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Education Bulletin - 2 December 2021

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Updated 2 December 2021

Important contact details


From Ming Zhang
Service Director of Education, Participation and Skills

Dear colleagues,

Yesterday we welcomed Under-Secretary of Education Baroness Barran's official visit to Plymouth, where she made a key note speech at our school leadership conference and answered some excellent questions asked by the school leaders. In-between the conference sessions, Minister for the School System visited Stoke Damerel Community College and UTC, talking with the staff and students there and witnessing learners' active engagement in the teaching and learning provided by the two very different secondary education provisions in the city.

The leadership event went ahead although it became an online conference due to the emerging Covid situation.

Covid situation

Currently rates in Plymouth are high (compared to England average) and are continuing to rise. Rates are particularly high amongst the 5-9 and 10-14 age groups. Along with the new variant of concern - Omicron - there is a need for continued vigilance. Several headteachers have raised the question about Christmas festive events, and therefore we have liaised with colleagues in the Public Health and Health and Safety in producing an updated and detailed advice for schools, set out in this bulletin.

Once again, a big thank you from me to school leaders and staff whose hard work makes it possible that Plymouth children and young people still benefit from school-based learning in the challenging circumstances.

Best regards.

Ming

 

COVID updates

IMPORTANT: New updated outbreak management planning tool

Please delete previous version of this and use this Tool with immediate effect. The updated Tool is attached to this bulletin.

SW Regional Consensus Schools Statement - refreshed 21/11/21 (from SW Directors of Public Health)

This statement is attached to the bulletin. The SWDPH Regional Consensus Schools Statement sent in October has been refreshed and is attached to the Bulletin for your information.

Template letters for: whole school/EY community and 'warn & inform'

These have been circulated before but we are re-circulating as several settings have requested these recently - templates also attached to this bulletin. 

Christmas events

We would like to thank school leaders for your support in maintaining Covid risk measures in school, as set out within the DfE Contingency Framework.  Currently rates in Plymouth are high (compared to England average) and are continuing to rise.  Rates are particularly high amongst the 5-9 and 10-14 age groups. And this rise in cases, together with the new variant of concern - Omicron - gives rise to a need for continued vigilance.

As the Christmas season approaches, we are supporting schools with more advice so they can continue with their planned festive performances where possible, to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Given the context of high rates highlighted above and the further measures that the Government have advised in response to Omicron we are requesting that schools undertake a robust Risk Assessment for any event, with specific considerations around Covid-19 risks and how these will be mitigated.

As the situation and restrictions relating to Covid-19 are fluid, it is important to review and follow the latest guidance from Government.

Unfortunately, there may be scenarios that would necessitate cancellation of school performances and we appreciate that all involved would be disappointed if this were the case. 

Your specific events may have happened before, and staff, children and parents will be looking forward to them, but changes will need to be made this year. Therefore, in order for events to take place we need you to risk assess according to the following guidance. This will help to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at festive performances such as school concerts, nativity plays and other Christmas activities and gatherings. Infection arising from these events may impact on Christmas itself for some. This advice mirrors what venues are being asked to consider across the community in line with Events and attractions - Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) - Guidance - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk):

We therefore recommended:

Before the event

  • If using an external venue to the school liaise on the control measures required for the venue
  • For internal venues you should have already completed a thermal comfort and ventilation survey of your school's site. This should identify controls for large venue areas and this should be the base line to work from for your event
  • Preferably walk to the site to determine controls
  • Risk assessment is key and if Heads believe that certain controls should be put in place to protect staff, children and parents then they should fully explore this irrespective of DfE guidance in their duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Hosting the event

  • Ensure you remove or reduce the risk of close physical contact between attendees, participants and staff by maintaining social distancing. 
  • Consider key congestion areas and apply a one-way system, staggered entry / exit for example, limited toilet access, managed refreshment supply (if any). 
  • Think about the numbers of attendees and how you might protect your staff and students from the risk of transmission from guests (no backstage or front of house mixing for example)
  • Seating plans and the access and egress to rows of chairs, may reduce the amount of incidental crossover (order of access/egress - exit aisles on both sides, filling from the middle)
  • Request that all visitors to the school take a COVID-19 test within 24 hours of attending and if anyone tests positive, request that they do not attend. 
  • Where there is a positive case (confirmed by PCR) within a household, all household members should not attend. 
  • Where possible register people for the event to provide an awareness of who might need to be followed up if a case has attended during their infectious period.
  • Any pre-arranged schools transports should be recorded to take note of close contacts
  • Provide opportunities at several points for guests to sanitise regularly with clear reminders at several points in the building
  • Ventilation is key - ensure maximum ventilation and natural airflow, and do not use fans etc. and ventilate after the singing session. 
  • Recommend the use of masks by visitors (anyone over 11) throughout the time on the schools site or event site, unless exempt.  Consider having masks available to hand out
  • Keep any background music to a level to enable guests to speak with each other without raising their voices or stepping closer

