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Education Bulletin - 14 January 2021

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Updated 14 January 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

Dear Colleagues

It was a great pleasure to meet so many of you again at Monday's extraordinary Headteachers and CEOs meeting. The feedback is reassuring that many of you found the gathering of all Plymouth school leaders is helpful in rising up to the challenge of this unprecedented situation. There is a strong sense that we are all in this together. This week, there is a high number of Government's new announcements, guidance and the local responses. Here are a few key points:

Extraordinary Headteachers/CEOs meeting

Since January reopening, we have held two extraordinary Headteachers/CEOs meetings in response to the rapid development and the daily changes of the situation that impact on every school, college and early years setting. Although each meeting lasted only half an hour, the feedback suggests that many of you feel it is a valuable opportunity for all Headteachers/CEOs to share the main concerns and to find solutions in one online meeting room. However, I believe that you may now need more space to deal with the priorities at the school. We have therefore decided not to hold further weekly extraordinary meeting, which can resume any time when and if school leaders feel it is still needed.

The designated link LA officer arrangement has been rolled out, which will provide you with a designated contact point should you need to discuss any issue besides the use of the COVID Response inbox:

School Mass Testing

I am pleased that in Plymouth all our secondary schools and the special schools/APs with secondary age pupils have undertaken the testing. The Secretary of State for Education announced yesterday that the testing will roll out to primary schools with the testing kits delivered to schools from 18th January. We have not had the guidance yet. My understanding is that self-test (home test) kits will be rolled out to primary schools from next week for use by all staff. The kits will start to arrive in schools from Monday, but will take all week to reach every primary school.

Where early years settings are attached to primary schools they will get tests as well, as will maintained nurseries, which will take a little longer than primaries, so not next week. Other nurseries will be part of wider community testing later. Obviously, there will be a whole new cohort of people that will need training to use the tests and ensure that they are using them correctly. I have been advised that the DfE guidance will be issued to schools in due course. If you have not received a delivery by close on 22 January, or have missing or damaged items, please complete this Government online contact form. You will need the URN for your school or college to complete this form. You do not need to start any testing before the week commencing 25 January. I would like to advise that schools should follow the specific guidance that will be issued by the Government.

I also understand that the home testing kits will also be for secondary school teaching staff shortly.

Early Years Census and Funding

The anxiously awaited guidance on Early Years funding has been published today and settings will be funded for the registered children who are absent during the current lockdown. Early Years colleagues will receive the details in the separate weekly bulletin for Early Years to be issued today.

School Meal

New guidance relating to FMS was issued yesterday 13th January. As an extra choice, the Government's Edenred vouchers will be available for schools to order from 14th January if they decide that they are using them.

There's been a lot of coverage in the media about the quality of food parcels received by families entitled to free school meals in parts of the country. However, here in Plymouth we're really proud of our school meals provider CATERed and the high quality food parcels they provide. Their staff are working really hard to provide healthy and nutritious food parcels for eligible families and so far this week they have provided 2,434 food parcels to Plymouth families.

Today's bulletin also contains the information about half-term food assistance for children and families who are entitled to the support of Winter Grant Scheme.

Critical Workers' children and Vulnerable Learners

The DfE and the City Council are closely monitoring the school capacity through the Department's daily setting status reporting portal. The DfE and Ofsted will consider it a priority that all vulnerable children attend school.

It is the DfE's requirement that schools and settings return to providing daily information regarding the attendance of children of key workers, those who are considered vulnerable, those with EHCP's and those eligible for free school meals via their online portal during the third national lockdown.  The DfE will also be asking you to report your provision for pupils eligible for FSM, both on site and those learning remotely, as well as pupil (due to COVID) and workforce absences.  At this point in time, the LA will not be asking schools to provide named data.  Should this be required in the future, we will request that you send this information to the school organisation email inbox, in a template which we will provide in advance.

