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With the new Omicron variant spreading across the UK and the return of face coverings when in supermarkets the DfE has announced the revival of the Coronavirus Workforce Fund. Having initially been launched in November 2020, the scheme was then scrapped as the situation developed further in early 2021. The scheme now returns, initially for the period 22 November to 31 December 2021.

What is the fund for?

The fund has been set up to help cover the cost of workforce absences experienced from 22 November to 31 December 2021. The fund can cover the costs of both Teaching and Support staff costs, however, claimable expenditure varies depending on staff type.

Teaching Staff

To cover teacher absences, schools can claim for the following expenditure:

  • employing, through agencies or directly contracting, supply teachers, or supply support staff
  • increasing hours of part-time teaching staff or increasing hours of part-time education support staff – schools should ensure staff are happy to temporarily increase their hours and consider staff workload and wellbeing
  • making necessary amendments to support staff terms and conditions to enable them to take on additional responsibilities – the headteacher and the employer should determine this in discussions with the employee

To cover teacher absences, schools cannot claim for the following expenditure:

  • training or other incidental staff-related costs
  • increasing pro-rata pay, unless there is a commensurate increase in responsibilities associated with undertaking the work

Support Staff

To cover support staff absences, schools can claim for the following expenditure:

  • employing supply education and non-education support staff through agencies or directly contracting
  • increasing hours of part-time education and non-education support staff – schools should ensure staff are happy to temporarily increase their hours and consider staff workload and wellbeing

To cover support staff absences, schools cannot claim for the following expenditure:

  • training or other incidental staff-related costs
  • increasing pro-rata pay, unless there is a commensurate increase in responsibilities associated with undertaking the work

Costs cannot be claimed for any temporary staff.

Criteria for claiming

Before claiming, three sets of criteria need to be considered: Prerequisite, Financial Reserves and Workforce absence rate.

Prerequisite

You must self-certify that you meet the following:

  • The school was open to all pupils
  • The trust has tried alternative options before claiming
  • The costs incurred are necessary to keep the school open to all pupils
  • Claims can be evidenced
  • Costs are not already covered by insurance.

Financial Reserves

The DfE would expect an Academy Trust to use its reserves before applying to the DfE for additional funding. It is worth noting here that this applies to MATs as a whole rather than at the individual Academy level.

Claims are considered based on the expected reserves at the end of the financial year (to 31 August 2022).

If a trusts level of reserves is greater than 4% of total income, you are deemed not eligible for this funding. Reserves are defined as the total of GAG reserves and Unrestricted Reserves.

Workforce Absence Rate

The workforce absence rate is not simple to calculate and has two thresholds – short term of 20% and longer-term of 10%.

Schools must be experiencing either:

  • a total teacher and leader absence rate at or above 20% on a given day
  • a lower total support staff absence rate at or above 10% but have been experiencing this for 15 or more consecutive school days

A school day is counted only as days where full learning provision is taking place, in most cases, this will be Monday to Friday. Absence rates experienced from the start of November count towards meeting the long-term criteria on any day from 22 November, but claims can only be made for costs incurred since this date.

How to Access this funding?

The DfE expects Academy Trusts to cover the costs in the short term, with a claim form and detailed guidance on claiming promised in Spring 2022.

Thinking of making a claim, wondering about your eligibility or simply wanting some advice? Please contact Tyler Jeffs, Academies Specialist on 01295 250401 or tjeffs@ellacotts.co.uk