COVID-19 Schools' Bulletin - 14 October 2021
Updated 14 October 2021
Important contact details
From Ming Zhang
Service Director of Education, Participation and Skills
I have heard from school leaders and public health colleagues that Covid situation in Plymouth is still challenging although the City's Enhanced Response Area (ERA) designation has ended. You are all doing an incredibly difficult job in such a difficult time with some schools facing the acute difficulty in recruiting supply teachers to cover staff absence due to Covid infection or other illnesses. My heartfelt thanks again to you and your staff for the good work to ensure pupils' maximum access to learning in the challenging circumstances.
In my catch up with the DfE this week, I raised the issue of supply teachers shortage and the associated costs. I have later received the following reply from the DfE:
- Schools can continue to engage supply teachers and other supply staff as usual to manage periods of staff absence. We recommend that schools consider using DfE's and Crown Commercial Service's agency supply deal when hiring agency workers, as this offers a list of preferred suppliers that must be transparent about the rates they charge.
- Schools can get direct support from Crown Commercial Services on how to use the agency supply deal by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the school's details and contact details. Guidance is available here.
- Further information on the considerations school leaders need to make can be found in the schools COVID-19 operational guidance.
- As part of the three-year increase to core funding - the biggest in a decade - schools have continued to receive their core funding throughout the pandemic, regardless of any periods of reduced attendance. This will ensure they can continue to pay their staff and meet other regular financial commitments.
- Schools will continue to be able to access existing support for financial issues, including a wide range of school resource management tools, and, in serious circumstances, additional funding or advances from local authorities for maintained schools, or ESFA for academy trusts.
- The Teaching Vacancies service can also help schools to list vacancies for both permanent and fixed-term teaching staff quickly.
I will continue to raise and keep the DfE informed of the issues that school leaders are having.
Connect the Classroom Support
The DfE has informed us that nine Plymouth schools may now be eligible for funding to upgrade their school network infrastructure as part of the Department's Connect the Classroom programme. The grant will cover all costs including the installation and setup.
You will remember that under the previous wave (June 2021) the DfE's eligibility was prioritised to a small number of schools. The eligibility has now been extended to other schools in Plymouth.
A DfE colleague will have contacted the eligible schools to explain the programme and will let you know that you will receive a letter asking for basic information about their current ICT setup. I have also informed the individual schools via an email on 7th October. While we will see more offers of direct support from the DfE, I would strong recommend schools take up the offers of support, both maintained schools and Academies. On this occasion, if you or your ICT lead needs to discuss this further, please contact Guy Shearer of DfE directly via his email Guy.SHEARER@education.gov.uk
Holiday Foods Support
We emailed to schools yesterday to let you know that the Government had confirmed that we will receive funding to support families with e-vouchers for the October half-term, under the Household Support Grant (similar to the Local COVID Support Grant and the Winter Grant Scheme).
Free school meal children within the city and the families who you have identified as well as other hardship families will benefit from the support over the October half-term.
For holiday food assistance, we have a new e-voucher provider, Wonde, who will email the e-vouchers and further information on how to redeem them to you next week. Each e-voucher will be £15.00.
As was explained in the email yesterday, to enable us to ensure that schools have the correct number of e-vouchers, please confirm the number of both FSM pupils and the hardship cohort to the WinterGrantScheme@plymouth.gov.uk mail box by 3pm on Friday 15 October 2021. Sorry for the very late notification, but we have only just received confirmation of the funding and have been liaising with Wonde to ensure the process is in place before the holiday.
Updates on Education and Setting Contingency Framework
Included in today's bulletin, there are updates on
- Education Contingency Framework (ECG) OCT 13 2021 with three key changes;
- updated letters for settings;
- and two new letters.
All now refer to the United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA) instead of PHE. Please delete previous letter templates you may have saved.
IMPORTANT - last call for any ECTs in need of AB registration
Any schools who have employed ECTs this term, please make sure that the ECF provider you have commissioned is DfE authorised to also act as Appropriate Body (AB) for your teachers. If not you must register with the Local Authority to act as AB. The final deadline for registration this term is Monday 18 October. Any schools requiring AB support should email email@example.com by close of business on Monday 18.10.21
Health, Wellbeing and Safety in education
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
Augmentative and Alternative Communication is a set of tools and strategies that an individual uses to aid communication. AAC can take many forms such as: speech, a shared glance, text, gesture, facial expression, touch, sign language, symbols, pictures and speech generating devices. Everyone uses AAC to help them get their messages across but for children, young people and adults with complex communication needs AAC provides a means to ensure they have a voice.
A group of professionals from across the whole of Devon have worked with parents and carers to create an interactive training programme that provides an introduction to AAC.
The training focuses on the following areas:
- What is AAC?
- AAC Themes and Myths
- Where can I find out more?
This FREE online training is suitable for parents/carers and professionals and can be accessed from:
Please share with staff and parents who may benefit from this.