It has been noted from the daily DfE data return that there are different interpretations of whether schools can provide provision on site for vulnerable children and critical worker parent children.  If your vulnerable and critical worker children are not on site because their parents have declined places, please can you answer yes to the question "Can you accept all Vulnerable/Critical worker parent children?"  The children are not on site because of the decision of their parents, not because your school cannot provide for them.  The DfE are looking specifically at the provision for vulnerable children therefore it's important that your effort to provide for them, is recorded correctly.

I welcome your feedback on the current LA support for schools and any suggestion that you may have. Our designated inbox for you is:



Headteacher Teams meeting

The weekly Headteacher Teams meeting is an opportunity to discuss matters arising with colleagues or to address specific themes, and we encourage all headteachers of both maintained schools and academies to attend. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday 18 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

Monday 18 January Agenda: 

  1. Home learning self-evaluation
  2. Children of critical workers
  3. Matters arising

Children of critical workers

Following last week's message from Government concerning the previous advice to schools from trade unions, we understand that schools are facing the pressure of accommodating a greater number of children from the families of critical workers during this lockdown period. Government guidance states that:

We know that every school will have a different number of children of critical workers who need to attend. It is important that on-site provision is provided for these pupils, and there is no limit to numbers of these pupils who may attend and schools should not limit attendance of these groups. This is because we are reducing overall social contact across areas and the country rather than individually by each institution.

We would welcome discussion with headteachers who feel that the numbers of critical worker children attending school are unmanageable or could become unmanageable. This will enable us to support problem solving and capture local concerns so that they can be communicated through our dialogue with the DfE.  Please contact in the first instance.

Monitoring vulnerable children during the current lockdown

Hopefully schools have all received your spreadsheets, guidance and SEND/EWO link information for monitoring vulnerable children. The return date for this month is tomorrow 15 January 2021and thank you to those of you who have already submitted your returns.

Thank you also to those of you who have raised questions and queries. As previously stated we are trying to ensure that the information we are gathering is relevant, purposeful, timely and streamlined. However this is not without its challenges and we recognise that we may not get it right first time, therefore any feedback from yourselves is really helpful.

We are aware that every school/setting is different and therefore are trying to avoid a "blanket" approach. We recognise how busy you all are and therefore we need the system to work for you. Just a reminder to us all is that the purpose of the spreadsheet is to have an overarching view of our vulnerable CYP so that we can identify and plan support together for those where we have concerns. A key focus is around attendance so that we can identify vulnerable CYP who are not attending school and monitor their welfare and how they are accessing their learning.

The points below will hopefully answer some of the questions that have been raised:

  • Schools will continue to submit their daily DfE attendance returns
  • We are requesting that you complete this one spreadsheet on a monthly basis. This spreadsheet is to be used for monitoring all vulnerable children and replaces any previous spreadsheets used during the previous lockdown. i.e. the weekly "vulnerable children who may be at risk " spreadsheet
  • The spreadsheet has been pre populated with CYP who have EHCP's.
  • New information: Schools will be sent weekly a list of children in their school who have a named social worker. Please copy and paste this list into the spreadsheet and complete the columns (apart from EHCP information if not relevant)
  • Please also add any other CYP who don't have a social worker or an EHCP but where you have concerns and you have identified them as vulnerable.

We have been asked whether children open to social care need to be included in the list. Initially we said no but we recognise that in order to be able to have visibility of individual CYP and any concerns around attendance and subsequent impact on their welfare and/or learning it would be most effective to include them in this spreadsheet.

Every school has been allocated an EWO and a SEND link who will liaise with you to arrange consultation discussions at a mutually agreed time/frequency. For some of you it might be appropriate to have a joint meeting, for others it might be more helpful to have separate discussions.

Please use this spreadsheet in a way that works for you. We have tried to streamline it so that you only have to complete one monthly return. However if it is difficult to align your SEND/Pastoral/ Safeguarding information please feel free to copy the spreadsheet so that different staff can use it separately.

A reminder that the next return is tomorrow 15 January 2021.We are looking at a monthly return and would suggest that we stick with the 15th of each month. The 15th February is the start of half Term so if we ask for the next return by Friday 12 February 2021.

COVID-19 - infection prevention control

We know that schools have reviewed and updated risk assessments and are working incredibly hard to reduce infection within the school setting.

