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Education Bulletin - 17 March 2022

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Updated 17 March 2022

Important contact details

From Ming Zhang
Service Director of Education, Participation and Skills

Dear colleagues,

This week, I was delighted to be invited to some important education improvement partnership forums and a round table discussion with the group representing Plymouth parent and carer's voice to see first-hand education system leaders' collaborative working in action and to hear the views from the community.

Education partnership

Yesterday, I attended Primary and Special School Improvement Partnership (PSSIP) and was most impressed with the progress the group had made in three months since its establishment. Led by Stuart Tulloch and Simon Spry, the group has started developing a Plymouth plan for improvement, garnishing the synergy of Plymouth family of school collaboration. I am sure you will hear from the Group and your representatives about this development soon.

I would also like to share with you that the Early Years Strategy Board has set their shared objectives in identifying three key stands of priorities:

  • Strand 1 - Every child attend a high quality setting      
  • Strand 2 - Children are ready for school
  • Strand 3 - Refocus on Disadvantage and Inclusion

On this note, I would like to recommend The Sutton Trust's "A Fair Start?" latest blog by Sara Bonetti, Director of Early Years at the Education Policy Institute. In the blog, Bonetti outlines how the government can tackle early years inequalities. While acknowledging that the government's Levelling Up White Paper set out plans to reduce inequalities and spread opportunity more equally across the UK and that the need for families to access high-quality early years education was highlighted in the document, she voiced the view, which I am sure is shared by many early years educators and providers that further reference and concrete action are needed to support for the early years sector, children and families.

Having an excellent early years provision is pivotal for children and young people to achieve their maximum potential in all phases of education. The city's education community recognise this and are working together through the Early Years Strategy Board to provide a systems approach to sector improvement with the aim of improving educational outcomes for children 0-5 years.

Read Sara Bonetti's article

Plymouth Parent and Carer Voice (PPCV)

While waiting for the long overdue national SEND Review green paper, we are revising Plymouth's SEND service and provision to move toward an early intervention "graduated" approach. Co-designing with parents and carers is imperative to our further success in delivering a high quality and preventative SEND service in the city.

On Monday evening, I took part in the roundtable discussion with Plymouth Parent Carer Voice (PPCV) group, listening to some most valuable feedback and suggestion from the PPCV volunteers and parents of children with SEND. While a significant number of questions and feedback were about disabilities access to public facilities, there were questions that related to how we best support SEND cohorts in schools in order to ensure high parental confidence in the support provided in mainstream schools for their children with SEND.

The views from parents and carers, as well as schools' feedback will inform our local review of SEND service, forming an important part of our evidence for service design and offer.

Best regards.



Education updates

NEW 2022 - 23 Oracy Project

This week, as the current 2022-22 Plymouth Oracy Project draws to a close, we have written to all primary headteachers with the news that the local authority and PTSA are again working together to offer a further fifty schools the opportunity to participate in a new Plymouth Oracy Project 2022 - 23, starting in April.

This excellent CPD programme, delivered by PTSA accredited trainers and supported by a range of high-quality resources, continues to demonstrate clearly, a strong impact on measures achieved in schools engaged to date. Along with positive evaluations from those involved, we consistently see improved attainment and outcomes for key areas of learning in EY, and for all other age groups in English and Maths; a significant reduction in disadvantaged gaps, due to accelerated progress made by this group of pupils; improved attendance, behaviour and well-being; an increase in the number of pupils attaining ARE in the four strands of Oracy; and increased parental engagement. This year, schools participating in the project, with EAL learners in the EY, will also have access to EMAT CPD focused on supporting early language amongst EAL children in this phase.

This professional development is especially recommended for schools at the beginning or their Oracy journey or for Early Career/ New Teachers in schools where Oracy is already being embedded and developed.

To book a place, schools should email:

Early Years statutory assessment briefing

Two free, online sessions 3.30 - 5pm Tuesday 22 OR Wednesday 23 March for maintained schools and academies working with Plymouth local authority for 2022 statutory assessment support.

These sessions will go over the 2022 statutory arrangements for Early Years including: Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA); completion of EYFSP assessments for each eligible child; and uploading data to the LA and will offer opportunities to discuss key points from voluntary EY agreement trialing.

