COVID-19 Schools' Bulletin - 11 March 2021
Updated 12 March 2021
Important contact details
Children's Service general queries
General COVID-19 queries to the Local Authority
From Ming Zhang
Service Director of Education, Participation and Skills
I am pleased to see that your strong leadership and school staff's hard work have led to a calm and successful wider reopening of schools in Plymouth, now that all children from the city have returned or are on a phased return. A big thank you from me on behalf of the City Council.
Throughout the partial opening in Spring Term, Plymouth schools have been doing an excellent job in making safe provision for vulnerable learners and key workers' children, with average attendance rates of these cohorts consistently higher than the national average. To sum up the achievement, I am sharing with you the city-wide school attendance record of last week:
PLYMOUTH % ATTENDANCE
(using school submitted NOR and Jan NOR when no response)
NATIONAL % ATTENDANCE
DfE return total with EHCPs
Non responder total with EHCPs
PLYMOUTH % EHCP ATTENDANCE
NATIONAL % EHCP ATTENDANCE
Total with social worker
PLYMOUTH % Pupils with a Social Worker ATTENDANCE
NATIONAL % Pupils with a SW ATTENDANCE
Total of children with Critical Parent workers
PLYMOUTH % of those in attendance having CW PARENTS
NATIONAL % of those in attendance having CW PARENTS
DfE Daily Attendance Monitoring Form
Until there is any review of the daily attendance reporting, the DfE are still asking schools to continue to report on a daily monitoring form in relation to provision being offered and COVID related absences. The focus of the daily reporting has shifted to phased returns and whether schools are providing wraparound provision.
DfE has made it clear that there would still be a requirement for schools to provide a daily return from 8th March. I would like to take this opportunity, if I may, to remind colleagues that the completion of DfE's daily response is still required. It was raised by the RSC yesterday that there were some schools in the region that had stopped completing the daily report.
Virtual School and Inclusion
Under the restructure of Education Services, you may be aware that the Inclusion, Attendance and Welfare Service (IAWS) have been moved to work alongside the Virtual School under a Head of Service for Virtual School and Inclusion. While this team delivers some important statutory services, many schools buy in extra support. Isabelle Morgan, the team manager, will shortly be sending a letter to the schools who do not trade with the Service. The letter outlines the IAWS offer and commitment following the restructure. We are aiming to ensure that the service is responsive to need while fulfilling statutory responsibilities.
The inclusion and welfare conversations with schools over the past year have been highly beneficial in identifying and maintaining oversight of the vulnerable children and families. As most children and young people return to school, involvement with CME, exclusions, Fair Access and supporting the secondary cluster models, along with business as usual EWO attendance and welfare monitoring will be the main focus.
The numbers of requests to electively home educate have increased, as they have done nationally. Within the restructure we appointed a dedicated EHE officer to work with families, and across the team the submissions from parents that identify whether or not a suitable education is being provided at home. When a student is first removed for EHE, we would encourage schools to keep children on roll for a short period (with the parents consent) while parents begin to recognise their commitment and possibly review their decisions.
The Virtual School has continued largely as business as usual in terms of PEPs and allocation of additional funding and support. There have been some benefits of virtual meetings and on occasions these may continue to take place. We are though, mindful of the additional support and personal interaction that visiting schools can bring and we very much want to have a physical presence and see some children again! Once it becomes appropriate and useful to do so, the programme of in-school monitoring and support visits will restart. The training offer has been maintained but we acknowledge the limitations that this can bring, especially when the focus is around group interaction. It is hoped that the EP provision will increase after the Easter break, when we can, again, provide the support and guidance that has been such a valuable addition to the team in the past few years.
Visitors to Schools
Every school's Covid visitor policy aims to keep everyone on the site safe during the pandemic. In this reopening period, the number of visitors to school should still be kept to minimum. If, however, there is a pressing need for a face to face meeting with a visitor, or an in-person visit to the school site, apart from school's own Covid visitor policy, NSPCC has published an excellent safeguarding guidance for schools on receiving visitors - including unplanned visitors - as well as for people and organisations visiting schools. During the pandemic, schools are still allowed to host necessary visitors such as educational psychologists and counsellors, who very often have to physically visit a school to undertake their professional tasks. The NSPCC guidance's content covers:
- policies and procedures
- vetting disclosure and barring checks
- a code of behaviour
- and a check list for visitors
While we are transiting to a more normal environment of education provision safely and in pace, I would like to keep you informed of any development in LA's support services for schools.
