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COVID-19 Schools' Bulletin - 7 January 2021

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Updated 7 January 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

We started the Spring Term with almost daily changes to the national policy and decisions. It is your strong leadership that keeps the school community together, continuing to provide learning opportunities and welfare support that Plymouth children and young people badly need in these unprecedented times. A heartfelt thank you for all that you and your staff are doing for our learners in Plymouth.

Since my meeting with the Headteachers on Monday, we have received many daily national policy announcements, apart from my regular catch up meetings with the DfE.  Here I would like to summarise the highlights of past few days' changes:

The Prime Minister's Announcement on 4th January confirmed a National Lockdown in England. This will require Plymouth schools move to online remote learning until the February half-term, except for vulnerable and critical workers' children who can request a place of onsite learning. Early years, special and AP settings remain open. This announcement affects the planning that schools had put in place until Monday including secondary schools' staggered return and Covid mass testing (LFL).

Covid Mass Testing (LFT) Resource Toolkit -I am pleased to learn that all Plymouth secondary schools and academies have entered the initial steps of school Covid testing. We have created a resource folder on Plymouth Online Directory (POD) for all schools to access to support implementation of testing. It includes: the handbook, training guide, checklists, consent forms, data protection FAQs for parents, privacy notices, workforce planning tool and testing signage. Schools are able to access these sources directly via the Plymouth Online Directory (POD). This is a live page and regularly updated. 

Vulnerable Learners and Critical Workers' Children -Vulnerable children are expected to attend full-time on-site provision where it is appropriate for them to do so and this is a priority for educational providers. The expectation to schools is clear that an offer of school based learning is made to all Vulnerable Learners.

Critical workers are able to notify schools that their children require full-time on-site provision, and schools should make this available. Please refer to the guidance listing the vulnerable and critical worker categories for further detail - Vulnerable and Critical workers who can access schools or educational settings.

I am pleased to read yesterday's feedback from 89 Plymouth schools, which showed strong confidence that schools have in terms of capacity in providing onsite learning for these cohorts. Obviously it is a fast moving situation, I am fully aware that we may find themselves in a very different situation in next few days should the demand from critical workers increase. My teams are keeping in touch with you to closely watch the situation in the next few days and to provide a swift response.

LA designated school liaison officers -We recognise that schools are under extreme pressure in maintaining both onsite and remote education for children. In order to support schools in the delivery of this offer, the Education teams have assigned a Link Officer to each school to ensure timely support and response through effective communication. While recognising that schools will need space to focus on their priorities, the Link Officers will make a regular telephone call to their allocated school at a mutually convenient time (if a school takes up this offer of support). The basis of these conversations will be to:

  • Provide an opportunity for school to share concerns, issues and challenges faced in the delivery of education for the identified cohorts.
  • A Channel for Headteachers to feedback to the Local Authority's senior managers or DfE any emerging issues that need coordinated decisions or actions.

Ofsted Role in Remote Learning - The Government want to strengthen minimum standards of remote learning: schools will be expected to offer pupils online lessons and a set number of hours of remote education for pupils - increased from the government's previous minimum expectations. Controversially the Secretary of State has asked Ofsted to play an important role in ensuring the quality of remote education.

Best Regards

Ming Zhang

Headteacher Teams meeting

The weekly Headteacher Teams meeting is an opportunity to discuss matters arising with colleagues or to address specific themes.  The next meeting is scheduled for Monday 11 January at 1pm.  Those of you who join the meeting regularly will already have the link in your diary.  If you wish to join please use the link below:

Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

Learn more about Teams | Meeting options

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

Agenda: 

  1. Risk assessments
  2. Quality assuring remote learning
  3. Matters arising

Attendance recording in schools during 2021 lockdown

Please see the attached document outlining key requirements for attendance recording arrangements during the current national lockdown.

Supporting learning during lockdown

Following Government guidance that schools should remain open for all vulnerable children and children of critical workers, as set out in the link below, and we know that schools are working to ensure as many of these children as possible are able to attend school, whilst also maintaining safe working conditions. Please contact the Local Authority if you require advice or support in maintaining suitable learning for vulnerable or disadvantaged children, or in planning to remain open safely.

IMPORTANT information for schools with members of the National Education Union and Unison

Attached to this bulletin is a full statement from the DfE about recent advice to members from the NEU and UNISON about attendance of staff in schools and colleges which may be impacting on your ability to provide on-site provision for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. Their advice was issued before the Prime Minister's announcement about the national lockdown on Monday evening. More communications about the operation of schools during that lockdown will be coming from the DfE shortly.

Headteachers are aware that the NEU and UNISON had advised their members that they believe schools are not safe and their members should not be returning to the workplace. The DfE understand that this advice has now been withdrawn. The Government did not agree with this advice because section 44 of the Employment Rights Act, on which they relied for this advice, is specific to each individual employee and cannot be applied in a blanket way to all school staff in the country.

