Changes to our services

Schools and learning

Updated 15 May 2020.

Schools reopening in phases

The government have announced that schools, colleges and early years settings could begin reopening to more pupils from 1 June.

We're supporting education settings with their preparations for a phased reopening. Any return will be on a small-scale basis, focusing on the health and safety of pupils, families and staff.

Schools, colleges and early years settings will be contacting parents and carers with details of their arrangements in the coming weeks.

See our update on Essex preparing for phased school reopening for more information.

School closures

The government decided to close all schools to the vast majority of pupils from 20 March 2020 until further notice.

Children with special educational needs and disability (SEND) and an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) will still be able to go. See our schools update for more information. This also includes a list of critical workers who may be able to keep their children in school.

Technology support for children and schools

The Department for Education (DfE) has announced they will provide laptops, tablets and internet access for some disadvantaged families, children and young people who do not currently have access to them.

Eligible people include:

  • care leavers
  • those with a social worker
  • disadvantaged year 10 students

GOV.UK has more on information.

We're working with schools to identify eligible people, and schools will contact them in the coming days.

Childcare for children of critical workers

Some childcare providers are staying open to support critical workers (also known as key workers) parents.

If you're a critical worker and need support in finding childcare, you can email us at

Free school meals

Voucher scheme for pupils staying at home

During the current closures, schools are being asked to make sure eligible pupils have continued access to free school meals. Eligible pupils are those eligible for benefits-related free school meals.

On Tuesday 31 March the Department for Education (DfE) announced a national voucher scheme to support schools with this process. See GOV.UK for more on COVID-19: free school meals guidance for schools.

We're aware that some parents are experiencing delays in receiving vouchers ordered by their child's school. We're monitoring the issue and have escalated this to the DfE and the government’s supplier, Edenred, on behalf of Essex schools. We're hopeful that this will be resolved shortly.

Individual schools can choose other ways to provide free school meals including a local initiative or arranging meal deliveries and collections through their usual catering supplier. Please contact your child's school if you have any questions.

Beware of scams

There are a number of scam websites that offer families advice, guidance and eligibility checking but are also requesting financial and banking details. We advise families not to use any of these websites.

Talk to your child’s school or see GOV.UK for more information.

Free school meals for children in year 3 and above

If your child is already receiving free school meals and you have any questions, please contact your child’s school in the first instance.

If your child isn't receiving free school meals, see our free school meals page for the eligibility criteria and how to apply.

Universal infant free school meals (UIFSM)

If your child is in Key Stage 1 (Reception, year 1 and year 2), please discuss your circumstances with your child’s school.

You cannot apply to us for free school meals for children in Key Stage 1 as they all receive free school meals under the government's UIFSM scheme.

Home learning resources

Schools are making their own remote learning arrangements and recommendations to support their pupils.

There are lots of online resources, in addition to what your school has given, that you can use to support home learning too.

School admission appeals

Due to coronavirus (COVID-19), we're waiting for government regulations about how to proceed with Statutory School Admission Appeal Hearings. We will contact you shortly if you've submitted an appeal.

Essex Music Services

Essex Music Services has suspended all activities until further notice.

See our online resources for support with remote learning. These include a range of content for primary and secondary-age children and are updated regularly.

Our e-learning package is also available for schools to subscribe to.

Adult Community Learning

Adult Community Learning has suspended classroom-based sessions until further notice. All of our centres closed to most learners on 20 March 2020.

Some services will stay open for vulnerable groups, in line with government guidance. We're currently contacting these learners to make sure they have the support and care they need.

Distance and online learning will be available for some courses. We've already started developing extra online learning material and courses. Our nurseries and pre-schools will stay open to support vulnerable children and meet key workers’ childcare needs.

Apprentices can continue to study for their qualifications with remote support.

Visit the ACL website for more updates.

Duke of Edinburgh’s Award

Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) sessions in Essex-led centres are suspended until further notice. Expedition preparation sessions will now take place online.

When normal business resumes, condensed training will be available to help participants get ready for expeditions.

Expeditions and training days are cancelled until 31 May 2020. Expeditions planned for June and July 2020 will be reviewed in the coming weeks.

We've launched virtual training sessions for all new participants and those who want to start the next level.

This programme could benefit pupils, in Year 9 and above, at this unsettling time. It's available at bronze, silver and gold award levels.

Youth service

Face to face youth club sessions are suspended until further notice.

We'll continue with home visits and small groups for our most vulnerable, and will review this in line with government advice. We're preparing to introduce more activities online.

Please check the Youth Service website for updates.

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