There will be opportunities for questions and discussion, and a reminder... you will need to refer to STA published guidance during this session, so please have this to hand.

If you haven't yet booked your place please email stating which day you would like to attend.

EMA Hub 21.3.22

This term's EMA Hub meeting will be held online on Monday 21 March, 3.30pm. We will discuss strategic planning for inclusion and equity in schools, CPD and support on offer, new national initiatives towards a diverse curriculum, together with legal guidance around avoiding political pitfalls in teaching. Colleagues interested in attending should email  

Young City Laureate 2022 - 23

Do you know a young person with a talent for creative writing?

The hunt is on to find the next budding wordsmith who's passionate about writing and sharing stories to become the next Plymouth Young City Laureate from September 2022 to July 2023.

The University of Plymouth are teaming up with Literature Works, Plymouth Culture and the With Flying Colours project to reach aspiring young writers in the city between the ages of 14 and 19.

The role of Plymouth Young City Laureate is important, as the chosen young writer will be commissioned to create work to celebrate special events or occasions in the city as well as being invited to perform in libraries schools and at festivals.

For more details please see the attached flier, and for how to enter here

Early Years Covid-19 Recovery - Experts and Mentors Programme 

The Early Years Covid -19 Recovery Experts and Mentors Programme is part of the government's £180m programme of support for Early Years (EY) recovery. Settings in Plymouth will be able to benefit from this programme and some practitioners will have the opportunity to become an Expert, Mentor or Area Lead. 

We know the importance of the EY and the impact the pandemic has had on young children. Therefore the DfE have designed the recovery programme in order to support EY practitioners in addressing the effects of the pandemic on the youngest children, building on reforms to the EYFS and supporting aims of improving outcomes and closing the attainment gap for children 0 - 5.  

The programme will involve EY Experts and Mentors supporting EY practitioners, leaders and settings, through bespoke support, face-to-face and virtually, aimed at meeting individual settings' needs and priorities. Support will include coaching for leaders and mentoring for practitioners. With a pilot scheme underway, the programme will be rolled out nationally from September 2022. 

The Programme - online child development training: new, universal online child development training to upskill practitioners and improve their knowledge of child development so they will be better able to support children in their care, particularly those whose development may have been impeded due to the pandemic, will build on the existing EYFS reforms online service - Help for Early Years Providers. Further resources will also be made available on this site. 

Experts and Mentors: some eligible settings will be able to access additional support in the form of an Expert or Mentor, with Experts providing three days, in person leadership or whole setting support, and Mentors offering remote, individual/small group support via the new, online child development training package, as well as providing more general support focusing on improving practice and curriculum to support children following the impact of the pandemic. Each local authority will be allocated an Area Lead that will provide support, coordination and quality assurance for the Mentors and Experts in their locality.   

Expressions of interest: for those wishing to apply to be Experts, Mentors or Area Leads for the national programme, the link here to the application form can be found here.   Applicants may be working in schools, nursery schools, PVI nurseries, and other EY settings, EY roles within local authorities, universities, or similar organisations.

Eligibility: the online training package will be universally available to all settings. For additional mentoring and expert support, settings must meet one or more of the following criteria: 

  • been judged as Requires Improvement  or Inadequate in the last 3 years 
  • high numbers of children in receipt of EY Pupil Premium 
  • high numbers of children with SEND 
  • high numbers of children taking up the disadvantaged 2-year-old offer 

LA Role:  during the summer term, the LA will be invited to become part of the programme, and will be responsible for nominating eligible settings to participate.

Further information: DfE are running a number of webinars, to give further detail on the Experts and Mentors programme.  There are 3 available webinar sessions to attend via Microsoft Teams. Please only register/attend one session, using the links below. You will then receive confirmation of the event, including the event link: 

DfE have a dedicated mailbox - where you can send any queries regarding the full roll-out of the programme.  We ask that you please send your queries after the events have taken place.   

If you would like more information regarding the wider DfE programme of early years Covid recovery support please visit 


Health, wellbeing and safety updates

Op Encompass briefing March 2022

In November 2022 Devon and Cornwall Police will be moving to a new IT system called Niche.