Essential Information Weekly Headteachers Meeting
The Essential Info. Headteacher 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 headteachers; if you wish to join please use the link below:
Sessions are recorded and can be found on the 'Essential information for schools' web page https://www.plymouthonlinedirectory.com/covid19/septguidanceforschools
- Assessment update
- Decolonising the Curriculum
- Early Years update
Plymouth City Council are looking for Covid 19 Community Champions to volunteer and help the local community stay aware, informed and up-to-date with the information they need to remain safe and healthy. Anyone who lives or works in the City can become a Community Champion, they just need to be willing to share accurate information quickly to their local community. Please see the flier attached to this Bulletin for further details and how to sign up.
As schools have embarked on their wider re-opening, school improvement teams are edging back into business as usual. Whilst we will continue to answer any COVID-19 concerns through the Children Services Response email and during the Essential Information for Schools meeting on a Monday at 1.00pm, the focus of our broader work is looking at School Improvement. Inclusion and Health and Wellbeing. The pandemic has provided us with an opportunity to reflect on how, when and what we communicate with schools and school/academy leaders. The bulletin and Monday Essential Information for Schools meetings are examples of this and these will continue to develop to meet the changing needs of our education community.
Throughout the pandemic, work has continued behind the scenes to progress a number of areas including the Inclusion Award and the SEND Review and Framework 2022 - 2025. Other aspects of our work continue and are detailed on the POD, for example you can find a wealth of information regarding the support of the City's Young Carers within the Young Carers Hub (housed within the Plymouth Online Directory). We continue to provide a range of school development services including Prevent/WRAP Training, the twice monthly Plymouth Health & Wellbeing in Education Briefings, the Healthy Child Quality Mark and, in partnership with the Plymouth Teaching Schools Alliance, the PSHE Hub.
Emotional and Mental Health in Schools remains a priority. The Wellbeing for Education Return programme has already made a significant impact for children and young people within 53 of the City's schools and will contribute to the overall development of a commissioned Mental Health Offer for the City. As schools return to full practice, briefings for school and wider professionals will resume, including Designated Safeguarding Lead, SEND and Assessment briefings etc.
Future Plans - questionnaire for secondary students
Attached questionnaire for the attention of secondary schools. At present applications to study pharmacy in Devon & Cornwall are much lower than the rest of the country and so some research is taking place. Not only may students be missing out on great career opportunities but also we really do struggle to recruit pharmacists in the SW, resulting in significant vacancies which means less expertise in medicines to support our population.
Early years and childcare update
All childcare establishments have remained open throughout the last lockdown, albeit with restrictions, and the sector have risen to the challenges admirably. Last week, the Chancellor announced several financial measures to help childcare businesses. The early years and childcare staff continue to offer a variety of support to all childcare organisations in this ever changing landscape. Some examples (however not limited to) are as follows.
The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile reforms are underway and the Local Authority Early Years team are helping the sector to manage this transition. The proposal to realign services into Family Hubs was agreed at Cabinet on Tuesday. It is now full steam ahead to bring this aspiration to fruition. The Professional Development Programme continues and will be cascading training in communication, language and maths to 15 childcare settings during the Summer Term. A new pilot project called Sound Explorers will also start in the Summer Term. Early Years are working in partnership with Plymouth Music Education Hub and Evolve Music to provide community music sessions on a one to one basis for children experiencing/expressing emotional/behavioural/developmental/educational challenges using the medium of music. The community music sessions on a group basis are designed to enhance education, wellbeing, curriculum development and outcomes. In addition and following the success of the NASEN project, the SEND Review Tool and the learning from the initial project will be utilised through workshops and SEND briefings, please look out for the opportunity for you and your staff to join us.
The National Award for Special Educational Needs Coordination
Please find attached information about the National Award for SEN Coordination, a mandatory qualification for all new to role SENCOS. Aspiring or experienced SENCOs can also gain the award. Applications are now open for September 2021
Keeping children safe in education
Wellbeing for Education Return offer
Please see the two attachments outlining the wellbeing offer to schools
Reports for Child Protection conferences
A reminder from CYPFS, Quality Assurance and Safeguarding Service of the importance of providing a report when attending either an Initial Child Protection Conference or a Review Child Protection Conference. We understand that these are busy times, however, the team have noticed an increase in reports not being received at all, or only being received on the day of review which can lead to an impact on information sharing and vital preparation in advance of the meeting.
