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Education Bulletin - 13 May 2021

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Updated 13 May 2021

Important contact details

From Ming Zhang
Service Director of Education, Participation and Skills

Dear colleagues,

By the end of this week, I will have been working with Plymouth local authority and school leaders for six months precisely, already a rewarding experience being part of this evolving and deepening partnership in which school leaders, local authority and other partners work in synergy to overcome the enormous daily challenges that Covid has presented to us and to plan beyond the pandemic. The commitment and hard work of school leaders and staff are clearly evident in what I have seen and heard during my visits to schools in the past few weeks. Thank you again for what you have achieved.

Lifting of Covid restrictions local updates

The nation is moving to step 3 of lifting Covid restrictions on 17 May, which will be another milestone. In today's bulletin, I include a Plymouth Covid update letter from Dr Ruth Harrell, Director of Public Health and the latest Public Health COVID-19 stakeholder briefing, focusing on the next step in the easing of the restrictions across the city.

Case rates in Plymouth vary over the last few weeks. Currently our case rate is 26.3 cases per 100,000, which is higher than the averages for both the South West and England but overall, numbers are quite low. However, as there are so few cases, a single cluster or outbreak can make a noticeable difference. There are no concerning clusters or outbreaks in the city currently. The lifting of restrictions should be data led and so the journey out of this lockdown must be slow and careful. We are coming to the end of the second phase of the Government's roadmap out of lockdown and we can see nationally as well as locally, that this easing has had little effect on the case rates. The vaccination programme is progressing very well, with evidence that vaccinations are preventing serious illness and reducing transmission.

Wellbeing and Mental Health in Education

Building on the success of the Wellbeing for Education Return (WfER) which started in September 2020, the Government this week announced a decision to extend the programme, asking local authorities to continue to co-ordinate this important aspect of education recovery work. I would like to take the opportunity to update you on the completion of last WfER in Plymouth while we are preparing for its extended programme:

Last WfER programme has two elements; training and support. The training is a nationally developed and government funded package, provided by the Anna Freud Centre to support wellbeing as part of the COVID-19 pandemic. There were 49 education settings (primary, secondary, SEND, AP and FE) in Plymouth that participated in Webinar 1 and 2. 100% of Education Settings in Plymouth have received relevant resources and signposting information. The recorded Webinars and resources are now hosted on the Plymouth Online Directory website. Advice and guidance has been given to 45 education settings with 24 settings receiving support and/or supervision. The Advice, Signposting and Resources has included information requests about local agencies, shared resources relating to home learning, social media safety, healthy relationships and trauma informed practice. The Advice and Guidance has largely centred on specific children and young people whom are demonstrating individual needs such as bereavement and loss. The Support available for the whole school community such as Staff Wellbeing Workshops and check-in sessions, whole school WER training events, bespoke school based sessions such as Risk Taking Behaviour, Virtual and Face-to-Face Pupil Workshops and email/telephone contact from parents to signpost to resources and services. The support element will continue until the end of this academic year.

Going forward, what should be included in the next programme of WfER needs to be informed by the views from school leaders, LA and other partners on what we think is needed. That would then give us an idea of whether that can be delivered in-house or via a commissioned service. While my teams will start to gather views from the stakeholders, you may want to share your views by emailing me your suggestion directly.

Summer Schools Initiative

While I know that some schools in Plymouth have already expressed an interest in this programme, the DfE are keen to encourage more schools to sign up to the initiative, and we understand that this is something Ofsted will consider in future school inspections. In today's bulletin, we include more details about this programme in order to highlight the benefits to young people, particularly those moving from primary to secondary school this year.

If your school is planning to offer a summer school, please access DfE funding and let us know details - even if you are promoting the learning under a different name! Simply email your feedback to:

Kind regards.


Education information

Plymouth secondary strategy: SEND in a nutshell - message from Chrysta Garnett

Following excellent input at the Plymouth Strategy Group and at PLT recently, Heads should get in contact directly with Malcolm Reeve from Whole School SEND if they wish to take up the offer of a granular analysis of SEND cohorts in their respective schools via his 'SEND in a Nutshell' offer. Essentially it is a one-page overview containing key information and used to raise the profile and understanding of SEND amongst leaders, staff, governors and other stakeholders. It represents phenomenal value at £60. Contact Malcolm at: for further details.

Statutory assessment update

Primary schools have recently been notified by STA that the Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) will be statutory from September 2021. The RBA provides a snapshot of where pupils are when they arrive at school and a starting point to measure the progress pupils make between reception and the end of KS2, enabling useful analysis especially important following the impact of Covid, and a measure we know primary headteachers have wanted in place for a long time.

Pupils will complete practical tasks using physical resources, and practitioners will log their responses using an online platform) pilot analysis showed that pupils took an average of approximately 14 minutes to complete the tasks) and schools will receive narrative statements describing what each pupil was able to do.

