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Education Bulletin - 16 December 2021

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Updated 16 December 2021

Important contact details

From Ming Zhang
Service Director of Education, Participation and Skills

Dear colleagues,

In this last bulletin of 2021, I want to start by saying a big thank you on behalf of Plymouth City Council for everything you have done for your school, setting and the community in 2021.

I remembered that this time last year, school leaders and staff often had to scramble to make last minutes arrangement in response to the new COVID guidance and advice that were changing almost every day. We were hoping that this December we would have less COVID related challenge for school leaders to deal with. However, the reality is that schools are ending this term with tremendous changes and challenges we all have to live through.

This week, the number of COVID cases in Plymouth looks to have increased compared to the previous week. The highest rate is still in the 10-14 year olds but the 30-49 year olds look to be catching up. 

While I am writing this message, Secondary Headteachers have been updating me on their schools' preparation for January's onsite testing, which is a new "significant ask" made by the Government. It is encouraging to know that all the 19 Secondary schools in the city have made the arrangements and are ready for the onsite testing of students before they start the new term. It is just one of the examples showing how school leaders and staff work tirelessly to accomplish every task of new COVID safety arrangements as set out in the DfE guidance. It involves a lot of hard work and good planning to follow up a DfE "significant ask" at short notice.

I am very proud to say that schools and settings in Plymouth are doing incredibly good work amid the challenges of high infection rates in the City and high staff illness absences, which are continually testing our resilience. So far this academic year, no school in the City has experienced a whole setting closure, although five schools had to close a whole class or group for a limited period of time in response to outbreaks in schools.

I realise that behind all this, there are enormous difficulties that schools have to overcome every day. The spread of Omicron across the country has necessitated huge amounts of work and commitment from all school staff in their efforts to ensure the safety of students and staff while always striving to ensure pupils can continue to receive a good education. As a local authority, we are here to stand alongside you as you face those new challenges.

Due to the recent increase in COVID-19 infection rates, both locally and nationally, I am mindful that there may be an urgent situation that school leaders may well be called upon to continue to manage COVID restrictions before the start of the new term.

If your query is about coronavirus, call the DfE coronavirus helpline:  

  • Telephone: 0800 046 8687
  • Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
  • Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 6pm

Plymouth City Council's Children's Service Response mailbox will also be monitored during office hours 20 -24 December and 29-31 December and for out of hours emergencies please contact the Civil Protection On-Call Duty Officer via Telephone: 01752 668000.

Normal hours will resume on 5 January.

Thank you again for all the great work that school leaders and staff have been doing and I wish you and your family a great Christmas when it arrives.



Message from the Director of Public Health Plymouth

Nobody at the end of March 2020 would have envisaged that in December 2021 we would still be so affected by the pandemic. Indeed, with the Omicron variant about to become the dominant strain of the virus in the UK, the hard reality is that we are likely to see some very challenging days ahead of us.

Since the pandemic began we have sadly had over 280 COVID-19 related deaths. Overall there have been around 40,500 confirmed cases. The Hospital is experiencing serious pressure with the prospect of this increasing in the coming weeks. As I write, the rate in Plymouth is 857.2/100,000. Amongst children and young people the most recent rates show: 0-4 year olds 351.3/100,000; 5-9 year olds 1.963.2/100,000; 10-14 year olds 2,207.2/100,000; 15-19 year olds 1,052.8/100,000.

For our education settings, the pandemic has clearly had significant consequences for children and young people, their families and all staff.  Once again, like last year, my team report back to me the incredible efforts that all schools and Early Years settings have made to not only maintain delivery of education but also in providing support and care to the children and young people they serve.

As noted, it is very likely that when the new term begins the challenges will be very high. Reviewing your contingency plans and planning for all scenarios through reference to the Outbreak Management Planning Tool is key. I know this is demanding and my team is at hand to provide you with information, advice and support if required in meeting this challenge. Working together is key.

I would like to thank all staff in education settings for what you have done over the past 12 months, it is recognised.

I wish you all a restful and peaceful festive period.

Ruth Harrell



Please ensure you read the attachment to today's bulletin re daily testing of contacts of COVID (DTCC). Along with advice on 7 day LFD testing for close contacts there is a change in regard to being exempt from testing within the 90 day window from a previous positive PCR test outcome. The new advice is that close contacts should undertake 7 day LFD testing - if positive a confirmatory PCR test should be booked.

Omicron will be the dominant variant across Plymouth. We know that this variant is highly transmissible and so rapid escalation in numbers is possible when in outbreak. It is advised that you review your contingency plan / outbreak management planning tool with respect to being ready for the new term on the basis of the new variant being dominant.

The email in box remains open on working days over the holiday period for any of your public health concerns or queries.


Health, wellbeing and safety updates

Fit and Fed

Plymouth City Council's Sports Development Unit are working with a number of local holiday club providers across the city to offer FREE places this Christmas holiday to children on benefit-related Free School Meals. There are 44 holiday clubs taking place across the city providing a variety of sports, activities and a healthy nutritional lunch each day, all run by experienced organisations,  providing safe, fun environments for children. More information and how to book can be found at

Please share within your school communities. If you have any queries or require any additional information please contact Louise or Barry from the Sports Development Unit (307008 or


Education updates

Early Years - SoundWaves Network SW training
This Zoom training event on Thursday 27 January 7.30pm marks the start of a new three year Youth Music funded programme.  Hosted by Jane Parker, Take Art/Willow Childcare Centre, Jude Cummins, EY Music Lead - Plymouth Music Education Hub and Dr Karen Wickett, University of Plymouth, this interactive practical session will support participants to:

  • Gain skills in learning appropriate rhymes and simple songs to develop very young children's musicality
  • Watch and discuss short films of young children's spontaneous music making and reflect on the role of the adult
  • Discuss theoretical information to inform and support your practice

The training is suitable for EY practitioners/EYFS teachers and is aimed primarily at those working in Plymouth. Cost: £5 plus £1 booking fee. Book here


Government updates

Coronavirus (COVID-19) workforce fund for schools

Funding to support schools facing significant staff absences and financial pressures with the costs of staff cover has been extended until 18 February 2022.

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