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Education Bulletin - 18 September 2020

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Updated 18 September 2020

Important contact details

Children's Service general queries

General Covid-19 queries to the Local Authority


Message from Judith

Dear colleagues

This has been a challenging week for most and a very challenging week for some. It should be applauded that headteachers have continued to demonstrate determination to support children, staff and families as we entered even more uncharted territory. Thank you all for responding so quickly to many messages this week.

I've been asked if you need to send us a daily update of suspected cases and children being sent home. The answer is 'yes please'; if you have any. I am committed to reducing the already huge burden on you so do not need you to submit a nil return. But we absolutely so need to know if children or bubbles have gone home. Also if you have had to close any classes or a nursery due to staffing shortages. We are trying to cover front line services and having this information helps us to identify gaps we and other agencies may have if staff are self-isolating or undertaking childcare.

Today's Bulletin updates you on city attendance and you'll be aware that a new 'x' code was announced on Sunday. Also new this week Ofsted commenced their 'assurance' visits and I was pleased to hear the emphasis they will have on bringing forward learning from those.

Our system for managing Covid cases and suspected cases was tested this week and I want to share the process with you. Most of you have not experienced what happens when a confirmed case is notified; let's hope it stays that way but we know there can, and will be, cases developing in any school even though you have all implemented safe systems of working.  The number of suspected cases, or precautionary action taken, outweighs the confirmed cases but here's what happens (in brief).

We will be notified of a confirmed case and the LA work with you and PHE/HPT to manage the situation, assess the risks, consider the steps to be taken and advise you on any 'bubbles' that need to self-isolate. When I say 'LA' it will be a senior member of the Education team, Public Health colleagues and someone from Comms. We hold what is called an Incident Management Team meeting. These are minuted and we follow up on actions with you and support any media interest or messaging to families. We'll also liaise with transport and other services as necessary.

If you do not have confirmed cases but suspected cases in large numbers, we will follow a similar process but PHE may not be involved at all stages.

Yesterday a new DFE service was announced and there is now a helpline schools can call for advice. We ask that you continue to work with us even if you use this service. The local coordination is effective and, as well as being able to support you, this will help us in our role in understanding the patterns of the disease across the city to identify opportunities to intervene. Seeing the 'clusters' or connections, if there are any, is a vital part of making sure we can implement prevention and safeguards. Please be aware that if you use the DFE service we are not informed.

Finally from me, you will see the first item is a document for parents to assist understanding of the steps they should take in the event of their child being unwell. Thank you for all the feedback on the letter I asked you to send out earlier in the week. We have tried, in this document, to present the information more clearly.

Have a safe weekend,


Guidance for schools on COVID-19 testing from NHS

Schools have been issued with guidance on testing and the advice for parents and teachers. It is very important that this guidance is followed. Schools should not advise pupils or teachers to take a test unless they exhibit one or more of the listed symptoms. If there is a confirmed case then schools should not advise entire classes or year groups to get tested. Only those with symptoms or those advised by their clinician or Local Authority should get a test. Schools must not require students to provide evidence of a negative test before letting them back to school.

The majority of schools in England have now received a very small number of test kits to be used in emergencies only.  These kits including a swab and details of how to undertake the test.  These tests are provided by the national team and a portal for schools to apply for a replenishment of kits will be opening from 16 September.  Emails will be sent to all English schools to confirm the process for this.

For any queries please email

Further guidance - and some clarity...

Unsurprisingly, headteachers have expressed some confusion over government guidance concerning self-isolation. We have checked information and now attach to this Bulletin a clear, easy to access COVID related guide to absence for parents - easy to access, accurate information for parents, teachers and schools.

Arrangements for providing free school meals for pupils required to self-isolate at home

The DfE updated its guidance on the provision of school meals from September 2020. The guidance sets out how schools and settings should work with their catering suppliers to prepare meals or food parcels for pupils that are eligible for benefits-related free school meals but are required to stay at home because they or a family member have symptoms that may be Covid 19 related.

There is no requirement to provide universal infant free school meals to infant pupils who are not in school. The DFE full guidance can be found on the GOV.UK website.

Families that are required to self-isolate will not be able to collect food parcels from their child's school or setting and may not have the necessary support structures in place to arrange for an extended family member or friend to arrange collection. The DFE guidance attached, provides advice on the provision of food parcels and expected food standards.

This guidance will be updated with details of how schools can submit claims in the autumn if required.

Further advice and information is expected from DFE and will be included in the schools bulletin, once we know more. In the meantime, please contact your catering supplier or the Plymouth City Council Food Insecurity Group at

Daily attendance

We have been gathering the overall attendance information that schools have submitted to the DfE around daily attendance.  The table below sets out the daily summary since 7th September which shows the changes in the numbers of pupils attending.  Overall there has been a reduction in pupils attending in this week.