STA have published the assessment and reporting arrangements to be used by headteachers and schools. On Monday 17 May, headteachers will receive a short online form to fill out. This form will capture key information about the school, and will allow headteachers to nominate an RBA lead to oversee the day-to-day running of the assessment.

Optional June 2021 multiplication checks

STA have also published details for the June 2021optional multiplication tables check (MTC) which schools may choose to administer to some or all of Y4 pupils from Monday 7 June to Friday 25 June. Any school with Y4 pupils can now access MTC service through DfE Sign-in. Approvers can add the MTC to their own account through the 'services' page and may also wish to give other school staff access.  

Supporting children and families in education

Summer Schools in the South West

Over the past few weeks we have been asking secondary schools to share with us their Summer Schools Programme. The DfE are keen to emphasise the enrichment, as well as the learning benefits of Summer Schools, and with this in mind, we hope that the ideas below will help to confirm your school's ability to focus on the year groups that will benefit the most from Summer School learning.


Summer Schools form one part of the educational recovery programme of funding available to schools, aiming to close the gap in pupil learning caused by the ongoing Covid pandemic. They can be a one or two-week long programme of activities, providing a range of academic and enrichment activities. Schools can determine the exact blend of academic and enrichment activities depending on the needs of their pupils.


DfE research estimates that in the first half-term of autumn 2020, pupils in years 3-9 were on average around 1.6-2 months behind on their reading and those in years 3-7 were around 3.2 months behind on their maths. Pupils in high-FSM schools were on average further behind than those in low-FSM schools. Anecdotal evidence also points to children and young people's mental health having suffered from lockdown and from periods of individual or class isolation even after schools reopened fully in the autumn term.

For whom?

We expect that most schools will want to focus this provision primarily on pupils making the transition into year 7, but it is for school leaders to determine which of their pupils would most benefit from a summer school. Funding is available to state-funded secondary and special schools, non-maintained special schools and pupil referral units. We are able to provide funding to each school based on up to 50% of their year 7 cohort being offered a place on a two-week programme, or 100% of the cohort being offered a week-long programme. This funding equates to £597 per two-week place (£1791 per place for pupils in special schools, special units within mainstream schools and alternative provision).


Schools should confirm their participation in the programme via an on-line registration form. At this stage, we will need confirmation only that schools intend to run a summer school, whether individually or jointly with other schools. All participating schools will require a DfE sign-in account. Case Study example: Outdoor Learning

The school targeted a group of 118 Year 8 pupils based on Pupil Premium and SEND pupils. The aim was to provide an opportunity for those pupils who are, due to their socio-economic backgrounds, less likely to encounter opportunities to build their self-belief, resilience and character and that will impact positively on their physical and mental health and well-being. The activities therefore focussed on the need to broaden horizons and self-awareness, increase determination and resilience, increase self-confidence and raise expectations and aspirations, and improve teamwork and social skills.

  • "The trip was an amazing experience because I did things that I had never done. The thing I especially liked was the caves because we had skills to learn like we had to work as a team." (Anonymous pupil)
  • "The students really enjoyed the trip. It was lovely to see the students working as a team, supporting one another and cheering each other on. Every student climbed the climbing wall and descended with pride and a sense of accomplishment at what they had achieved." (Year 8 form tutor)

Case study example: Saturday School

This school delivered a creative, enriching literacy and numeracy focussed Saturday School for Year 6-8 students, improving their attendance, attitudes and abilities. The objective was to raise achievement in the core academic subjects through accessing high quality, creative and practical additional learning hours; provide assistance for pupils leaving primary and transitioning to secondary school; improve the emotional well-being of young people through community engagement, and personal, social and health education; raise aspirations; and increase culture capital by the creation of meaningful enrichment opportunities and innovative curriculum design.

Case study example: Measuring progress in literacy

The school adopted a structured literacy programme and was very optimistic that the pupils would demonstrate sustainable progress during the autumn term. Staff tested individual pupils and set a baseline for sentence structure, punctuation, vocabulary, purpose, audience and form, with progress measured on a daily basis during the summer school. There were measurable gains even in two weeks. Teachers were satisfied that the pupils were aware of their assessment criteria and had refreshed their literacy skills.

We know from experience that Summer Schools are fun and hugely beneficial. For more information, please find the DfE-published guidance here.

New DfE funded Opening School Facilities Programme

As part of the School Sport & Activity Action Plan, Sport England have announced  £10.1 million of DfE funding will be invested into the Active Partnership network across England to support schools in opening facilities outside of the normal school day (evenings, weekends, and holidays) to allow young people more opportunities to be physically active. There are five elements to this investment:

  • Support schools to safely re-open their facilities to the local community.
  • Support schools to safely open their facilities to the local community for the first time.
  • Support schools to ensure their provision is led by the needs of their local community.
  • Support schools to extend their current community use offer.
  • Support schools to develop extra-curricular opportunities and community links for children and young people with SEND and/or from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Schools are invited to apply for between £1000-£8000 of funding to support delivery of one or more of the above. Active Devon is managing the programme across Devon and will be allocating the funding and providing schools with ongoing support and guidance throughout the programme.

