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Education Bulletin - 20 May 2021

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Updated 20 May 2021

Important contact details

From Ming Zhang
Service Director of Education, Participation and Skills

Dear colleagues,

I am sure you have all heard of the announcement made yesterday by the Prime Minister and the Education Secretary that Plymouth is to be one of four areas to benefit from £10 million for being a trailblazer of a new national "levelling up" initiative, aiming to provide intensive area-based support to increase the proportion of pupils in Good or Outstanding schools. The Government have been identifying the areas where there is high potential for rapid improvement. Plymouth was selected because of the good work that has already taken place in the city. The other areas are Ashfield & Mansfield, South Sefton & North Liverpool, and North Durham & City. This initiative will back the place-based priorities and interventions which our school leaders are exploring.

Plymouth Schools to Benefit from New Initiative to Drive up Standards

In Plymouth, it is recognised that the challenge for secondary education is significant in that, for many years there has been a markedly lower than average proportion of children in Good or Outstanding secondary schools. The city's primary and special schools are generally performing well in comparison. The city has been selected for this first year's trailblazer on the evidence that we are likely to succeed in adopting the new place-based approach that will see schools collaborating with each other and working together to share priorities, expertise and experience to achieve our ambition that every child attends a Good or Outstanding school. The citywide effort will be led by experienced system leaders who will bring local partners together and the initiative will include schools and the network of Multi Academy Trusts in the city. Schools most in need will benefit from the direct guidance of strong MATs or access to an enhanced offer of support through the Department's Trust and School Improvement offer. While there is an urgency for a rapid increase in Good and Outstanding secondary provision in Plymouth, the other priorities of the city's place-based initiative being identified include Transition Support and Inclusion, which are crucial to the city-wide improvement and will require us to work together with every school leader of all phases: early years, primaries, secondaries and colleges.

Many school leaders have shared the City Council's view that the Government's announcement of accepting Plymouth in the trailblazer of the "levelling up" initiative was good news for the city.

The Implication of Level Up Announcement on Plymouth Schools

Following yesterday's announcement, all schools judged by Ofsted as "Requires Improvement" based in Plymouth have now become eligible for the TSI offer. In addition, the offer is "enhanced" for all eligible Plymouth schools. While the standard offer is 3 days of System Leader support for LA maintained schools and SATs and 5 days for MATs; the enhanced offer doubles the amount of system leader support, this is, 6 days for LAM/SATs and 10 days for MATs.

The above means there is a larger number of eligible academies and a very small number of maintained schools entitled to the Plymouth enhanced offer.

In the next few days, RSC and I will contact the eligible schools in Plymouth to share more information with you about this support offer.

Working Together in Difficult Times

I have seen and heard many touching accounts of how Plymouth schools, support services and local authority colleagues worked together throughout our initial Covid recovery journey. This is a strong and resilient education community.

In the past two months, sadly two Plymouth secondary schools students have died in separate accidents that took place in the community. While deeply saddened by what had happened, I was most impressed by the resilience, strong leadership and caring approach shown in the prompt and orderly responses made by the school leaders and agencies involved. I would like to thank the school leaders, staff, parents and pupils of the schools that were affected by the sad events.

I have also received praise for the speed of PCC Education Psychologist (EP) team's responses and their excellent support provided to the schools in their management of critical incidents. The EP team offers a critical incident response to all schools in need, following a psychological first aid model. Their service offer is available for children, young people and their families and also for school/setting staff support. The EP team work with children and young people up to age 25 years with complex special educational needs, including social emotional mental health. Each Plymouth school has a link PCC Educational Psychologist. The service is free at the point of delivery for assessment, advice and support for complex casework and consultation regarding systemic support for emotional health and wellbeing. Referral is via a Setting/School SENCO and is co-ordinated as part of work with other professionals.  Further information:

Contact: Clare Hetherington or Hannah Hamlin - Joint Principal EPs)

Summer Schools Scheme

Some Headteachers have told me that schools might be hesitant to organise summer schools because of retrospective DfE payment. This concern has been conveyed to the Department asking whether they can do something to address this concern. Unfortunately, the reply I received indicates that there is no way for the DfE to make payments in advance to summer schools. However, the DfE have given me the reassurance that if pupils accept a place but do not attend, the school is able to reclaim irrecoverable and receipted costs, including staff costs, up to the maximum of their funding allocation, which you can check and review by clicking the link.