Preparing for the event

  • Maintain social distancing when groups of children are singing (especially the class teacher if facing the singing class). Increase space where possible.
  • Practice sessions should be kept as short as possible, and then ventilate
  • Singing or talking/shouting releases more aerosols, so encourage normal voices. Utilise technology and amplification wherever possible
  • Singers should sing side to side preferably, not facing each other and maintain distance
  • Singers should have their own copies of words or music and not share
  • If using the same rehearsal space, then clean between each group presentation - allow time to air before concurrent use
  • Consider filming a dress rehearsal for contingency to show parents
  • Controls for wind instruments should be the same as singing with pupils all facing in the same directions
  • Key staff should be extra vigilant in the lead up to the event, in terms of testing, social distancing, hygiene etc.

After the event

  • Ensure sufficient time between performances for deep cleaning with regular touch point cleaning during the event
  • Usual infection prevention and control measures should be in place
  • Warn and inform the community if a case has attended your event during their infectious period (2 days prior to symptoms or a positive test result)

We encourage you to think creatively about your Christmas festivities and trust that these guidelines will ensure that your event can go ahead safely and keep students, staff, and parents safe.

Further guidance on Covid-19 can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

Useful information

  • POD  : Risk Assessment Guidance - Plymouth Online Directory
  • NERVTAG Paper : Assessment of transmission of Covid-19 in singing and music events

Actions for schools - updated guidance 29 November

Actions for schools during the coronavirus outbreak - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Updated guidance on contact tracing and isolation, travel and quarantine, face coverings and vaccination of under 18 year olds to reflect new measures announced on 27 November 2021.

Tracing close contacts and isolation

All individuals who have been identified as a close contact of a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, irrespective of vaccination status and age, will be contacted directly and required to self-isolate immediately and asked to book a PCR test. They will be informed by the local health protection team (KHSA / SWHPT) or NHS Test and Trace if they fall into this category and provided details about self-isolation. Further actions for educational settings may be advised by a local Incident Management Team (IMT) investigating a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.  This process will be led by UKHSA. For everyone else, isolation rules are unchanged.

Face coverings

Where pupils in year 7 (which would be children who were aged 11 on 31 August 2021) and above are educated, we recommend that face coverings should be worn by pupils, staff and adult visitors when moving around the premises, outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas. This is a temporary measure. Pupils in these schools should also wear a face covering when travelling on public transport and dedicated transport to and from school. We do not advise that pupils and staff wear face coverings in classrooms.

In primary schools, we recommend that face coverings should be worn by staff and adults (including visitors - anyone over age 11) when moving around in corridors and communal areas. Health advice continues to be that children in primary schools should not be asked to wear face coverings.

Vaccination of under 18 year olds

We recommend all school staff and eligible pupils take up the offer of a vaccine. You can find out more about the in-school vaccination programme in COVID-19 vaccination programme for children and young people guidance for schools.

Travel and quarantine

All travellers arriving into the UK will need to isolate and get a PCR test by 'day two' after arrival. They may end their isolation once they receive a negative result. If the result is positive, they should continue to isolate and follow rules on isolation following a positive test. Unvaccinated arrivals aged over 18 will follow the existing, more onerous, testing and isolation regime. All Red list arrivals will enter quarantine. Additional guidance has been issued on boarding school students: quarantine and testing arrangements.

Educational visits

We recommend that you consider whether to go ahead with planned international educational visits at this time, recognising the risk of disruption to education resulting from the need to isolate and test on arrival back into the UK. You should refer to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice and the guidance on international travel before booking and travelling.

You are advised to ensure that any new bookings have adequate financial protection in place.

You should speak to either your visit provider, commercial insurance company, or the risk protection arrangement (RPA) to assess the protection available. Independent advice on 18 insurance cover and options can be sought from the British Insurance Brokers' Association (BIBA) or Association of British Insurers (ABI). Any school holding ATOL or ABTA refund credit notes may use these credit notes to rebook educational or international visits.

You should undertake full and thorough risk assessments in relation to all educational visits and ensure that any public health advice, such as hygiene and ventilation requirements, is included as part of that risk assessment. General guidance about educational visits is available and is supported by specialist advice from the Outdoor Education Advisory Panel (OEAP).

 

Education updates

NQT assessment deadline

Important reminder for all schools with NQTs still completing their NQT one year induction: the deadline for assessments is midday Friday 10 December; assessments must be sent electronically via email to bridget.mccarthy@plymouth.gov.uk Please note - we cannot accept assessments sent in the post. Any schools with part-time NQTs, are advised to check when each of their one term equivalent assessments are due.