The Application Guidance and FAQs and Eligible Spend documents attached are designed to give you all the information you need to complete an Expression of Interest for your school.  The Expression of Interest form can be found here. The deadline for applications is Friday 28 May 2021 with final decisions being made in early June.

We are hosting a webinar for schools on Monday 24 May 4.00pm - 5.00pm to answer any questions and to share ideas. You can book your place here.

2021 Fit and Fed programme

All local authorities across England have received funding from the DfE Holiday Activity and Food Fund to provide free access to holiday clubs for benefit-related FSM children during 2021 school holidays. The Holiday Activity and Food Fund has provided healthy food and enriching activities to disadvantaged children since 2018 and Plymouth City Council's Sports Development Unit has coordinated successful Fit and Fed holiday programmes in Plymouth as part of the national pilot programmes since 2018.

Any school that operates their own holiday club programme can benefit from this funding. Also, if schools engage a third party organisation to deliver their holiday club or allow a third party organisation to hire their facilities to deliver holiday clubs, they too can benefit from this funding. Please see attached fliers for further information.

Government updates

Face coverings no longer required in schools and colleges from 17 May

Face coverings will no longer have to be worn in classrooms or communal areas by pupils. The decision has taken into consideration the latest scientific evidence, medical advice and stakeholder feedback on the impacts of wearing face coverings in schools and colleges. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

  • Step three of the roadmap allows people to mix indoors once again and in line with the latest data, we no longer need to recommend that face coverings are worn in the classroom.
  • Over the past year we have always put the wellbeing of pupils and staff first, and this step is now the right one, as vaccinations protect the most vulnerable in society and we turn our attention to building back better from the pandemic.
  • Testing in schools and colleges continues to be important, so I urge all students, families and teachers to keep testing themselves twice weekly, to help reduce the risk of transmission.

Some pupils with SEND missing out on specialist support

Some pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) in mainstream schools are not getting enough help to support their learning and development, even when external services are involved, according to a new research report by Ofsted.

Revolutionise skills and training opportunities

New laws will create a post-16 and adult education and training system that is fit for the future, providing the skills that people need for well-paid jobs and opportunities to train throughout their lifetime. The legislative measures include:

  • Lifetime skills guarantee to enable flexible access to high quality education and training throughout people's lives.
  • Enabling a new student finance system to transform the current student loans system, which will give every adult access to a flexible loan for higher-level education and training at university or college, useable at any point in their lives.
  • Employers will have a statutory role in planning publicly funded training programmes with education providers, through a "Skills Accelerator" programme.
  • The Secretary of State for Education will be given more powers to intervene in colleges that fail to meet local needs and to direct structural change where needed to ensure the provider improves.

What parents and carers need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges during COVID-19

Information for parents and carers about attending schools, nurseries and colleges in the spring term 2021. The guidance for parents has been updated in line with Step 3 of the Roadmap, including information on face coverings, testing, travel abroad and educational visits.

Ofsted publishes research review on religious education

Ofsted has published the second in a series of reviews into different subjects across the curriculum.

This review looks at religious education.

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.

Responsibility for exams

Guidance for schools, colleges and exam centres on who should enter students for exams, the health arrangements for exams and the support DfE is providing. Updated 'Public health guidance to support exams from January 2021' to reflect Step 3 of the Roadmap. The guidance on face coverings has been updated and information specific to the spring term 2021 has been removed.

Transport to school and other places of education: 2020 to 2021 academic year

This guidance sets out what local authorities will need to do during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak for the 2020 to 2021 academic year. Updated to reflect the schools guidance on testing and face coverings for Step 3 of the Roadmap from 17 May 2021.

Monthly estimates of education output for remote learners during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Monthly estimates of education output for remote learners during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with breakdowns by school phases, regions and Ofsted ratings.

Schools and colleges to benefit from boost in expert mental health support

As part of Mental Health Awareness week, the Government has today announced more than £17 million to build on mental health support already available in education settings, to prioritise wellbeing alongside academic recovery. Up to 7,800 schools and colleges in England will be offered funding worth £9.5 million to train a senior mental health lead from their staff in the next academic year, part of the Government's commitment to offering this training to all state schools and colleges by 2025.

Funding also includes a new £7 million Wellbeing for Education Recovery programme, which provides free expert training, support and resources for staff dealing with children and young people experiencing additional pressures from the last year - including trauma, anxiety, or grief. The programme builds on the success of the Department for Education's Wellbeing for Education Return, used by more than 90% of councils since its launch last summer.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing in schools and colleges: grant funding

Conditions of grant funding for the national roll-out of rapid mass testing for coronavirus (COVID-19) in schools and colleges. Updated the conditions of grant document for funding for testing.

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