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Education Bulletin - 10 February 2022

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Updated 10 February 2022

Important contact details

From Ming Zhang
Service Director of Education, Participation and Skills

Dear colleagues,

Several Headteachers have made contact and asked for more information following the Prime Minister's indication at the PMQT yesterday that he intended to drop all COVID rules - including the legal requirement for COVID cases to self-isolate - by the end of February.

Latest COVID developments

While we appreciate that school leaders need clarity about when pupils and teachers should stay at home if they have COVID after the Prime Minister's announcement, we are awaiting further guidance and advice on this development. I raised the issue at my latest catch up with the DfE yesterday, however, DfE colleagues are also waiting for further advice. We will let schools know once we have any further information.

In the meantime, COVID is still causing huge disruption to England's schools, with 320,000 pupils off because of the virus last Thursday, and nearly one in ten staff also absent. In Plymouth the infection rate is still high and we know that school leaders continue to work hard to manage workforce shortage and pupils absences. In yesterday's catch up with the DfE, I also asked that the government's COVID support for schools should continue in the likely long journey to "endemic."



Plymouth rate

Southwest rate

England rate

















Early Years Progress

In a recent bulletin, I reported the improvement made by secondary schools' aggregated KS4 outcomes this year to a level that is above the national average from the low base below the average in previous years. Today I am delighted to share with you the similar improvement in Early Years. The City's aggregated percentage of Early Years settings' Ofsted Good or Outstanding grades has now improved to 97%, on par with the national average. In the past few years, we were below the national average. Although these are the green shorts of our efforts, my congratulations and thanks to Early Years sector's leaders and staff. They did an incredibly good job during the pandemic, keeping the settings open even in the strictest national lockdowns.

With Plymouth Education Board's phase partnerships and inclusion board all now established, the City's education and skills community is working in synergy to build on our existing strengths to achieve improvement in outcomes across all age groups of the City's learners - from Early Years to Adult Education.

Best regards,



Education updates

Statutory assessment 2022 - update for Y2 & Y6 teachers

KS1 and KS2 statutory assessment training delivered over the past few weeks has been very well attended, and will be followed up next month with further training focused in-depth on teacher assessment in years 2 and 6.

In response to feedback from teachers attending this week's courses, we have decided to also offer short briefing sessions looking at the KS1/2 TAG (test administration guidance) and access arrangements, closer to the assessment windows in May. These online sessions will provide opportunities for teachers to talk through the TAG as it applies to their classes, and raise any questions about access arrangements for specific pupils - after a two year break from statutory assessments, the sessions will help ensure peace of mind and confidence in schools' test administration.

Online sessions will become part of the assessment package for all maintained schools and academies working with Plymouth local authority. Sessions will take place at 3.30-4.30pm on 26 April for KS1 and 27 April for KS2. As with all assessment courses, teachers should email to book a place.    


Health, wellbeing and safety updates

Holiday Foods Support

Schools have received an email confirming we will be providing E-vouchers to support families for the February half-term, through the Household Support Grant.

Free school meal children within the city and the children of those families who you have identified as being in hardship will benefit from the support over the February half-term.

The provider is Wonde, and the scheme will operate in exactly the same way as it did for the Christmas holidays.  The only difference this time, the E-voucher has been increased in value to £20.00.

Schools should place an order for the appropriate number of E-vouchers between Thursday 10 February and Friday 18 February 2022.

If you haven't received an email, please email

School Transport

Please find attached a letter from Ming Zhang confirming the current and continuing self-isolation periods operational on school transport arranged via the School Transport team. 

The advice from the Health and Safety and Public Health is that School Transport will have to continue with the 10 day self-isolation period for all passengers as government guidance states: those who leave self-isolation on or after day 6 are strongly advised to limit close contact with other people in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces and minimise contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19.


Government updates

Government outlines ambitious plans to level up activities for young people

Government commits to National Youth Guarantee backed by £560 million funding.

  • The Youth Investment Fund will deliver up to 300 new and refurbished youth facilities in the most deprived parts of England.
  • Funding will tackle youth group waiting lists and offer The Duke of Edinburgh's Award to all state secondary schools in England
  • National Citizen Service receives funding to ensure thousands more young people are 'world ready and work ready'

This announcement is part of the Levelling Up White Paper and will ensure young people in the most deprived parts of England have access to thousands of new activities. Youth services across 45 Local Authorities and around 600 district wards in the most deprived parts of England will be eligible to apply for the £378 million Youth Investment Fund.

Package to transform education and opportunities for most disadvantaged

Skills, schools and families at the heart of government plans to improve public services and level up left behind areas. 55 areas have been selected as Education Investment Areas in the Levelling Up White Paper, including Plymouth.

In these new 'Education Investment Areas', the Department for Education will offer retention payments to help schools keep the best teachers in the highest priority subjects. These areas will be prioritised as the location for new specialist sixth-form free schools where there is limited provision to ensure talented children from disadvantaged backgrounds have access to the highest standard of education this country offers.

Schools in these areas that have been judged less than Good in successive Ofsted inspections could be moved into strong multi-academy trusts, to attract more support and the best teachers. This will be subject to a consultation in the spring.

The paper will set a new national mission to ensure that 90% of children leaving primary school in England are reaching the expected standard in reading, writing, and maths by 2030. In 2019, just 65% of pupils met all 3 standards, with the proportion substantially varying across the country. Schools in the Education Investment Areas will also be given support to address wider issues.

School Rebuilding Programme

The School Rebuilding Programme is undertaking major rebuilding and refurbishment projects at school and sixth form college buildings across England prioritised according to their condition.

Responsible bodies should follow the guidance on how to nominate a school for the next round of the School Rebuilding Programme. This includes information on:

  • how to register for and use the online portal
  • deadlines for nominating
  • the qualifying criteria
  • what evidence you need to submit

Consultation outcome - Children not in school

The Department for Education's response to the children not in school consultation, which sought proposals on:

  • a local authority register of children not attending school
  • support for home-educating families

This consultation closed in June 2019. It was a follow-up to the consultation and call for evidence on elective home education held by DfE in 2018. The consultation response provides details on DfE's commitment to a form of local authority administered register for children not in school. The consultation response outlines intentions to legislate at the earliest opportunity to implement a duty on:

  • local authorities to:
    • keep a register of all children of compulsory age in their area who are not registered pupils at a state or independent school
    • provide support to home educating families
  • parents of children to supply information to such a register
  • proprietors of defined settings to supply information on relevant children

These proposals form part of the Government's Levelling Up agenda and have been confirmed within the published white paper. Full Press release can be found here.

Ofsted has also published their 'Securing good attendance and tackling persistent absence' report - a new report by Ofsted finds that schools that improve pupil attendance from a low baseline, maintain high levels of attendance and minimise persistent absence adopt similar strategies that can best be summarised as 'listen, understand, empathise and support - but do not tolerate'.

Revised behaviour in schools guidance and suspension and permanent exclusions guidance

Open consultation - In response to the Timpson review of school exclusions, the government committed to working with sector experts to publish clearer, more consistent guidance. The aim of this guidance is to support schools to:

  • create positive behaviour cultures
  • ensure suspensions and permanent exclusions are conducted in a lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair way

Consultation closes at 10pm on 31 March 2022.

Changes to the school admission appeals code

The DfE are seeking views on a revised version of the statutory school admission appeals code. This allows appeals to be held remotely (by telephone or video conference) as well as in person. It also allows appeal hearings to continue with just two panel members if the third panel member needs to withdraw.

Consultation closes at 11.45pm on 03 April 2022.

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