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Education Bulletin - 12 November 2020

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Updated 12 November 2020

Important contact details

Children's Service general queries

General Covid-19 queries to the Local Authority


Message from Judith

If you've managed to find time to read this week's Bulletin, sit down, maybe fix yourself a hot drink, and take a breath - because you've made it to the end of the first week in this second period of lockdown.

We know that across the city headteachers are unlocking on cold, dark mornings, out on the school gate, serving lunches and emptying bins, risk assessing, providing emotional support to staff, children and families, leading learning - and then thinking about the strategic leadership of the school. We know how hard schools are working during these challenging times, and recognise the difference that sustained effort makes to the children and young people of this city. We are also working hard to support you and to support children across the city - we're in this together and we're doing ok.

This week's Headteacher Teams meeting highlighted the great work teachers are doing to provide learning matched to children's needs; filling gaps and meeting emerging areas of disadvantage not seen before - many of these reflected nationally and discussed in the latest report from Ofsted (link below).  Headteacher discussions also focused on ways schools are prioritising support for children's emotional and physical wellbeing; rebuilding resilience and positive learning behaviours, and helping children get active. Both these elements of provision are important, as the report in today's Guardian points out, early testing results shared by Hodder Education indicate an average attainment drop between 5 - 5%, particularly amongst the youngest and most deprived children:

So, as managing Covid becomes 'the new normal,' we can't lose sight of good quality teaching based on frequent assessments.    

We encourage all headteachers to join the weekly online meetings when possible, we are all in this together, and sharing is a source of strength.

Much of this week's Bulletin focuses on children's safety and wellbeing. As we are regularly seeing closures of bubbles across the city, we remind colleagues in schools and settings to use the specific Covid19 email address to report cases; helping to avoid duplication and ensure a swift response in terms of advice and support. The Virtual School team provide essential guidance (attached to this issue) which will help schools in supporting vulnerable children linked to social workers - the clear, visual guide is easily accessible and will prove helpful. We also share details of support on offer from the NSPCC, Armed Forces and the School Nurse Team, together with SEND updates.

This week, despite Covid restrictions, many schools were able to safely take part in SMSC activities to commemorate Remembrance Day. Children at Marine Academy Primary baked poppy biscuits, made a poppy wreath and reached out to a local veteran and British Legion member. With this in mind, and knowing that many schools are seeking positive reasons for writing, we include again in this issue the pen pal initiative led by Cllrs Kate Taylor and Jon Taylor, and encourage schools to get involved.

There's a lot of information contained in the Government updates today - key issues will be included as 'matters arising' in the Monday Headteachers' meeting.

And finally, as the team here work together to support the teams in schools, this week we've also been doing what we can to support our colleague Heather Ogburn, who sadly lost her husband last weekend. Most schools in Plymouth will have been helped along the way, at some time or other, by Heather, either through her work in National Strategies, school improvement, safeguarding, or Armed Forces events. We are sure you will join us in wishing her hope and strength at this difficult time.

However hectic your week has been, take time to rest and recover over the weekend. As a city we are doing a great job for our children and young people, and together we will continue to do so!  


Head teacher Teams meeting

The weekly Head teacher Teams meeting is an opportunity to discuss matters arising with colleagues or to address specific themes.  The next meeting is scheduled for 1pm, Monday 16 November  Those of you who join the meeting regularly will already have the link in your diary.  If you wish to join and are not on the list simply follow the link below:

Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

Sessions are recorded and can be found on the 'Essential information for schools' web page

Next Monday's agenda includes: 

1.     Ofsted briefing on schools: October 2020

2.     Impact of lockdown - schools supporting recently qualifies teachers

Important information for EY settings

A brief but important reminder to all EY settings that any information about suspected or confirmed Covid cases should be emailed to the Covid19 email address:  (not to any other Public Health email addresses). This will ensure a swift response and avoid duplication around suspected and confirmed outbreaks from settings. Please can schools working with EY settings help us to work together effectively by sharing this message wherever possible.  

