Education Bulletin - 17 June 2021
Updated 18 June 2021
Important contact details
From Ming Zhang
Service Director of Education, Participation and Skills
The Prime Minister on Monday confirmed the four weeks' delay in the final lifting of Covid restrictions. While at this stage there is no change to the DfE guidance for schools in this regard, the DfE's response, which you should have received via email on 15 June emphasised the general principle that early years, schools and colleges must continue to risk assess and plan activities in line with the system of controls and should follow government guidance. I include in today's bulletin the position that is set out by the DfE on common school related activities.
Delay in Final Lifting of Restrictions
Locally it is important that we promote the message that our pupils, parents and communities must stay vigilant and to follow the current Covid restriction rules. The Delta variant, which is more infectious, and is thought to lead to more hospitalisations, is now widespread and cases are rising rapidly. The good news is that two doses of the vaccine does seem to offer very good protection; though not 100% secure, and it takes time for immunity to build up. Other areas of the UK, where there have been higher rates of infection for longer, are seeing hospitalisations but at a much lower level than in the previous wave. The next few weeks will help to clarify just how this new variant will affect us and the delay in the Roadmap reflects this.
In Plymouth, our figures are rising (at 32 per 100,000) although they are still well below the England average (at 72 per 100,000). Highest rates are being seen in young adults; this is following patterns across the country. We are seeing a few fairly small outbreaks; but for the majority of cases, they do not know where they caught it. We then tend to see household spread occurring often. In a slight change to guidance, we are now encouraging close contacts to have a PCR test, as we know that the Delta variant is spreading even more easily in households. This does not mean isolation can end early, but if positive, it will extend isolation for the household.
We know there is some confusion about which test to use. As a general rule of thumb, our Public Health Director Ruth Harrell advises that:
- LFT are for if you don't think you have Covid (no symptoms, not a close contact, and about to go about your usual day).
- PCR tests are for if you think you might have Covid (you have symptoms, or are a contact, or you have had a positive LFT)
Further information from the Public Health Team is included in the bulletin under Covid updates.
Financial support to upgrade network infrastructure
Some of you will be contacted by the RSC. The DfE are rolling out the financial support offer for both academies and maintained schools to upgrade their network infrastructure as part of the Connect the Classroom programme. The schools that may meet the criteria for the first wave of roll out will be contacted by the DfE, explaining the offer and the criteria for the first wave roll out, in the next few days. Eligible schools will receive a grant, covering all costs including the installation and setup.
Each of the schools contacted by the DfE will have an opportunity to express interest. If you confirm that you are interested in participating, the DfE will want to ascertain the most appropriate person in school to lead the programme, and will request additional information, to include a network asset form. The DfE aim to speak to all schools this week as the deadline for making contact, communicating the offer and having the required information returned to the Department is 25 June.
I have asked the DfE to roll out this programme in full as soon as possible so that every school and Academy will benefit from this financial help.
Holiday pay back pay
For the maintained schools, it is advised that Plymouth City Council, as schools' end employer, have made a decision to honour holiday pay back pay in relation to variable payments that you have received from August 2017. Schools may now implement this decision if applicable. I included a template letter for you to use in this regards.
The Prime Minister's announcement on school summer term activities
We know that many headteachers have been eagerly awaiting these updates, so for any who have not already read these: government has always been clear that 21 June 2021 was an indicative date for progression to Step 4 of the roadmap, which would be guided by data and not dates. However, yesterday the government announced a 4-week pause at Step 3. Step 3 restrictions remain in place, including those set out in the COVID-19 operational guidance for your setting.
It is expected that England will move to Step 4 on 19 July 2021, although the data will be reviewed after 2 weeks in case the risks have reduced. The government will continue to monitor the data and the move to Step 4 will be confirmed one week in advance.
It is a priority that all education and childcare settings deliver face-to-face, high quality provision to all children and students. At a time when further easing of restrictions has been paused, the current system of controls should continue to be implemented in education and childcare settings. This means settings should encourage staff, and students, where applicable, to continue to test twice weekly and student bubbles, where they exist, should stay in place. Early years settings should continue to minimise mixing by keeping children in consistent groups.
We will update schools, colleges and early years settings on plans for Step 4 as soon as possible.
We know you may have questions following the Prime Minister's announcement about what this means for some of your summer term activities. The general principle is that early years, schools and colleges must continue to risk assess and plan activities in line with the system of controls and should follow government guidance. We have set out some positions on common activities below.
Sports days can go ahead. In line with the rest of the system of controls, pupils and students must remain in their bubbles, and early years children should remain in their consistent groups as is usual for your setting. Sports equipment should be regularly cleaned throughout the event.