Given that certain surfaces may retain the virus for up to 72 hours, we have been asked by our colleagues in Public Health to share some questions that you may well have addressed, but if not may be worth considering.

Some of the most difficult places to manage are the staff communal areas where, by necessity, staff are not able to remain in their class bubble area.

At a school meeting yesterday where there has been a cluster of positive cases, and where the hard work of the whole staff to manage infection control has been excellent, some of the items below were taken as further actions to follow up and implement:

  • Following the use of staff kettles, microwaves etc., are all surfaces (including where these appliances have been touched) wiped down?
  • Are staff encouraged not to make drinks for each other, so that contact on mugs, cutlery or any other crockery is reduced?
  • In shared areas, are all staff wearing face coverings?
  • How can staff contacts in staff rooms, photocopy areas, tight corridors etc. be reduced?
  • In more confined areas such as washrooms or toilets, are these limited to one person at a time and is there ventilation to disperse any aerosol droplets?
  • Has car sharing been discouraged?

COVID-19 Winter Grant scheme - February half term

Please see the attached letter to all headteachers, and guidance information outlining details of the COVID Winter Grant scheme, including how to access e Vouchers and which children and families are eligible. Schools that are unsure which families may have ASR status can check this by contacting 

QA remote learning

This week DfE have published a framework to help schools quality assure their remote education provision identifying strengths and areas for development. The framework is not intended as a compliance or accountability tool and should be adapted to fit each school's individual context; it is for internal use and to support detailed discussions with staff and governors/trustees on appropriate next steps. The Local Authority recommend that all schools make use of the framework. Advisers will discuss outcomes during this term's PLA visits to maintained schools.

Further guidance on providing remote education can be accessed through the DfE get help with remote education service. Ofsted has also published a short guide on what is working well in remote education, which draws on findings from their interim visits, research and literature review.

Updated guidance on Ofsted inspections

Ofsted has updated their rolling update to include information on monitoring visits. The guidance states that from 18 January, Ofsted will start making monitoring inspections to primary, secondary and special schools and colleges graded inadequate or requires improvement (although this may begin later on account of the current national lockdown). These visits will not result in a grade.

Monitoring inspections will look at how well schools are educating pupils in the current circumstances, which for most pupils means being educated remotely. They will also consider complaints made by parents about remote education to help resolve issues and make sure children are being well served. It is for this reason that the Local Authority urge all schools to make use of the remote education QA framework outlined above, and to contact their link school PLA should they be experiencing difficulties in this area.

Primary Assessment 2021

Following last Thursday's announcement that KS1 and KS2 national curriculum assessments cannot continue as intended, and KS1 teacher assessments, KS2 tests and teacher assessments, phonics screening check and all statutory trialling has been cancelled in 2021, all Local Authority statutory assessment training will be rescheduled for 2022, and all teachers booked on training sessions have been notified of the new dates.

Primary schools do not need to complete any further activities to prepare for these assessments. However, we know that schools will continue to use assessment to inform teaching (whether face to face or remote), to enable them to give information to parents on their child's attainment in their statutory annual report and to support transition of KS2 pupils to secondary school.

Therefore, for all maintained schools and those academies who have commissioned Plymouth as their assessment provider this year, we will offer two online courses for teachers in years 2 and 6 at no cost:

Making Teacher Assessment Work KS1, 3.30 - 5pm 2 OR 3 March 2021

Making Teacher Assessment Work KS2, 3.30 - 5pm 16 OR 17 March 2021

Sessions will look at how to maximise consistent, effective summative teacher assessment at the end of each key stage in order to ensure learning supports progress and is well matched to children's needs, and supports smooth transition and future planning. Teachers previously booked on statutory assessment courses will automatically receive bookings; for any additional bookings schools should email

Assessment supporting transition Y6-7

As in 2021 the Local Authority will collect TA for all pupils leaving year 6 and moving on to secondary schools. We strongly urge all schools to share this data with us. Last year headteachers of secondary schools told us that this information proved invaluable in making sure children were placed in appropriate groups, and in informing planning for learning in Y7. We will share further details about when and how we will collect and share data later this term. Should you wish to discuss please contact

Reporting attendance data and the January census

As schools have been informed, the DfE have requested that you return to providing daily information regarding the attendance of children of key workers, those who are considered vulnerable, those with EHCP's and those eligible for free school meals via their online portal during the third national lockdown.  The DfE will also be asking schools to report provision for pupils eligible for FSM, both on site and those learning remotely, as well as pupil and workforce absences linked to COVID. 