The DfE note that being at school is vital for children and young people's education and for their wellbeing, and the Government has therefore made it a national priority that education and childcare settings operate as normally as possible during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Local Authority recommend that headteachers read the full statement attached, which should be used to inform planning to enable vulnerable children and children of critical workers to be in school at this time.

Remote education expectations

Following the Education Secretary's statement yesterday that Government have set out clear, legally binding requirements for schools to provide high-quality remote education, mandatory for all schools and will to be enforced by Ofsted, and his call to parents to report to Ofsted if they consider their child's school is not providing suitable remote education, the EP&S Team is working to put together a support package that will help schools quality assure home learning standards - more news on this next week.

In the meantime, we recommend that headteachers consult the expected standards of home learning and further guidance. Both are useful in helping to ensure consistency across schools and helping each school self-evaluate provision in place for remote education.

Oak National Academy

With remote teaching for all secondary pupils this week (and for some primary schools) and for non-exam year groups up until 18 January, Oak National Academy, backed by the DfE, remains in place  to support remote education plans, offering:

  • Teacher Hub with access to nearly 10,000 free, ready-to-go online lessons, available to download, edit and personalise lesson slides and worksheets for the vast majority of lessons.
  • Curriculum maps providing an overview of our lessons, units and approach in each subject, adaptable to a school's own curriculum.
  • Online Classroom providing pupils access to nearly 10,000 lessons, either by subject, key stage or following our ready-made suggested timetable.
  • Support pages providing a wealth of information, hints and tips on delivering remote education - from how to videos to template letters for parents.

All resources are free, mapped and sequenced to the national curriculum, available at: https://www.thenational.academy/  

Increasing mobile data for disadvantaged children

The DfE has set up a scheme for disadvantaged children without access to home broadband to temporarily increase their mobile data allowance - with schools needing to request support on behalf of pupils. 

We have also learned this week that pupils can access Microsoft Teams and Google classroom via Play Station and X-Box! Schools may already be aware of this; if not please see further information at:

Statutory assessment

GCSEs, A and AS Level exams will not go ahead this summer, with the DfE and Ofqual working to develop a system for teacher assessment with training and support provided to schools to ensure consistency.

STA has just published updates on the cancellation of EYFS and primary school statutory assessment in 2021.

Information: cancellation of 2021 national curriculum assessments

Further support and guidance from the LA will follow over the coming week.

Changes to the allocation of EWOs

Education Participation and Skills is implementing changes to teams and staffing following the departmental service redesign. As a result of the restructure there are changes to staffing with the Inclusion, Attendance and Welfare Service. We recognise that this is a difficult time for schools and families and we are keen to make sure that we have the capacity to support all schools across the city. With this in mind many schools in the city will have a new link EWO as part of our Covid19 response and moving forward into the recovery and post COVID phase. These will be shared with schools on Monday 11th January. Any queries or concerns, please contact Isabelle Morgan or Jo Tyrrell who will be pleased to help.

Monitoring vulnerable children during the current Lockdown.

We have really appreciated the swift and very helpful responses from all schools, over the past few days, when we have asked for information. It is recognised that we walk a fine line in being sensitive to the very many pressures that all schools are facing while maintaining a statutory responsibility to monitor and support vulnerable children, and very much want to work alongside you where we can.

The information now coming to schools regarding children with a social worker has, I know, been welcomed and we remain very happy to support you with any queries that might arise from receiving this information. Please contact VirtualSchoolTeam@plymouth.gov.uk or one of the team directly if you need any help in this respect.

We are again identifying SEND and EWO Link workers and as previously established, will be having regular meetings with key school personnel to review and discuss those children who have an EHCP or who are more widely 'vulnerable'. The information on which this conversation is based is a spreadsheet that will be well known to SENCOs and pastoral leads. We have streamlined this process to incorporate all children onto a single sheet, which will be pre-populated with the names of those with EHCPs. It just needs the additional children, who you would want to discuss with your EWO to be added.

It had already been agreed with schools that the next monthly return of this spreadsheet will be Friday 15th January. We have made some amendments to the sheet as a result of the impact of most children being educated at home. The revised sheet, which will still have previously submitted information available on it, along with the names and contact details of your SEND and EWO Links, will be sent to schools on Monday 11th, once we are sure that it is absolutely correct and that we won't be making further changes to it. We have included drop down options to avoid unnecessary entry repetition. The criteria for making a RAG assessment on the spreadsheet will also be re-sent on Monday in the same email. All of the information requested is of value in terms of keeping children safe, monitoring the provision available to them and likely to be requested by the DfE or PCC for reporting.

There will then be fortnightly conversations as before to discuss any specific issues that might arise.

As always though, any concerns about any child in between the discussions should be raised with either the SEND or EWO teams.