NB: This message refers to NQTs still completing NQT induction - not ECTs.  

Upload Y2 phonics screening check data

Just another reminder, all Y2 phonics screening check data must be reported to the local authority by the end of this term, and we would advise schools not to leave this until the last day. For anyone in need of a reminder about how to submit data:

  • The phonics assessment file should be created from your MIS in the usual manner by entering individual results for pupils and exporting through the standard assessment process.
  • The file created will be an XML file where the name will be in the following format:  879nnnn_PHO_879LLLL_yyy.XML, where nnnn is your school DfE number and yyy is a version number increasing from 001 dependant on how many times the file is created.  This should be saved on your computer/system in a place you can easily navigate to.
  • Upload this file to school to school (s2s).  S2S is accessed through DfE Sign in - https://services.signin.education.gov.uk/  Go to the file UPLOAD section, select 'Upload CTF file' and navigate to where you have saved your phonics export.  Upload the file.  You may get a message about the process taking up to five minutes.  Click ok to that message.

All codes to be used are set out in the STA phonics screening check guidance:

If you have any questions regarding the screening check assessment procedures, please contact Lucinda Ross on Lucinda.ross@plymouth.gov.uk.  For any queries regarding the data submission process, please contact susan.london@plymouth.gov.uk

 

Health, wellbeing and safety updates

Christmas gifts for asylum seeker/refugee children

The Ethnic Minority Achievement Team are working with Devon & Cornwall Refugee Support to  distribute Christmas presents donated by local churches and community groups to asylum seeker/refugee (ASR) children in Plymouth schools. Knowing how little these families have, we are very keen to reach as many children as possible and therefore, we ask any headteachers who have ASR children on roll to contact Lucinda.ross@plymouth.gov.uk by Wednesday 8 December. Your email will be followed up by a telephone call to enable us to gather necessary details so we can direct suitable gifts to children of all ages. Gifts will be delivered to schools during the final week of term so that school staff can give to children in a sensitive way.  

Household Support Fund

The Household Support Fund is in place to support Plymouth City Council residents most in need this winter during the final stages of economic recovery, and is available until 31 March 2022.

Plymouth Energy Community (PEC) have been funded to help support families with energy costs and wider essentials. Organisations working with and supporting people in need will be able to make a referral to PEC for help with their energy costs or essentials to maintaining a warm home such as boiler repairs, safety checks, and replacing broken essential white goods.

If you are aware of a family in need, and with their consent, complete the referral form (see two attachments to this copy of the bulletin) with details about eligibility and needs, and send it to PEC who will arrange support.

 

Government updates

The following guidance has been updated to reflect new Covid-19 measures announced on 27 November:

New measures to reduce pupil absence

Government attendance advisors set to start work helping local areas and school trusts put new plans in place to increase attendance. As part of the Education Secretary's commitment to make school attendance his top priority. They will work with local authorities and multi-academy trusts who have been identified as having potential to benefit from the support and who want to use the expertise of the advisers to help re-engage persistently absent pupils.

Free period product scheme for schools and colleges extended

The DfE has extended the period product scheme until the end of the academic year. Each school or college has a budget that will remain in place until the end of the calendar year, after which a new spend cap will be put in place starting in January 2022.

Plans to develop world class teachers through high-quality training and support

The government has confirmed reforms to initial teacher training (ITT) courses, following consultation feedback from the sector, in order to drive up standards and ensure every child and young person can be taught by a brilliant teacher. The reforms are backed by £35.7 million, with £25 million allocated to ensure trainees can receive high-quality mentoring support from experienced teachers and other experts - a key requirement of the new course standards.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) workforce fund for schools

Funding to support schools facing significant staff absences and financial pressures with the costs of staff cover for the period from 22 November to 31 December 2021. The guidance has been updated following the re-introduction of the coronavirus (COVID-19) workforce fund.

Launch of space logo design competition to inspire children across the UK

Children across the UK have the chance to make history by designing a logo that will be displayed on the first small satellite launches from the UK next year. The competition, run by the UK Space Agency, is open to primary school children aged between 4 and 11 years old, and will help inspire the next generation to consider a career in space.

Technical consultation on regulating Digital Functional Skills qualifications

Consultation opens on remaining policy and draft rules to regulate new digital qualifications. Ofqual has launched a second consultation on its remaining policy proposals and draft Conditions, Requirements and Guidance for new Digital Functional Skills qualifications.

The qualifications are being introduced by the Department for Education and will be designed to teach core digital skills needed for life and work. Ofqual will regulate these new qualifications.

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