Nationally over 80% of eligible mainstream schools have already signed up to the summer schools programme. Some schools have asked if they can still sign-up and therefore the DfE are keeping sign-up open and the form will remain in place until Friday 28 May. Schools can access their funding allocation before signing up for the programme to indicate they intend to run a summer school. The process takes no more than a couple of minutes.

Further information is available in our guidance on summer schools - please contact the team at if you have any questions.

Best Regards.


Supporting children and families in education

Coding for Y11 students

Guidance on year 11 to 13 exam cohort attendance and provision for the 2021 summer term. The DfE expect schools to strongly encourage pupils to attend after the May half-term and provide activities that will support them. Where a pupil is not attending school, the absence will be authorised if the school has either given approval in advance for the pupil to be away or has accepted an explanation offered afterwards as justification for absence. The absence will be unauthorised if the school is not satisfied with the reason given for absence. When recording absence in the attendance register, it is for schools to decide what the most appropriate code is. As stated in the school attendance guidance, study leave should only be granted for Y11s during public examinations. As exams are not taking place it may not be appropriate to use code S (study leave).

With regards to enforcing school attendance, as you are aware attendance is mandatory and the usual school attendance rules apply. The DfE expects schools and local authorities to take appropriate action to tackle absence, considering the individual circumstances of each pupil and family and take the best course of action to support the pupil's return to regular attendance at school. As usual, attendance enforcement action can and should be taken to support attendance where appropriate.

The study leave code - S and other authorised absence code C, both count as absences in an attendance calculation. As you will also be aware, in a normal year we collect term six data for Y11 through census but it is removed from a school's figures before they are published in the performance tables.

Mind Your Words

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) is delighted to announce the launch of Mind Your Words, a new, free online course to support all those working with children and young people with mental health needs.

The aim of this course is to improve understanding of children and young people who have both mental health, or social emotional needs, and Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN). This is made all the more important during the Covid-19 pandemic, as research suggests it has had an effect on everyone's mental health, including children.

This online training highlights the links between mental health and communication and outlines how professionals can work together to remove communication barriers and help these children and young people achieve their potential. The course consists of 15 modules, of which the first five apply to all settings.

The five core modules explain what speech, language and communication needs are, what social, emotional and mental health needs are, and how to recognise them; then how they are inter-related and what strategies you can put in place. The remaining modules look in more detail at ways you can support children and young people, including getting support from speech and language therapy, working collaboratively, modifying risk assessment and de-escalation techniques, becoming a communication accessible service and much more.

To access this free resource please visit:

For further information please visit:

Let's Go Zero

MAT CEOs and maintained school headteachers recently met with Alex Green from the Let's Go Zero campaign, supporting schools to begin a journey towards becoming carbon neutral. For further information and a supporters' pack containing lots of useful content, images and assets to help schools begin please visit: Supporters Pack . There is more information on

2021-22 National Oral Health Survey for 5-year-old Children

Attached to this Bulletin is a briefing from Public Health England on the national oral health survey of 5-year-old children 2021-22


Government updates

Every school with Reception class offered early language training

Every school in England with a Reception class is to be offered expert training in early language and communication. The £8 million expansion was announced by the Prime Minister in February as part of the new £700 million package to tackle lost learning, following the original £9 million investment as part of the National Tutoring Programme in June 2020. The expansion for the 2021-22 schools year will be managed and delivered by the Nuffield Foundation on the Government's behalf, supported again by the University of Oxford and Oxford University Press.

Safeguarding system needs to tackle "stubborn challenges"

The Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel has published its Annual Report for 2020. The independent expert panel reviews serious child safeguarding cases - when a child dies or suffers serious harm, and abuse or neglect is known or suspected. The report identifies 6 cross-cutting practice themes for safeguarding partners to make a difference in reducing serious harm and preventing child deaths in the context of abuse or neglect. These themes are supported by a bank of case studies that encapsulate key learning from case reviews.