With this move they will no longer use ViSTs (Vulnerability Indicator Screening Tools) to record vulnerability concerns for children and adults at risk but will move to the Niche product called the Public Protection Notice (PPN). ViSTs contain the information about domestic abuse incidents that we share with schools under Operation Encompass.

PPNs are already widely used in Forces who have adopted Niche (over 20 Forces). It has some similarities to the ViST but does have the capability to capture more information from the child with the questions the officers need to go through.

OP Encompass is now being undertaken in all 43 Forces, but Devon and Cornwall Police is the only Force that passes information through direct phone calls. In most other forces an email notification is made to schools. We have been working with the Op Encompass founders Lis and David Carney-Hayworth and Dorset police on an automated replacement process to the telephone process. The focus has been on ensuring that the information shared will be sufficient to enable the school to provide the right level of support to the child.

Unlike a significant number of Forces who have decided to share a relatively limited amount of data (essentially that a domestic abuse has occurred) Devon and Cornwall Police and Dorset Police have opted for a reasonable level of detail. This has been supported by David and Lis Carney-Hayworth.

The information will be sent to schools via an email notification - an example email has been included with this briefing. The officers attending the incidents will use a hand-held electronic device to record the PPN and will then email directly to the school immediately after the incident. 

The benefits of moving to an automated system will mean that the schools will have the information at the earliest opportunity, and we will no longer have delays that can sometimes result from our current IT systems and Op Encompass process. The making of phone calls can rely on available resources and can also rely on the ability to make efficient contact with the key adult at very busy times of the day, which can present challenges.

The Central Safeguarding Team (CST), who currently delivers the calls, would still be accessible if the school did require additional information and would still make contact directly with schools if a PPN was submitted without school details (if, for example, parents refuse or are unable to provide school details).

Devon Platinum Jubilee Cake Competition: "Fit for a Queen"

An exciting cake-baking competition in honour of HM the Queen's Platinum Jubilee.  The competition will be judged by Devon's very own celebrity chef Michael Caines MBE (Deputy Lieutenant of Devon), David Fursdon (Lord-Lieutenant of Devon) and Kate Baylis (Deputy Lieutenant of Devon, Platinum Jubilee Committee Chair).  The lucky 10 finalist teams will present their cakes to Michael, the Lord-Lieutenant and Kate in a Finalists' "Taste-Off" on Friday 27 May at Exeter College.

The brief is to bake a cake "Fit for a Queen" to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen's Platinum Jubilee. 

Entries will be judged on: how the team has interpreted the title "Fit for a Queen" and how the cake reflects the Platinum Jubilee theme; taste; and texture.

The competition is open to teams of up to three children of secondary school age (11 to 16 years) and we invite entries from schools in the Devon area.  All schools interested in entering a team are invited to return the form (link below) by Friday 8 April 2022.  On the form, you will be asked to nominate an adult from your school who will be responsible for liaising with the Lord Lieutenant's office and Bidfood regarding the ordering of ingredients and logistics generally. Once the entries are received, the Lord Lieutenant will select 10 schools to take part by picking names out of a hat. 

Bidfood ( has kindly agreed to sponsor the competition and will provide all the necessary cake-making ingredients for free, both for the internal competitions to be held within the schools/homes, and for the Final.  The responsible adult at each school/home will be provided with an order form for ingredients in due course.

The winning team from each school's/home's internal competition will then automatically be entered into the Final at Exeter College on 27 May.  There will be 10 Finalist teams.

For the purposes of each internal competition, you will need a judging panel.  Whilst this is clearly a matter for each school/home to decide, we suggest that the judging panel might consist of your Head Teacher and two Deputy Lieutenants provided by us, each of whom we guarantee will very happily volunteer their cake-tasting services to the children for the afternoon!

For the purposes of planning your diaries, we anticipate that we will be asking you to place your orders for ingredients with Bidfood for the internal competitions by Friday 29 April and we ask that your internal competitions should be completed by Friday 13 May.  This will then then allow enough time to order further ingredients for the Finals on 27 May and for everyone to make their travel plans to get their teams to Exeter.