We are getting in touch with schools who are not making daily submissions to check whether any advice or support is needed for this.  Please do get in touch if you have any questions.

Some schools have asked if Ofsted will use attendance as a trigger for an assurance visit. As Ofsted choose sample schools they have said they are not generally considering attendance unless it is low because pupils have not returned or are being asked to undertake remote learning instead of attending school (for non Covid reasons).

COVID-19 Schools Bulletin - Daily Attendance

Plymouth Education Board

Please see below key messages from the Plymouth Education Board meeting held on 11 September 2020 for your information.

  1. We need to draw on the good work that has happened over recent months - COVID has taught us we're stronger if we're working together. Learning from each other has been a really positive feature and we need to look forward to how we deliver our vision of achieving the best outcomes for young people and families across the city.
  2. The focus now has to be on disadvantage and closing the gap and that means agreeing real actions and interventions at the start of the academic year. Sharing data will be a key success factor.
  3. At the heart of a self-improving school system is school-to-school collaboration. The Plymouth Secondary Strategy Portal provides a single collaborative citywide platform for secondary schools across Plymouth. From here you can access System-led CPD, System Leader Support, Citywide Professional Learning Communities, News, Research and Resources. You can sign up for the Newsletter to receive news, insights and notification of events.
  4. Another priority going forward is supporting the mental health and wellbeing of students and staff for this return to school period.
  5. We want to raise aspiration in the city and the hard work that has been put into the launch of the new Skills4Plymouth programme, demonstrates the city's commitment to closing the skills gap and generating new opportunities for young people and adults - visit the Skills Launchpad for more information and get involved. The Skills4Plymouth programme is one six 'Pillars' developed to address economic recovery in the city - visit the Resurgam website for more information.
  6. Looking ahead we are striving to bring the children and young people's agenda together so we can work more collaboratively - look out for plans for an annual children and young people's symposium which will provide the opportunity to share ideas and find out what's going on across the system.

From Devon and Cornwall Police - Safeguarding alert: Blue Whale Challenge

We have been asked by Devon & Cornwall Police to share a concern regarding the dangerous online 'Blue Whale Challenge' recently undergoing a re-emergence within the region (please note: THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MARINE LIFE).

In summary, this is a dangerous social media driven challenge targeting vulnerable and susceptible young people. The concept is 'one challenge per day for fifty days', with challenges increasing in risk and harm, culminating in suicide. The trend anecdotally began in Russia and is attributed as a cause behind hundreds of young suicides - that being said, its legitimacy has been questioned in the media due to the inability to scrutinise figures from Russia and the Eastern bloc.

Reports suggest there have recently been at least four incidents in South Devon in the last month (with young people carving whale images into their skin - one of the challenges), and whilst some reporting may be attributed to 'fake news', this risk may be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The incidents in our police force area were confirmed as being linked to the dangerous trend, by the children themselves during interactions with officers.

The 'challenges' focus on increasingly risky behaviour which is often out of character for young people, so from an operational safeguarding perspective, the information sheet attached to this bulletin, for use in schools, has been carefully worded to ensure that the tone and delivery is in line with a partner approach of not giving credibility to the issue.

Please can we ask you to share with school staff and work to educate young people not to become involved in this futile and self-destructive trend. Should you have any concerns or wish to discuss further please contact: Detective Inspector Gary Bunn, Public Protection Unit (Ashburton) Mobile 07912566627 Internal 305961.

Y1 phonics screening check for Y2 children

Following the cancellation of the phonics screening check in June 2020, Headteachers have received details from STA regarding the administration of the phonics screening check to children in Y2 this term. Year 2 teachers from most primary schools have registered for the local authority online training sessions on 21/22 September, when we will take them through the STA guidance in detail.

Following administration of the screening check during Term 2 (between 2 November and 18 December) schools are required to submit their data to the local authority by 8 December in the usual way, and you will be contacted directly by Sue London with details concerning uploading data.

A copy of the statutory guidance is attached to this bulletin and can also be accessed on the GOV.UK website

Please contact and for any queries regarding assessment, and for any matters related to data collection.

Plastic Free Schools

We know that many schools in the city are committed to teaching children how to care for the environment, and many make use of the coastlines close by for outdoor learning. The environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage have launched a change making pupil led education programme, Plastic Free Schools, with currently with 2348 schools signed up nationally, but more school engagement needed in the south-west. The programme equips and empowers young activists to create lasting environmental change, and once registered schools can access high quality resources to support learning, designed to hit key curriculum and other targets at each key stage. Participating schools work towards Plastic Free School accreditation.

For more details and to register visit the SAS website

Mayflower 400 Updates

As Mayflower 400 regains pace, there are several opportunities to get involved and find out more.