Sharing information about vulnerable children who have a social worker

I hope you are finding the information provided about children with social work involvement useful. From Monday 16th November, I have requested that the latest CYPFS RAG assessment is added to the spreadsheet. The rationale for their assessments is included below. Assessments for children in care are not complete yet so these may not appear by Monday, but I am confident that between us, the Virtual School and Designated Teachers already have a good understanding of the current level of risk for this group.

While I am sending CYPFS a weekly update on which schools have bubbles home, it is far more effective for schools to contact social workers directly. I know most schools are doing this already, and thank you for doing so. Being aware of everyone's time pressures and staffing challenges, if you have problems in establishing contact, please continue to contact me: or and we will try to help.

Young Carers data collection

Once a year the Local Authority collect data on the number of young carers that attend each school in Plymouth. This request is sent directly to young carers' leads in schools. It is vital that this collection is completed that so that the LA can build an accurate picture of need across the city, respond to freedom of information requests and bid for any appropriate funding available (we do not collect names). Thank you to those 73 schools that have submitted their data so far.

If your school has yet to submit your numbers please do so by answering the questions on the following link As the deadline for this data collection has now passed it is vital that this is completed at your earliest convenience.

School Nurse Newsletter

Please see the attached School Nurse newsletter and letter of assurance setting out important updates for schools.

Free Healthy Relationships Training Resource for Schools

Plymouth NSPCC's Together for Childhood initiative is launching its new free webinar for schools.

This locally developed resource for schools to support implementation of RSE curriculum launches in the week ahead. Together for Childhood has created a webinar, "Confidence in Discussing Healthy Relationships." This free resource provides school staff with a training session covering issues which can impact on teachers' confidence. The webinar can be viewed here:

The idea for the webinar came for the work of young people who developed the EMPOWER approach to healthy relationships in Plymouth. They reported that the most important factor for the effectiveness of lessons on RSE was the confidence of teachers in the delivery. The original EMPOWER resources are still available and a newly developed resource pack to support schools to create their own EMPOWER group has been developed. These are available free of charge by emailing:

Armed Forces Wraparound Childcare Pilot (FREE places for eligible children)

DCYP, the part of the Ministry of Defence that looks after the children and young people of Service families, through the Childcare Support Team (CST), are putting in place a one year, (rolling academic year), pilot that will pay for the Wraparound Childcare, (WAC), that eligible Service families use. This will be for those Service families with children aged 4-11 years old, during term time only, for up to a maximum of 20 hours a week, at a regional capped rate.

The Plymouth area has been chosen for the pilot commencing in January 2021 and will run for a minimum of one academic year. A decision will be made on completion of the pilots as to whether the scheme will be rolled-out to Service families across the UK.

If you are a school providing wraparound care, please see the attached letter for further details of this scheme and how to participate.

I just wanted to get in touch as we head into the second lockdown with an update on the options that we have decided to put in place to ensure that schools still have access to our productions.

Developing writing skills - and helping beat loneliness

Plymouth City Council has a commitment to tackling loneliness in the city, and one of the ways we look to do this is by encouraging inter-generational conversations and activities which decrease the risk of loneliness, and encourage friendship and development.

Several initiatives started before the pandemic such as primary schools visiting patients in Mount Gould Hospital, and secondary schools enjoying croquet sessions with older people have been put on hold, and so the Council wish to continue fostering links between generations in a COVID-safe way.

Please see the letter attached from Cllrs. Kate and Jon Taylor encouraging schools to become involved in a pen pal scheme between local care homes and schools. This scheme offers meaningful reasons for writing, and gives children an opportunity to help others, as well as helping to decrease loneliness at a time where visits to care homes are more challenging and socialisation between groups much less. Details of how to get involved are included in the letter.

Alter Ego Creative Solutions for secondary schools

Whilst not able to work in schools currently Alter Ego Creative Solutions are offering alternative drama based initiatives aimed at sharing important messages with young people via their Streamed to be Seen project. From January 2021 they will offer three different options for schools, each available until the end of April 2021.

Option 1 - live versions of a play and post-show talk delivered in school.

Option 2 - filmed version of the play that schools can access for one day followed by either a pre-recorded post-show talk or a number of live streamed post-show talks/Q&As throughout the day with actors to each class that saw the film.

Option 3 - serialised, filmed version in five sections, accessed over five days. Each section accompanied with an activity/discussion pack.