The Final will be held at The Michael Caines Academy at Exeter College on Friday 27 May.  The children will be invited to present their pre-baked cakes to Michael, the Lord-Lieutenant and Kate.  This will also be an opportunity for the local Press to become involved.  Prizes will be awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place.

LFD Test Ordering


We are seeing rates rising again. On March 16 the whole population rate in Plymouth was 833.2/100,000.  The trend is up in Plymouth as is the rate for the South West (869/100,000) and England (614/100,000). Plymouth was 361/100,000 on March 3rd.

This means you are likely to see (have seen) an increase in COVID cases in your settings and in the community.

Ordering of LFD tests in Primary and Secondary School Settings

The most recent contingency framework for schools set out thresholds for when settings should take extra action. Contingency framework: education and childcare settings (

The thresholds are reflected in the bullet points within the following section in italics taken from the contingency framework:

When settings should consider extra action

The operational guidance sets out the measures that all education settings should have in place to manage COVID-19 risk day-to-day. For most settings, it will make sense to think about taking extra action if they face severe operational disruption to face-to-face education. The thresholds, detailed below, can be used by settings as an indication for when to seek public health advice if they are concerned. For most education and childcare settings, these include:

  • a higher than previously experienced and/or rapidly increasing number of staff or student absences due to COVID-19 infection
  • evidence of severe disease due to COVID-19, for example if a pupil, student, child or staff member is admitted to hospital due to COVID-19
  • a cluster of cases where there are concerns about the health needs of vulnerable staff or students within the affected group

All settings should ensure their contingency plans reflect the possibility that a DPH or HPT might advise rapid lateral flow device (LFD) testing by some staff, pupils and students (secondary age and above). This may temporarily be advised for an individual setting or in areas of high prevalence by DsPH as part of their responsibilities in outbreak management.

Given the on-going and increasing high rates in Plymouth

For Primary Schools if you believe you have met one of these thresholds ( the first bullet point is likely to be the most prevalent one experienced) then we in the PCC Public Health Team would support you ordering LFD tests for your staff for a time limited period. When ordering through the normal route you will be asked whether the Health Protection Team (SWHPT) or local PH Team have advised you to do so. In order to receive our support / approval we suggest sending an email to setting out which threshold(s) you have reached i.e. one or more of the bullet points above. Unless we feel that we need to query your ask we will provide an email response advising / agreeing to ordering LFDs for staff.

Please note:

  • LFD testing for primary age children is no longer within the guidance.

For Secondary Schools if you believe you have met one of these thresholds ( the first bullet point is likely to be the most prevalent one experienced) then we in the PCC Public Health Team would support you ordering LFD tests for your students and staff for a time limited period. When ordering through the normal route you will be asked whether the Health Protection Team (SWHPT) or local PH Team have advised you to do so. In order to receive our support / approval we suggest sending an email to setting out which threshold(s) you have reached i.e. one or more of the bullet points above. Unless we feel that we need to query your ask we will provide an email response advising / agreeing to ordering LFDs for staff.

From April 1

We will update further on March 24 and March 31 in the School Bulletin to confirm changes that come into play from April 1 that may affect LFD ordering


Government updates

Education Secretary promises to harness 'energy and expertise' of teachers

A new independent government body is to be created, focused on supporting teachers to deliver excellent lessons and building on the success of Oak National Academy. The new body is expected to become fully operational from the autumn, following a transition phase.

One million tutoring courses delivered to help children catch up

The National tutoring programme has reached one million courses since it began, with new measures announced to help support even more pupils.

Of the estimated 1 million courses started since the beginning of the programme, around 532,000 were provided through the School-led tutoring route, which provides funding directly to schools giving them greater flexibility to source their own tutors, whether external or staff already working in the school. As a result, up to £65 million will be transferred into this route from the Academic mentors and Tuition partner pillars of the programme, giving more schools the autonomy and support to deliver high-quality tutoring to as many children and young people as possible, and reflecting the department's continued focus on following the evidence of what works. The programme remains on track to deliver the ambitious target of 2 million courses overall this academic year.

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