Spectators must adhere to current social distancing requirements. Where events take place outdoors, spectators can gather in separate groups of up to 30 - the legal gathering limit. Multiple groups of 30 are permitted.
Currently, you should avoid hosting large group gatherings indoors for more than one bubble (or in early years more than one consistent group), such as assemblies or mass worship. The schools COVID-19 operational guidance states that children should be kept in separate, independent groups (for example, their bubbles). The early years guidance states you should minimise contact between groups within settings (for example, keeping children in consistent groups).
Outdoor events are generally lower risk. Once you have undertaken a risk assessment and planned your event in line with your system of controls, you may consider an outdoor event (for example a leavers' celebration or prom) that caters for more than one bubble or consistent group, as long as the groups continue to be kept separate.
Any parents attending outdoor events must adhere to current social distancing requirements. Where outdoors spectators can gather in groups of up to 30 - the legal gathering limit. Multiple groups of 30 are permitted.
Transitional and open days
You should complete thorough risk assessments before running transitional, taster and open days in your setting, to ensure that they are run in line with your system of controls and align with the advice contained within the guidance for your setting and the roadmap out of lockdown. This means that traditional transitional and open days are unlikely to be feasible this academic year but we are keen not to restrict individual settings from designing events which maintain the integrity of bubbles or consistent groups, and adhere to the system of controls in place.
If you are planning an indoor or outdoor face-to-face performance in front of a live audience, you should continue to follow the latest performing arts guidance, and the guidance on delivering outdoor events. Registered early years settings, schools and colleges are, however, exempt from the requirement to limit group numbers to 6 for singing indoors.
PCR testing for close contacts
From Public Health England.
PCR testing is now available for close contacts of confirmed cases. We are therefore encouraging the PCR testing of close contacts to enable rapid identification of asymptomatic cases and to enable timely sequencing of positive contacts.
Note: You should not arrange to have a PCR test if you have previously received a positive PCR test result in the last 90 days, unless you have developed any new symptoms
Please see attached letters to support this if you have a positive case linked to your setting. The letters, as before, are clear that a negative PCR test does not release a close contact from isolation and they must complete their isolation period.
Please note that that the online pathway now enables people to book a COVID PCR test by virtue of being a close contact alone.
With the increased transmissibility of the delta variant; greater opportunity for people to mix and the fact that CYP (under 18) are not currently being vaccinated we are likely to see more positive cases linked to young people. It is therefore important to maintain awareness of the need for routine testing with staff and also amongst young people. This is also true for those students who are leaving school who should continue to test. Please note previous information in bulletin on appropriate use of LFD and PCR tests.
SW Health Protection Team webinars for schools
The South West Health Protection Team will be running more COVID-19 educational setting webinars for any educational setting to attend on Thursdays. The sessions will cover infection prevention principles and then discuss scenarios to illustrate this.
If you would like to attend, please use our Eventbrite page to register by visiting the link below. The webinars will run on Thursdays between 4-5pm. All dates our listed on our Eventbrite page, please follow the link below.
Please register for a ticket on the date that you would like to attend. Registering for a ticket is free, it does not cost anything to attend these webinars. Once you have registered, you will receive a confirmation email with details on how to join. On the day of your webinar another email containing a copy of the presentation for you to access will be sent out.
If you have any difficulties, you can contact the South West Health Protection Team on 0300 303 8162 or via email contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Early Career Framework updates
We attach to this issue of the Schools Bulletin a copy of the PowerPoint presentation shared this week with school leaders. The presentation sets out clearly DfE guidance on preparing for the September roll-out of the ECF - please refer to the slides and script notes which capture key elements of next steps. For further advice please contact Lucinda.email@example.com
Primary and Infant schools have received information this week from the Standards & Testing Agency informing them that cancellation of the phonics screening check in June 2021 means incoming year 2 pupils will not have taken the check in year 1 and as last year, it will be statutory for schools to administer a past version of the check to year 2 pupils during the second half of the 2021 autumn term.
Year 2 pupils who meet the expected standard in the autumn check will not be required to complete any further statutory assessments in phonics. Year 2 pupils who do not meet the expected standard in the autumn check will be expected to take the statutory check in June 2022.
STA have published administration guidance to help schools and LAs to prepare.
Data collection and submission guidance is also available and the Local Authority will contact schools directly in the autumn term to provide details of a phonics screening check online briefing and details of how/when to submit data.
Incoming year 3 pupils, who were due to take the statutory check in June 2021 are not required to take the autumn check. Schools are expected to maintain a programme of support for these pupils, which should be informed by formative assessment.