Wednesday 16th September: History Hits: Mayflower 400 - Steering our future, informed by the past

An online documentary presented by well-known TV historian Dan Snow will air on 16 September, marking exactly 400 years to the day since the Mayflower ship set sail. The documentary will reflect the story of the Pilgrims' journey, its impact on the Native American people who helped them when they first arrived and the wider colonial context of this journey. It will also include a look at some of the cultural projects involved in the commemorative programme. Watch the digital programme on Wednesday 16 September at 6pm via and find out more @mayflower400uk social media channels.

10 - 19 Sept 2020 St Andrew's Minster: Mayflower 400 Quilt Exhibition

The exhibition includes quilts designed and created by individuals, groups and schools from across the South West and from America based on one of four themes inspired by Mayflower 400; Leaving Home, Life at Sea, Journey's End and Life in the New Land.

Entry to the exhibition is free but donations for UNICEF will be welcomed.

Now until November 26th: Speedwell

Speedwell is a large-scale art installation that has transformed the Mount Batten Breakwater in Plymouth into a public forum for discussion and debate about the impact and legacy of the Mayflower's journey, colonialism and the ecological state of our planet during the Mayflower 400 commemorations. Speedwell has been created by local artist collective Still/Moving,

For further details please contact

Still/Moving - resources for schools from the designers of the Speedwell Mayflower 400 Installation

Still/Moving have designed a series of Programmes of Study covering the following themes uncovered in the process of researching and making the sculpture 'Speedwell'. The project explores the following ideas:

  • The story of the Speedwell - the need to make a home where you are;
  • For the settlers on board the Mayflower, they felt they were sailing to a New World, but it was already home to many people whose lives were irrevocably altered and continue to be so;
  • The need to take care of this world;
  • The links between colonialism and the environment/climate change;
  • The impact of settlement on the people already living in a settled environment. 

For further information and link to the resources visit the Still Moving website

Outdoor Learning Opportunity with The Bounty

Following a series of opportunities for learning outdoors, offered by Plymouth's famous ocean going sailor, Conrad Humphries, he is pleased to offer schools a unique opportunity to learn outdoors, in a Covid secure environment, through his Bounty Schools Inspire project. Please see the attached flier for more details.

Board the Mayflower for the 400th anniversary with Virtual 1620, the Mayflower and the Barbican

Experts have developed a Virtual Reality (VR) reconstruction of the Mayflowerthat will mark the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims setting sail for America. The Virtual Mayflower project recreates the Barbican Harbour area in Plymouth in the 1620s - allowing the VR user to board a small boat, at the original site of the Mayflower Steps, before taking a short journey out to the ship and experience passengers and crew preparing to set sail.

Led by Professor Bob Stone and VR experts at the University of Birmingham, the project was six years in the making and uses computer-based interactive technologies, such as Virtual and Augmented Reality (AR) to recreate history.

The project is now live and is displayed in the ground floor window of the Cattewater Harbour Commissioners' building, just yards from the Mayflower Steps monument, to coincide with the anniversary of the Mayflower's departure from Plymouth on 16 September 1620. Find out more at visit the Mayflower 1620 website.

Government updates

Providing school meals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
Updated guidance on the temporary extension of free school meals eligibility to NRPF groups. This update removes references to the Covid Summer Food Fund and COVID-19 specific terminology.

Education plans from September 2020
This guidance provides information for education providers about Ofsted's phased return to inspection. The guidance has been updated to reflect that Ofsted's inspection of providers on the Childcare Register will resume from 16 September.

Actions for FE colleges and providers during the coronavirus outbreak
This guidance sets out what further education (FE) providers need to know for the autumn term so that students of all ages can benefit from their education and training in full. The guidance has been updated to include Added updated version of 'What to do if a student is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Actions for schools during the coronavirus outbreak
This guidance provides information on what all schools will need to do during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak from the start of the autumn term. The guidance has been updated to include an updated version of 'What to do if a pupil is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)'

Attendance in education and early years settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak: 23 March to 10 September 2020
A summary of attendance in education settings since Monday 23 March and early years settings since Thursday 16 April 2020. The data is collected from a daily education settings status form and a weekly local authority early years survey.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): kits for schools and FE providers
This guidance is for schools and further education (FE) providers on the initial supply of coronavirus (COVID-19) home testing kits for pupils, teachers and staff. The guidance now includes updated information on ordering test kits and clarification of wording for different age group test use.

Educational psychologists: support for coronavirus (COVID-19) recovery
The Department for Education wants to build temporary educational psychologist capacity in England to support schools and colleges returning in September. This guidance is for former educational psychologists who may be interested in temporarily returning to the profession or, practising educational psychologists who may have additional capacity to offer support for a limited period.

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 from the start of the autumn term to support the return of children and young people with special education needs and disability (SEND). Information amended on risk assessments for those with an education, health and care plan.

Guidance for full opening: special schools and other specialist settings
Updated the section on managing confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Actions for schools during the coronavirus outbreak
Updated the section on managing confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) and what to do if a pupil is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Next Bulletin: 24 September 2020

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