  • Understanding what the child's daily life is like
  • Working with families where their engagement is reluctant and sporadic
  • Critical thinking and challenge
  • Responding to changing risk and need
  • Sharing information in a timely and appropriate way
  • Organisational leadership and culture for good outcomes

New legislation to help transform opportunities for all (New)

The Skills and post-16 Education Bill will be introduced in Parliament today, underpinning the government's skills and training revolution. The key measures introduced in the Bill are:

  • Embedding employers in the heart of the skills system, by making it a legal requirement that employers and colleges collaborate to develop skills plans so that the training on offer meets the need of local areas, and so people no longer have to leave their home-towns to find great jobs.
  • Supporting the transformation of the current student loans system which will give every adult access to a flexible loan for higher-level education and training at university or college, useable at any point in their lives.
  • Introducing new powers to intervene when colleges are failing to deliver good outcomes for the communities they serve, and to direct structural change where needed to ensure colleges improve.

A range of policies are already in place to deliver the Prime Minister's Lifetime Skills Guarantee, as set out by the Prime Minister last year. Today, a new fund has been launched to future proof post-16 provision with a £83 million Post-16 Capacity fund. Providers are invited to bid for a share of the fund, which will support projects to create more space for areas where there is due to be a demographic increase in 16-19 year olds in the 2022/23 academic year.

Student guide to awarding: summer 2021

A guide for students on how GCSEs, A levels, vocational and technical qualifications will be graded and awarded in summer 2021. Updated to clarify that the autumn exams will assess students in the same way as had been planned for exams in summer 2021.

Arrangements for non-exam assessment for qualifications in 2022

Ofqual consultation on arrangements for non-exam assessment and fieldwork requirements for students entering GCSEs, AS and A level qualifications in 2022. Ofqual are seeking views on their proposal that they carry forward changes agreed for summer 2021 for some subjects to take account of any public health restrictions relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) that might be in place during the next academic year. The consultation closes on 28 May 2021 and covers:

  • non-exam assessments in dance, design and technology, drama (and theatre), film studies, food preparation and nutrition, media studies, music, music technology, and physical education (PE)
  • fieldwork activities in geography, geology and environmental science
  • assessment of speaking skills in GCSE modern foreign languages (MFL)
  • assessment of spoken language in GCSE English language

Multi-academy trusts: establishing and developing your trust

How MATs can grow their trust, including using a trust partnership arrangement. The guidance has been updated: 'building strong academy trusts: guidance for academy trusts and prospective converter' and 'Trust partnerships guidance', has replaced the 'Multi-academy trust (MAT): school improvement capacity framework' with a 'Multi-academy trust (MAT): assurance framework' and guidance on how to use this framework.

Public Health England

Briefing on national oral health survey of 5-year-old children 2021-22

National dental survey programme

  • Local dental epidemiology surveys follow a national programme which is supported by the PHE national dental intelligence team, in terms of protocol, national training, analysis and reporting.
  • Nationally, it has been decided that the 5-year-old oral health survey will go ahead from September 2021, with fieldwork being completed within the academic year.
  • Preparatory work (the national calibration of regional lead examiners) will need to take place in July 2021.

Public health function and PHOF

  • Securing the provision of oral health surveys is one of local authorities' dental public health functions (Statutory Instrument 3094). 
  • The data from oral health surveys supports: the Public Health Outcomes Framework (PHOF); the NHS outcomes framework; planning and evaluation of oral health promotion programmes and the commissioning of primary dental care services. 

Impact of pandemic on children's oral health

  • During the pandemic, dental access has been limited, diets of children may have seen increases in sugar consumption over the lockdown period and most early years oral health promotion programmes were suspended. 
  • By quantifying the impact of the pandemic on dental disease levels in young children, this survey would provide a robust evidence base for identification of any deterioration in oral health and targeting any necessary action.

Request for support from Directors of Public Health

  • Support for this survey from Directors of Public Health will assist dental providers in prioritising survey fieldwork alongside clinical dental care.
  • We will also need the support of Directors of Public Health and Directors of Education to facilitate proactive engagement with schools to ensure that they are willing to engage with dental survey teams and comfortable with accepting dental survey teams on their premises. 

Zoë Allen

Consultant in Dental Public Health and Regional Dental Epidemiology Coordinator
Public Health England - South West
17 May 2021

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