Plymouth Health and Wellbeing in Education Briefings (Plymouth HWEB) - a twice monthly information update

The Plymouth HWEB is a twice monthly communication that will contain important and interesting signposting information regarding all things Health and Wellbeing related for schools in Plymouth. Building on the previous Healthy Child Quality Mark Bulletins you will find relevant updates and signposting regarding:

  • Local and National events, campaigns and guidance
  • Exciting education and enrichment opportunities for schools, children and young people
  • Upcoming days and weeks of action reminders
  • Consultation, Training and CPD opportunities
  • Partner announcements and messages
  • Health and Wellbeing in Education - best practice examples
  • Healthy Child Quality Mark information

The first Plymouth HWEB will be delivered to 'inbox's this Friday, 8th January to Healthy Child Quality Mark school contacts and Plymouth PSHE & Citizenship Hub attendees. If you would also like to receive these briefings, please contact michael.house@plymouth.gov.uk

DfE survey now open - Keeping children safe in education, proposed revisions 2021.

DfE has opened a consultation survey on proposed changes to the statutory guidance 'Keeping children safe in education' 2020, with a view to making changes for September 2021. The consultation is seeking opinions on:

This consultation closes at 11:45pm on 4 March 2021.

Plymouth Music Education Hub

We recognise that school leaders need to consider many arrangements this week and we do understand that music will probably not be high on the agenda. However, to reassure you, our tutors are ready to pick up from where we were before Christmas, and to discuss updated provision of First Access with class teachers to fit the current limitations.

Since the first lockdown we have been developing a growing mixed economy of blended learning which is bespoke to each school. Whether we provide live streamed First Access lessons to children of critical workers in school, online generic content that can be shared with pupils at home and in school or other free resources, we are committed to keeping music alive for all pupils.

To maintain delivery of small group and individual lessons as much as possible, we are encouraging our tutors to make arrangements with school so that lesson delivery for existing pupils can continue online. We will not be charging schools or parents for this delivery in Term 3.

For further information please contact fiona.pendreigh@plymouth.gov.uk

SEND updates

The Communication Interaction Team's Language Team, like The Communication Trust, follows a social model of disability-that is, one which recognises that any speech and language needs (SLCN) that children and young people have do not have to be disabling if those around them understand their needs. The Language team comprises of one specialist advisory teacher and two specialist support workers. We work closely with mainstream schools, young people, parents, Speech Therapists and Educational Psychologists to support and raise awareness of SLCN and Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). DLD is a hidden disability that affects approximately two children in every classroom, affecting literacy, learning, friendships and emotional well-being.

The Language team would like to remind schools that ICAN's DLD introductory webinars, from the autumn, are still available to watch online. The new, intermediate, webinars are ready to sign up for and will run in February and March. There are webinars for both primary and secondary staff as well as specific ones for SENCOs. The 90 minute webinars are delivered by qualified Speech and Language Therapists. The link is below and they are free to attend.

The webinar link can also be found in the CIT Plymouth Online Directory (POD) 'news' section.

Our POD local offer page has further links, resources and information on SLCN and DLD. For further guidance please contact: sue.lock@plymouth.gov.uk

Government updates

Education Secretary Statement to Parliament on national lockdown

Gavin Williamson statement to Parliament on closure of education settings during national lockdown. A press statement has also been released outlining key points from the Education Secretary's statement. 

A message from Simon Lebus, Chief Regulator, on exams in 2021

Simon Lebus, Interim Chief Regulator, responds to the Prime Minister's announcement of 04 January.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): financial support for education, early years and children's social care

Funding and financial support available for education, childcare and children's social care organisations. Updated to reflect the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to 30 April 2021.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) contingency framework for education and childcare settings

How settings can prepare for restrictions to help contain community transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). Updated information for boarding schools, special schools and special post-16 institutions. Removed the implementation guidance as this no longer applies. Different education restrictions apply during the national lockdown.

GCSE subject-level conditions for 2021

Conditions and requirements, and corresponding guidance, applying to GCSE qualifications being awarded in 2021. The guidance has been updated to reflect an updated activity list published by the Department for Education.

GCSE physical education

Updated 'GCSE activity list for physical education' to specify the permitted distances for cross country and track running.

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. Updated to reflect the temporary disapplication of offences for non-attendance in schools during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Tampon tax abolished from 01 January 2021

The 'tampon tax' has been abolished - with a zero rate of VAT applying to women's sanitary products which came into effect on 01 January 2021. The move to scrap the tax and is part of a wider strategy to make sanitary products affordable and available for all women which includes:

  • January 2020's roll out of free period products for all young people in English state schools and colleges and extension of the scheme into 2021.

New Institute of Teaching set to be established

A new Institute of Teaching is set to be established in England to provide teachers and school leaders with prestigious training and development throughout their career. Training will be delivered through at least four regional campuses, launching in September 2022, with the Institute being the first of its kind in the world. The national initiative will deliver evidence-based approaches to teacher training, and also include mentoring and early career support, alongside leadership courses and continued professional development, building on existing high-quality provision.

Recruit trainee teachers from overseas: accredited ITT providers

How accredited initial teacher training (ITT) providers can recruit trainees who are not UK or Irish nationals. Updated section on 'Recruit without becoming a sponsor'. Other formatting changes have been applied to reflect the end of the transition period.

Next Bulletin: 14 January 2021

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