STA assessment updates
STA assessment updates this week also include:
- Publication: guidance for writing statutory end of year reports
- Reminder: optional multiplication tables check administration window
- Reminder: reception baseline assessment materials
- Reminder: reception baseline assessment confirmation form
Supporting children and families in education
Corporate Parenting survey
Plymouth City Council and its partners are ambitious for all children and young people that the city have a 'Corporate Parenting' responsibility for. For children who are 'care experienced,' or 'looked after,' PCC as Corporate Parent has a legal responsibility to provide support and care which enables each child to achieve their full potential.
We are currently writing an ambitious three year Corporate Parenting strategy and need the support of schools to ensure we fully understand the role you play in supporting care experienced children and young people and how you might work with PCC in the future. The strategy will set out a clear vision for the city with priorities that express the voice of care experienced children and young people.
To contribute your views and experiences please access the online survey at: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/RV2SCM/ before 30 June 2021.
Plymouth's Children Missing Education Procedures
The statutory guidance Children Missing Education (September 2016) sets out the key principles to enable local authorities in England to implement their legal duty under section 436A of the Education Act 1996 to make arrangements to identify, as far as it is possible to do so, children missing education (CME).
All children, regardless of their circumstances, are entitled to an efficient, full time education which is suitable to their age, ability, aptitude and any special educational needs they may have. CME are at significant risk of underachieving, being victims of harm, exploitation or radicalisation, and becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training) later in life. Plymouth's CME Procedures sets out the processes for the identification of children who are CME or at risk of becoming CME. Please ensure that relevant school staff know where to find and have read the document, it can be found at: https://www.plymouth.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Children_Missing_Education_Procedures.pdf
A list of resources to help early years settings, schools and 16 to 19 education providers support children and young people's wellbeing and education recovery. This includes the recovery package announced in June 2021 as well as existing programmes announced in June 2020 and February 2021. There are programmes and activities for pupils and students of all ages, including with consideration to disadvantaged pupils and students and those with SEND.
Practical materials for primary and secondary schools to use to train staff about teaching mental wellbeing. Added guidance to support relationships, sex and health education curriculum planning, as part of education recovery.
Ofqual has published a consultation on proposed changes to the Terms of Reference for EPRS which will affect relevant qualifications awarded in summer 2021 only. EPRS is an Ofqual process to consider whether an awarding organisation followed an appropriate process when it determined the learner's result and when it considered any review or appeal in respect of that result. The proposed changes in the consultation will only affect the relevant qualifications awarded in summer 2021. The changes concern how EPRS will operate this year and who may make an application. The consultation closes at 11:45pm on Monday 28 June.
Department for Education investment will support pupils in deprived schools in England to take part in volunteering and extra-curricular learning. The investment is part of the Government's levelling up agenda to ensure all pupils have fair and equal access to high-quality enrichment activities, alongside a £14.4 billion increase in school funding over three years. The funding will cover the next three academic years to reach many thousands more young people aged 14 to 24, adding to the work in train to extend The Duke's legacy after his death in April.
Protective measures for providers of community activities, holiday or after-school clubs, tuition and other out-of-school settings offering provision to children during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The guidance has been updated to reflect latest changes.
Guidance for parents and carers of children attending community activities, holiday or after-school clubs, tuition and other out-of-school settings. Updated section on educational visits.
Actions for leaders and staff when using the NHS COVID-19 app in education and childcare settings.
Added further information on app features and situations for pausing it.
Service personnel with children in state schools must notify schools of their eligibility for the Service pupil premium (SPP). Updated the eligibility section in Service Pupil Premium: what you need to know.
The Government's Holiday Activity and Food Programme has been expanded to run during the summer and Christmas holidays. Details can be found here on the Summer schools programme for secondary schools including funding, requirements for running a summer school and best practice evidence with specific conditions for new free schools added to Annex B.
Gavin Williamson spoke at the Festival of Education outlining the importance of good behaviour management in schools and strong multi-academy trusts.
Long-standing problems in the system of care for children and young people with SEND have been made even worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report from Ofsted has found.
Changes agreed for non-exam assessment and fieldwork in 2021 will be carried forward for another year. The arrangements for non-exam assessment for qualifications in 2022 provides details of the Ofqual consultation on arrangements for non-exam assessment and fieldwork requirements for students entering GCSEs, AS and A level qualifications in 2022. Decisions and analysis documents added to explain outcome of consultation.
Children with a social worker in England will benefit from further dedicated support in school and at college to help level up their outcomes in education and reach their full potential. The Government has today announced more than £16 million for councils to extend the role of Virtual School Heads from September this year, meaning there will be a local champion for children with a social worker in every local authority in England.
Primary school children in England will benefit from higher quality PE lessons and better sport opportunities, the Education Secretary has announced today. Backed by a £320 million investment, the PE and Sport Premium will encourage children to play more sport, increase their social skills, and improve their physical activity after lockdown.