At this point in time, the LA will not be asking schools to provide named data.  Should this be required in the future, we will request that you send this information to the school organisation email inbox, in a template which we will provide in advance.

With regard to the January school census, we are waiting for information whether this will be taking place as normal, whether there will be any adaptation to the data requested or indeed whether it will be cancelled. We advise schools to regularly check email communications which come to your main school email address and advise school administrators and business managers that we will be in contact with information as soon as we are able.

Pupils eligible for FSM and at home and voucher scheme

There has been a lot of coverage in the media over the last few days about the about the quality of food parcels received by families entitled to free school meals in some parts of the country. That has not been the case here in Plymouth where CATERed have, so far this week, provided over 2,600 parcels.

The DfE updated guidance on 13 January about how the needs of pupils both in school for Educare and at home should be met and the document can be found here:

Providing school meals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Importantly the guidance addresses food parcels and vouchers.  Extract below: -

Schools will continue to receive their expected funding for benefits-related free school meals throughout this period. To recognise the additional cost of provision for pupils at home, schools will be able to claim additional funding:

·       up to £3.50 per eligible pupil, per week, where lunch parcels are being provided - we strongly encourage this approach where it is feasible

·       up to £15 per eligible pupil, per week, where vouchers for local shops or supermarkets are being provided

Further details on how and when additional costs can be reclaimed will be provided shortly.  Schools should be assured that valid claims for costs will be met in full.

National Voucher Scheme - vouchers will only be available through the national voucher scheme from the week commencing 18 January, however, any support provided since 4 January 2021 through lunch parcels or locally arranged vouchers can be claimed back from DfE.  The cost of vouchers provided through the national voucher scheme will be met centrally by DfE.

CATERed will continue to provide weekly food parcels where requested by schools.

Where schools receive services from CATERed could colleagues please advise them at the earliest possible opportunity about how you intend to proceed and if switching to vouchers consider that food stock will have been ordered / need to be ordered for next week.  Contact or 01752 977166.

NQT updates

The DfE have put provisions in place to ensure that any NQT absences related to the COVID-19 outbreak will not contribute towards the 30-day absence limit that would ordinarily extend statutory induction.  The vast majority of NQTs should continue to complete their induction as usual and in line with NQT induction statutory guidance. Further guidance on induction for NQTs during the coronavirus outbreak can be found here.

We are receiving a significant number of requests for advice concerning NQT induction in schools during lockdown. So that we can make sure all NQT mentors have up to date guidance, please can we ask all schools to encourage NQT mentors to attend the next NQT Mentor Hub meeting taking place online 4 - 5pm, Monday 8 February. There is no charge for this for schools registered with Plymouth; to book places NQT mentors should simply email

Model exclusion letters

The model exclusion letters have recently been updated and are available to schools via the School Room pages.

School files - Elective Home Education

If any pupil is deregistered from school to be electively home educated, please ensure that you keep hold of the child's school file. Do not send the child's school file to Plymouth City Council.

On Course South West - digital equipment loan

On Course South West is offering a family learning programme to support vulnerable parents and families of primary, secondary and special schools.

Our tutors can provide regular targeted support to help families with advice and guidance, home delivery of school activities, provide family fun activities. As part of the programme, we will provide digital equipment on loan, including a laptop and 4G dongle, which will enable connectivity to the online remote learning offer subject to demand.

Our provision will complement resources provided by schools, primarily to support with English and maths delivery, digital skills to aid inclusion and wellbeing support

For more information please contact

BBC Bitesize Data Allowance

Customers using BT Mobile, EE, and Plusnet Mobile can use BBC Bitesize content from the end of January 2021 without eating into their mobile data allowance. More mobile phone companies are expected to follow, please check with your mobile phone company for more details.