Funded Designated Mental Health Lead training
Plymouth Educational Psychology Service is working with the National Network of Mental Health Leads as an approved provider of Department for Education funded training for mental health leads in schools.
We are offering two pathways for the training, and schools and colleges in England can apply for a £1200 grant to cover the cost of the training and contribute towards staff cover arrangements.
- ethos and also staff wellbeing. Participants will complete a portfolio alongside the course to gain certification and also a level 4 qualification in Mental Health Aware Leadership.
- the context of pupil wellbeing and provision. Participants will complete a portfolio alongside the course to gain certification and also a level 4 qualification in Mental Health Aware Leadership.
Plymouth course dates:
Middle Leaders' Courses
- Course 1: 5/11/21, 2/12/21, 6/1/22
- Course 2: 16/12/21, 13/1/22, 10/2/22
Senior Leaders and Head Teachers' Courses
- Course 1: 18/11/21, 27/1/22, 3/3/22
- Course 2: 17/3/22, 12/5/22, 23/6/22
- Course 3: 24/3/22, 5/5/22, 9/6/22
- Course 4: 31/3/22, 26/5/22, 21/7/22
All courses are being held at the Jan Cutting Health Living Centre in Plymouth and being delivered by PCC Educational Psychologists Hannah Hamlin and Dougie Clarkson. Final details of the application process from the DfE are due to come out shortly, but you can reserve places now on the Plymouth courses via the network website at www.mentalhealthlead.com.
Building Plymouth and Skills Launchpad Plymouth - invitation for school engagement
A key priority of Building Plymouth is to participate in school career programmes, and share career and labour market information about the diverse opportunities across the many jobs in the local construction, including trades, technical and professional careers, and to link careers in construction to the curriculum, supporting schools and employers to facilitate work place experiences.
To support this objective we are excited to announce that during National Careers Week 2022 (w/c 7 March 2022) we will be hosting two signature Building Plymouth events:
- Building Plymouth Open Sites (w/c 7 March)- a week of opening up construction sites across the city;
- Apprenticeship Jobs Fair (Saturday 12 March, Plymouth Argyle) - in partnership with the Plymouth Manufacturers Group, our annual showcase event will raise awareness of the fantastic apprenticeship opportunities available in construction, the built environment, manufacturing and engineering.
Please save these dates - further details will be promoted early in the new-year. Schools can also email firstname.lastname@example.org details of your school's upcoming career fairs and events. We will then coordinate support from Building Plymouth project sponsors and current construction project teams working across the city: Building Plymouth Project Sponsors 2021/22
Skills Launchpad Plymouth-The city's one-stop-shop for skills, training, education, careers and jobs
Working in city wide partnership, Skills Launchpad Plymouth is a FREE one-stop-shop for skills, training, education, careers and jobs, which aims to help local people in and around the city access independent information, advice and guidance. We are supporting those who are facing redundancy or changing careers through the Adult Hub, and offering targeted support for our young people including those with additional needs through the Youth Hub (available for 16-24 year olds).
There is a wealth of localised resources available in our virtual Youth Hub which can support Gatsby Benchmarks and also our news and events page will help to keep you and your students up to date about what is happening in and around the city in relation to Skills.
Please help to promote Skills Launchpad Plymouth and Job Shops by sharing the attached fliers and Apprenticeship Opportunities Bulletin with young people and their parents/carers.
Plymouth Youth Parliament Climate Emergency conference
Please see details in the attached flier of the Plymouth Youth Parliament climate emergency conference to be held on 29 October. The conference is open to all young people aged 11-19 and online booking is available via email at: email@example.com Please share details with teachers and students who are keen to impact on environmental issues.
The DfE updated the guidance on the financial support available to alternative provision schools and colleges to support current year 11 students into post-16 education. The update includes best practice examples of support for year 11 students as they transition into post-16 education and avoid becoming not in education, employment or training (NEET).
The DfE has updated the contingency framework to reflect the position on the shielding programme and details on when increased COVID-19 testing can be recommended by directors of public health.
The contingency framework describes the principles for managing local outbreaks of COVID-19 in education and childcare settings. It covers all types of measures that schools should be prepared for. It also sets out thresholds for managing COVID-19 cases and when schools should consider seeking public health advice. Schools should make sure their contingency plans outline how they would operate if they were advised to introduce any of the measures described in the contingency framework.
The DfE has established a regular supply of CO2 monitors to schools since the start of October. These will be dispatched to eligible settings over the remainder of the autumn term. The new monitors enable staff to identify areas where ventilation needs to be improved help reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading and provide reassurance that existing ventilation measures are working. Further information on the CO2 monitors is available in the 'How to use CO2 monitors in education and childcare settings guide'.
New trainee teachers can get bursaries of up to £24,000 and existing teachers in all state schools can access free courses to develop their skills.