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COVID-19 Schools' Bulletin - 4 March 2021

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Updated 4 March 2021

Important contact details

Children's Service general queries

childrensservicesresponse@plymouth.gov.uk

General COVID-19 queries to the Local Authority

covid19@plymouth.gov.uk

 

From Ming Zhang
Service Director of Education, Participation and Skills

Dear colleagues

With schools fully reopening on Monday next week, I would like to start this message by thanking all school leaders and staff for the excellent preparation that you have been making. Once again I felt a real sense of collaboration and strong leadership at the meeting with our maintained schools' Head teachers yesterday. Those strengths were also shown at the catch up with MAT CEOs.

While we have put together the key reopening guidance in the bulletins and POD, there are a few national and local developments that I would like to highlight and keep you in the loop:

COVID Winter Grant Scheme (CWGS) Extension

We were informed by the Department of Work and Pensions on 2nd March 2021 that the COVID Winter Grant Scheme (CWGS) will now be extended to 16th April 2021. Given the short notice, our intention is to continue with the eVoucher code model and I have asked my team to make this so.

In order to ensure you receive your eVoucher code allocation in a timely manner, it will be necessary to close the Free School Meal register on Thursday 11th March 2021. It is my intention to distribute eVoucher codes to you from Monday 22nd March 2021. Management Information (MI) returns will need to be back to my team by Friday 23th April 2021 to meet the DWP required return date of 5th May 2021 to WinterGrantScheme@plymouth.gov.uk mailbox.

As last time, those who you have identified as being in hardship who fall just outside the threshold for benefits and allowances may be included. For example, if a child or young person who may now be eligible for free school meals due to a recent change in their family's circumstances, but has yet to be formally registered. WGS is not an extension of FSM but it may include vulnerable households who do receive free school meals.  Refugees and asylum seekers may fall also into this category. 

Schools should confirm the number of eVoucher codes for both their FSM students and the hardship cohort to the WinterGrantScheme@plymouth.gov.uk mailbox also by Thursday 11th March 2021. I would also like to let you know that the eVoucher code provider (Blackhawk) has confirmed that Aldi will be added to the portfolio of supermarkets where vouchers can be redeemed. A more detailed explanation of the e-voucher scheme is attached to today's Bulletin.

School uniform

Some parents have contacted us about the fact that they are struggling to get uniform and other back to school items as non-essential shops remain closed, and are not due to reopen before schools do. We also know that many parents in Plymouth who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic or have taken a pay cut due to being furloughed will be concerned about purchasing new school uniform ahead of March 8 when schools fully reopen to all pupils.

Cllr Taylor and Cllr Laing have therefore written to school leaders to ask if you can offer some temporary relaxation of your uniform policy until the end of term due to the highly exceptional circumstances. I am sure that schools in the city will not turn a pupil away if they have genuine difficulties in buying the uniform required. The letter from the two Councillors is also attached to this issue of the Bulletin.

Plymouth local COVID update

COVID rates in Plymouth have continued to fall slightly over the last few weeks and we are now sitting at around 34 per 100,000. This is very low compared to most areas across the country, with the South West average at 43.8 and England at 80.9. However, the decrease has stalled and it seems this might be close to the lowest that we can get to. This is not totally surprising; areas that have dropped lower tend to have very different demographics, with more people who can work from home, whereas Plymouth has both high population densities and considerable amounts of businesses working face to face. Commenting on this current situation, our Director for Public Health Dr Ruth Harrell states that "obviously, we would all like it to be even lower; but this is likely a consequence of the new variant (which is now the dominant strain across the country), the fact that it is winter, and the extent of the lockdown".

Finally I wish you all the best for next weeks' full reopening.

Kind Regards.

Ming

Essential Information Weekly Head Teachers Meeting

The Essential Info. Head Teacher Teams meetings take place every Monday during term time at 1pm and covers a range of topical issues and updates. Those of you who join the meeting regularly will already have the link in your diary. The meeting is open to all Plymouth Head Teachers; if you wish to join please use the link below:

Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

Sessions are recorded and can be found on the 'Essential information for schools' web page https://www.plymouthonlinedirectory.com/covid19/septguidanceforschools

Agenda: 

As we recognise that Head Teachers will be busy managing the full return on Monday, this will be a short drop-in for anyone with issues arising on Monday (with added reminder for schools to use the COVID inbox). We will return to normal agenda next week.

COVID-19 information

April - COVID Winter Grant scheme update

Please see the attached information and guidance concerning COVID Winter Grant scheme to be applied over Easter.

Public Health updates

Please see the attached updates from Public Health setting out important information and asking for help identifying community champions.

LFT updates

In readiness for the full pupil return to school on Monday 8 March, the Government have put arrangements in place for households, childcare and support bubbles of primary and secondary-age pupils. The guidance, for those without symptoms of COVID, explains who is eligible for twice-weekly testing and how to get tested. The guidance also includes a link to identify the local site where home testing kits can be collected. In Plymouth these sites are at the Guildhall in the town centre, and at Marjon's Sports and Health Centre. The guidance can be found here: Rapid lateral flow testing for households and bubbles of school pupils and staff

We are awaiting further Government guidance on this plan and as soon as this becomes available, we will work to make this accessible to all. The plan is that this will include information that you can share with your families, with FAQs included.