Topics include: Chelsea's Story (year 7+, Child Sexual Exploitation); County Lines (Year 7+, Child Criminal Exploitation); Going to Extremes (Year 7+, Radicalisation & Extremism) and In the Net (year 4, e-Safety). To find out more, to enquire about costs, to book one of the options or to enquire about the possibility of us filming a show that we are not currently streaming please do get in touch.

SEND updates

Please see the attachment:COVID Plymouth Advisory Team for Sensory Support-Visual Impairment

Government updates

What parents and carers need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Information for parents and carers about going back to schools, nurseries and colleges in the autumn term. Guidance updated to include information on the national restrictions by adding a 'national restrictions' section and updating the relevant information about face coverings, clinically extremely vulnerable children and extra-curricular activities.

New winter package to provide further support for children and families

Councils given new funding for vulnerable households. The funding will be ring-fenced, with at least 80% earmarked for support with food and bills, and will cover the period to the end of March 2021. Local Authorities will receive the funding at the beginning of December 2020.

  • £170m Covid Winter Grant Scheme to support children, families and the most vulnerable over winter
  • Holiday Activities and Food programme to be expanded, covering Easter, Summer and Christmas in 2021
  • Healthy Start payments set to rise from £3.10 to £4.25 a week from April 2021
  • Suite of measures represents long-term plan to help tackle poor health, hunger and education.

Use of the NHS COVID-19 app in education and childcare settings

Actions for leaders and staff when using the NHS COVID-19 app in education and childcare settings. The requirements on displaying QR codes have been updated alongside the information classified as necessary or required. Links to wraparound care and EY providers guidance have also been added.

COVID-19 series: briefing on schools, October 2020

Evidence from visits to schools between 29 September and 23 October 2020. The briefing note reports on 380 Ofsted visits and is the second briefing to be produced with another due to be published in December. The main findings include:

  • Variability in the extent to which pupils have returned to school this term: not all pupils have come back following the first national lockdown. While, in many schools, attendance rates for those who have come back are normal for this time of year, in others it is now being affected by groups of pupils having to self-isolate.
  • Leaders have said that they were making some adaptations to their curriculum, based on practical considerations, or as a result of pupils having lost learning while not at school, or often both.
  • Leaders also talked about the many challenges they were facing in keeping their schools safe and open and reported that pupils were generally happy to be back, and had settled in well. Many were clear about the changes they had seen in some pupils, including poorer physical and mental health.

COVID-19 series: briefing on local areas' SEND provision, October 2020

Evidence from 6 visits to local areas, looking at their special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision between 5 and 14 October 2020. The main findings include:

  • Many families and survey respondents found the first national COVID-19 restrictions challenging and said coping got harder as time went on. Parents/carers who normally relied on established routines, informal and family support networks and specialist services for their children struggled without them.
  • Some spoke about their child's regression, their own emerging mental health difficulties, challenges of explaining restrictions to children, or real concerns about the risks the virus posed to their child's health.
  • Some children and young people had positive experiences, at least in some respects. Those who remained in education throughout were reported to have benefited from the experience and often flourished with smaller class sizes and more support. Others enjoyed being at home and made progress.
  • Some area leaders described their ambition to put children and young people with SEND and their families at their heart of strategic planning.
  • Some practitioners also described steps taken to ensure service continuity. Families in all six areas spoke about the benefits of bringing multi-agency practitioners together online.
  • Some services, such as short breaks, physiotherapy and occupational therapy, were difficult or impossible to deliver at distance. There were also concerns that not all families were able to access online provision equally because they did not have the technology or because English was not their first language.
  • In all six local areas, some families reported receiving little or even no contact from practitioners. Some children did not receive learning support and some were not able to access health and therapeutic services.

Ofsted: Children hardest hit by COVID-19 pandemic are regressing in basic skills and learning (new)

Ofsted has today published its second report on the effects of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic across the sectors it inspects and regulates.

Have your say on post-16 level 2 and below study

A call for evidence seeking views on how to ensure post-16 qualifications at level 2 and below - excluding GCSEs - can support more people to progress into further study or employment, has been launched today.

Next Bulletin: 19 November 2020

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