We are aware of the ongoing challenges across all agencies and the impact of ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, however, it is essential that families are able to see in writing the worries and strengths raised in connection to them prior to review meetings. It is also important that all involved in the core group of agencies are aware of the strengths or worries being identified by others and properly prepare in advance of a meeting. Prompt sharing of information helps to ensure that everyone involved has a clear understanding and families and participants are better able to contribute more fully.
For an Initial Conference schools will receive an invitation to the meeting with a blank copy of the report that is expected to be completed and sent to ChildProtect@plymouth.gov.uk within 2 days of the meeting. During the Initial Conference a date will be set for the review and will be noted on the front sheet of the minutes. If schools are not sure of the date of an upcoming review then please check this with the social worker during core group meetings or with the Chair as no invitations are sent between reviews. Schools will receive details of dialling in instructions for an Initial or Review Conference 24 hours before a review and copies of any reports received.
We thank you in advance for your cooperation on this matter and appreciate that the majority of schools do provide reports in a timely manner and communicate with the Chair in advance if this is going to be a problem.
Solihull Approach - Understanding your Child's Feelings
This new course from the Solihull Approach is available using our existing access code: TAMAR offers an opportunity to try out a shorter online course to support the mental health of parents and the well-being of children and young people. The content is relevant for anyone who cares for a child/young person, including school staff.
Sign up for free here: https://inourplace.heiapply.com/online-learning/login
Attachments from Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel
Please find attached a letter from the newly appointed Chair of the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel, Annie Hudson. This letter provides an update upon the Panel's work and includes actions they are taking to enhance their engagement with safeguarding partners. Of particular interest to the PSCP:
The Panel's Annual Report will be published next month and will provide us with a useful window on national safeguarding practice, the key findings and recommendations from which will be reviewed and absorbed into Plymouth by our Child Safeguarding Practice Review Group.
Information from the thematic review 'It was Hard to Escape' will be of pertinence to our Strategic Missing and Child Exploitation Group, and those involved within the wider development and implementation of the Adolescent Safety Framework; the Phase 2 work of the Panel will improve our learning.
The 'Out of Routine' thematic review is being progressed by the Child Safeguarding Practice Review and Terms of Reference have been developed to assist a task and finish group to implement a prevent and protect model for the city on SUDI in vulnerable families. This has proven to be a theme within our Plymouth reviews, and indeed one of our cases was reviewed as part of the national review.
Non- accidental injuries in children under one has been a theme for Plymouth over recent years, and nationally the COVID19 period has seen an increase in the no. of incident notifications nationally. The findings from this review, due to be published in June 2021, will support our continued learning into practice on prevention of head trauma, coping with crying babies and being sighted on the role of men. Please see http://www.plymouthscb.co.uk/icon-babies-cry-you-can-cope/ for more information.
Future thematic analysis
This is particularly useful and I recommend agencies read the COVID19 Practice Briefing and consider the implications and resultant activities within their service and practice. This is being reviewed in the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Group.
The intent to review elective home education picks up queries and scrutiny recently undertaken with the Quality Assurance Group, together with initial findings from quality assurance work re. Risk Assessment and Decision making.
Happy to discuss the content of the attached further with those that would wish to. In the interim, can I ask you to consider how the valuable information contained in the letter and attached reports can support your agency practice, single agency learning and quality assurance activities. This will be picked up in the near future via the Chairs of our Groups.
Guidance on the suspension and expulsion of pupils from local-authority-maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units. Updated 'Changes to the school suspension and expulsion process during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak' to highlight the changes from 25 March 2021.
Children and young people will have access to significantly expanded mental health services, backed by funding of £79 million.
- Nearly 3 million children in England to be supported by mental health support teams in schools
- Around 22,500 more children and young people to be able to access community mental health services
- 2,000 more children and young people to have access to eating disorder services
Details of successful applications for free schools and university technical colleges (UTCs) in the pre-opening stage.
What all schools will need to do during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Updated operational guidance on face coverings and on safety for transport users.
Latest information and actions from the Education and Skills Funding Agency for academies, schools, colleges, local authorities and further education providers.
Guidance for schools and local authorities on school meals arrangements during the coronavirus
(COVID-19) outbreak. Guidance updated to include information on providing school meals from 08 March 2021.
Understand how to follow safeguarding procedures when planning remote education strategies and teaching remotely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Updated with additional information on keeping children and young people safe online, and advice on live streaming lessons.
A 10-week consultation has started on how GCSE MFL qualifications in French, German and Spanish will be assessed in the future.
DfE are seeking views on centralising the payment of business rates for state-funded schools from the 2022 to 2023 financial year onwards. This consultation closes at 11:45pm on 05 May 2021