Education information

KS2: Making TA Work (under challenging circumstances) 3.30 - 5pm, 16 OR 17 March

Details of assessment training for Y6 teachers has already been shared with schools - here is a reminder! Although there is no DfE statutory assessment this year, Y6 teachers will still be required to share accurate, reliable end of year TA with secondary schools, so if your Y6 teachers are not yet booked, please reserve a place by emailing Lucinda.ross@plymouth.gov.uk 

NQT Early Career Framework

In last week's Bulletin we shared an update on the changes to NQT induction from September 2021 when new teachers will be supported through a two-year statutory induction programme of professional development and mentoring. The new Teaching School Hubs will be working as delivery partners with national providers to ensure all Early Career Teachers, and their mentors and schools, access and benefit from the Early Career Framework programme.

On 1 March, the DfE announced the Early Career Framework (ECF) national providers: Ambition Institute, Best Practice Network, Capita with University of Birmingham, Education Development Trust, Teach First, and University College London's Institute of Education. Schools can choose to sign up with any one of these national provider-led programmes and will receive funding to embed the ECF reforms.

SW Teaching School Hubs will be meeting with the new national providers and will soon be sharing information with schools about the providers that will have local delivery partners and what their offer comprises, encouraging schools to engage with their local Teaching School Hub and be part of an aligned ECF offer through their Hub.

Further information is available on the Government website.

For questions about the SW Teaching School Hubs please contact Alison.Fletcher@tscouncil.org.uk 

Keeping children safe in education

The Uniform Store - helping families in need

Please see the letter attached from Cllr Taylor and Cllr Laing, thanking schools for their unprecedented efforts during lockdown, and sharing details of ways that The Uniform Store will help children returning to school access school uniforms and other essential items at a time when many families are suffering financial hardship. 

Vulnerable Children's Spreadsheet

The completion of this spreadsheet and subsequent conversations with SEND and EWO link officers has been very much appreciated and contributed to the LA statutory duty to maintain oversight of these groups.

With all children due to return to school from next week and the next spreadsheet deadline due on Monday 15th March 2021 we would request that this is completed and returned so that link officers in SEND can identify any support that is required and any attendance issues are picked up with IAWS. From March 8th, EWOs will be returning to business as usual in terms of their contact and work with schools and families.

We will be contacting specific school staff who meet with link officers to share this information too.

The future sharing of this information and joint work to support it, will hopefully be discussed at the next Inclusion Board meeting where there is representation of all phases or learning. We would also value feedback from schools/settings for your views.

We can confirm the weekly email, identifying children with a social worker will be continuing and this will remain a useful tool for DSLs.

Short guides on working with young people experiencing online harm

The NWG and Marie Collins Foundation have published short guides for professionals and parents on the issues of online harm and young people. For access and further information, please go to the Plymouth Safeguarding Children's Board

Preventing Abusive Sexual Behaviour, Sexual Offending and Harmful Sexual Behaviour

Please see the attached flier for details of further NSPCC training available between 22 - 26 March.

Government updates

Draft guidance for heads of centre, heads of department and teachers

Consultation on guidance on how to generate the evidence used to determine grades this summer. The government is seeking views on this draft guidance from heads of centre, heads of department and teachers. The consultation closes on the 11 March.

School governance update

Important news and communications from the Department for Education (DfE) relating to governance in maintained schools and academy trusts in England. Added 'School governance update: March 2021'.

Special schools and other specialist settings: coronavirus (COVID-19)

What all special schools and other specialist settings will need to do during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Updated 'Rapid asymptomatic testing in specialist settings' to include information about home testing for staff, twice-weekly testing of secondary aged pupils, and changes for on-site testing via asymptomatic test sites.

National Reference Test 2021 - updated information for schools

Information provided by NFER to schools taking part in the 2021 National Reference Test. This supersedes previous guidance published in October 2020.

Get laptops and tablets for pupils and students who cannot access face-to-face education due to coronavirus (COVID-19)

How schools, 16 to 19 academies, colleges, and other further education institutions, can access digital devices for pupils and students learning remotely.

Updated to clarify when devices are available to those in further education.

Behaviour hubs

Behaviour hubs will enable schools and multi-academy trusts (MATs) with exemplary behaviour cultures and practices to work with partner schools that want and need to improve behaviour in their school.

The behaviour hubs programme aims to improve pupil behaviour in schools by taking a whole school approach and embedding a clear, sustainable behaviour culture throughout the school. How students behave in school is strongly linked to attainment and other outcomes. Good behaviour generally leads to:

  • more time to focus on teaching and learning
  • students achieving more academically and socially
  • improved staff satisfaction, higher retention and less problematic recruitment

The programme is based on the principles and ideas outlined in Tom Bennett's 2017 review of behaviour in schools Creating a culture: how school leaders can optimise behaviour.

School attendance: guidance for schools

Covers registers and attendance codes (including circumstances due to coronavirus (COVID-19)), school hours and term dates, and improving school attendance.

Offences for non-attendance in schools during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak have been temporarily disapplied under the Coronavirus Act 2020 - see the disapplication notice.

Ofsted: coronavirus (COVID-19) rolling update

Ofsted guidance and information relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) for schools, early years, children's social care and further education and skills providers.

Clarified in the 'Schools and further education' section that we will carry out new provider monitoring visits to further education providers on site, not remotely.

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