All contract and pay-as-you-go customers of BT Mobile, EE and Plusnet Mobile will be eligible and the free package will continue while schools remain closed. No registration is required - the free access will happen automatically. Please check with your mobile phone company for more details.

BBC News website

HotSW Careers Hub virtual careers event Which Way?

HotSW are delighted to be working with Learn by Design in order to deliver a virtual careers event to showcase local employment & education opportunities and support young people across schools and colleges within the LEP area of Devon, Somerset, Torbay and Plymouth. The event will provide opportunities for various sectors to showcase apprenticeships, traineeships, T-Levels, Kickstart, internships, work experience or general opportunities.  

The experience will also give students the opportunity to explore live presentations/video content from both local and national employers and we encourage you to engage with Q&As, quizzes and much more in order to support young people make informed choices about future career options and pathways. 

Targeted sessions will run across three days/evenings for each year group, taking place on 27, 28 and 29 April 2021. Students will be suitably prepped, teaching resources will be provided and follow up evaluations will take place.

Further information and a link to register will follow shortly.

Government updates

Guidance for full opening: special schools and other specialist settings
What all special schools and other specialist settings will need to do during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Published additional guidance for special schools, specialist post-16 providers, and alternative provision (including hospital schools) during the national lockdown.

Give schools extra money to let pupils retake school year
The Education Secretary should put extra funding in place to let pupils re-sit this school year, says the Social Mobility Commission. In a statement, the commission outlined its concerns over contingency plans for pupils affected by the global COVID pandemic.

Guidance for parents and carers of children attending out-of-school settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
Guidance for parents and carers of children attending community activities, holiday or after-school clubs, tuition and other out-of-school settings. Updated 'Who should attend after-school clubs and out-of-school settings', 'Children with health concerns' and 'Live performances' sections to reflect national lockdown guidance.

Critical workers and vulnerable children who can access schools or educational settings
List of critical workers (key workers) and vulnerable children and young people who can access full-time education provision in the case of future restrictions on education during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Updated 'Critical workers' section to clarify that parents and carers who are critical workers should keep their children at home if they can.

Ofsted publishes short guide to what works well in remote education
Last week, the government published new guidance that strengthened expectations for the provision of remote education while schools and colleges remain closed to most pupils. Today, Ofsted has published some useful advice for leaders and teachers, aimed at helping them develop their remote education offer.

Review your remote education provision
A framework to help schools and further education (FE) providers in England identify strengths and areas for improvement in their remote education provision.

Hundreds of thousands more laptops to support disadvantaged pupils learn at home
The government has announced a further 300,000 laptops and tablets to help disadvantaged children and young people learn at home.

Get help with technology during coronavirus (COVID-19)
Guidance for local authorities, academy trusts and schools on devices and support available to provide remote education and access to children's social care. O2 and Vodafone added to the 'Get help with technology' programme.

£135m boost to support T Level students to succeed
A multi-million pound fund has been launched today aimed at making sure young people studying pioneering new T Level qualifications from 2022 have access to world class facilities and equipment. From today, T Level providers across the country can bid for a share of £135 million, through the T Level Capital Fund, to upgrade classrooms and buildings in readiness for students starting courses in September 2022.

Providing school meals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
Guidance for schools and local authorities on school meals arrangements during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Updated information about how to order vouchers, sending eCodes to families, supermarkets and redeeming the vouchers.

Responsibility for exams
Guidance for schools and colleges 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 that schools and colleges can continue with vocational and technical exams, where they judge it right to do so. This includes updates to the sections on the set up of the exam room, face coverings, maintaining distance between staff and candidates and where a candidate has a negative test.

Ofsted: coronavirus (COVID-19) rolling update (Updated)
Ofsted guidance and information relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) for schools, early years, children's social care and further education and skills providers. Updated the 'Current activity' section with details of our planned activity until the February half term. Also, details included on monitoring visits, remote learning and our work with social care and registered EY provision.

Next Bulletin: 21 January 2021

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