or existing complaints while they are closed. Schools should, however, still engage with parents and pupils where they can. Complaints should be considered once schools have reopened.

Public funding for colleges during the Coronavirus crisis has already been confirmed by the government. However, the government has now confirmed that where college funding which would normally come from a mix of public and other income streams, e.g. fees and commercial income, has ceased or reduced, it may be appropriate for colleges to seek support from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

Guidance for employers on eligibility for support via the CJRS was updated on 7 December and can be accessed here.
 

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