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COVID-19 Schools' Bulletin - 21 August 2020

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Updated 21 August 2020

Important contact details

Daily attendance returns by 1.00pm each day

schoolorganisation@plymouth.gov.uk

Children's Service general queries

childrensservicesresponse@plymouth.gov.uk

General Covid-19 queries to the Local Authority

covid19@plymouth.gov.uk

 

Message from Judith

It's the third week in August already and the nights are drawing in; it seems a long time since March! We committed to sending a Bulletin during August and here it is. Whilst you're probably aware of how much has changed it's fair to say that we still expect there will be further guidance before schools return. It will depend on the science and the current situation across the local area.

Much of the information in the Bulletin will be repeated, if it is still accurate, at the beginning of September. The first Bulletin of the new academic year will be w/c 7th September. There's a lot happening and we've covered some important updates in this edition.

Please help us by providing information regarding transport to school and any issues you see emerging and encourage families to get in touch if they become aware of problems they might have.

Right at the end of term I also flagged that the Life Centre would be closed until March/April 2021. I have heard from some schools about how this may affect your curriculum but we are not yet certain of the full impact on you. I am working with colleagues in PCC and the School Sports Partnership to understand the options available but do need to quantify the size of the issue.

So far I have not heard of schools in Plymouth who do not intend to open fully by w/c 7th September. The DFE have asked us to provide assurance of re-opening plans so please do get in touch if there are issues of which we are not yet aware. I recognise of course that opening is dependent on the situation not changing and your risk assessment.

The Whats App groups are still functional as far as I know so feel free to get in touch for the sharing of ideas and questions or use the children's services inbox which is being monitored and supported as before. In addition of course the September Guidance is up to date and is hopefully a usefully source of collated and up to date information.

Last week we launched the Youth Hub (Skills Launchpad) and are delighted with the support this new service is providing and the number of people accessing it. If you missed it the link is www.skillslaunchpadplym.co.uk

Enjoy the next few weeks and see you in September!

Transport to School In September

In preparation for children returning to school in September, the government recently issued guidance confirming that there would be no social distancing on designated school transport from the start of the autumn term. 

Making a distinction between dedicated school transport, services used only to carry pupils who qualify for free school transport, to and from school, and wider public transport, services, which are also used by the general public.The guidance recognises that pupils normally make extensive use of the wider public transport system, and notes that as public transport capacity continue to be constrained, its use by pupils, particularly in peak times, should be kept to an absolute minimum. Advice to parents is 'where possible, children and young people are encouraged to avoid public transport, particularly at peak times, and to walk or cycle to school or college.Where your child relies on public transport to get to school or college, and cannot walk or cycle, thesafer travel guidance for passengerswill apply.'

In Plymouth the only designated transport that the Local Authority is responsible for is SEND Transport - all other transport that pupils use is public transport.  Therefore, we are working closely with public transport providers across the city to ascertain their capacity for September. At present we know that with current restrictions on public transport they will be operating at approximately 50% capacity. 

The Department for Transport is asking local authorities to:

  • urgently work with schools to survey parents on their typical routes to school and potential alternatives
  • consider a range of options for shifting demand for public transport onto other modes
  • consider using traffic demand management approaches in order to ensure that children are able to attend school from the start of the autumn term.

Our work in this area is progressing and our media campaign goes live on Monday. This includes radio adverts, posters on buses and social media posts to encourage people to think about how they travel and to plan ahead.  You may also see that we will be launching a survey to all parents to gather more information about how they plan to travel to school in September so that we can start to plan for any potential capacity issues.

As we have no statutory duty to monitor the number of children and young people who travel on public transport we are unsure at this stage how many young people regularly use the service.

This is where we need your help: 

If you are able to gather information of how many of your students actually use public transport on a regular basis to travel to school please could you send us these details to assist in our capacity planning?  Please could you also confirm if you arrange any dedicated school transport yourselves and how many of your students use it as this will also help us when we are trying to ensure that there is enough capacity on buses to get young people to each school? We recognise that this is a particularly busy time for staff in schools, but helping us to understand the context will enable us to safeguard the safe travel of your pupils.

Once we have a full picture we will work with public transport providers to provide a safe solution. 

We will also be promoting sustainable travel arrangements and developing a range of resources for schools and families to help parents plan for walking and cycling to and from schools.

After discussions with colleagues in Health & Safety and Public Health, we will be following government guidance on SEND designated transport; so there will be no social distancing on all SEND school transport arranged via the local authority Home to School Transport Team.  SEND school transport individual routes will form own 'bubble' and the same passengers will travel on these routes each day. 

If you have any questions or queries please contact schooljourneys@plymouth.gov.uk  and please also use this email to share information about the numbers of pupils using public transport to travel to school. Thank you for your help in this matter.

Important information for all schools: Reporting incidents to the PHE/PCC

Please find attached the new flow chart from Public Health England (National Institute for Health Protection). It is vital that all senior leaders in your setting are aware of this and work to it. This should be implemented with immediate effect.

The changes are:

  • There is no longer a need to routinely report individual suspected cases to Public Health England South West Health Protection Team (PHE SW HPT)
  • There is still a need to report suspected cases to PHE SW HPT in the following scenarios:
    • The symptomatic person has been admitted to Hospital
    • The possible case REFUSES testing
    • There are a cluster of possible cases/unexpected increase in absenteeism
    • The possible case has DEFINITE link to a confirmed case
  • The flow chart has been changed to reflect the need to now self-isolate for 10 days in line with updated guidance

Local reporting to PCC

  • We had been asking you over the summer term to report individual suspected cases to Plymouth City Council though your daily attendance reports that you complete. You no longer need to do this.
  • We would like you to inform Plymouth City Council if you are reporting to PHE SW HPT any suspected cases in line with the scenarios noted above
  • We would also like you to know that you can contact us if you have any concerns or queries regarding COVID-19 for additional advice and support
  • We would like you to report any suspected cases in line with scenarios noted above using this email address: childrensservicesresponse@plymouth.gov.uk
  • If you have any concerns or queries regarding COVID-19 contact us using the same email i.e. childrensservicesresponse@plymouth.gov.uk

Please note ( as with the PHE flow chart) we would like you to continue to report to us any confirmed cases or outbreaks in your setting using the  childrensservicesresponse@plymouth.gov.uk email

Note: timely local reporting will enable swift local response and support

Support for schools - COVID-19 infection prevention

Public Health England South West Health Protection Team have set up additional COVID-19 educational setting webinars for any educational setting to attend.

The sessions will cover infection prevention principles and then discuss scenarios to illustrate this.

If you would like to attend, the webinars will be run on selected dates that are listed on our Eventbrite page. The link for which is:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/covid-19-educational-settings-webinar-tickets-109457638744

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 swhpt@phe.gov.uk

Plymouth Guidance for Schools September Opening

You will be aware that local authority officers, together with representative head teachers and a MAT CEO have been working on information for schools for the return to school in September.  

The work completed so far can be found at https://www.plymouthonlinedirectory.com/covid19/septguidanceforschools

The guidance from the local authority will provide assistance in interpreting Government publications, together with practical support and exemplars for the many aspects of school opening in September.  Topics include COVID-19 specific advice, behaviour, mental health and wellbeing, vulnerable children, SEND, Ethnic Minority Achievement, school transport, Safeguarding, risk assessments, the recovery curriculum, and assessment, to name just a few; and include links to key documents and advice from specialists, dedicated organisations and support mechanisms, including Public Health England.  The site will also offer wider information that is useful for your school community, such a links to the Plymouth Skills Launchpad who provide advice, guidance and brokering of education, training and employment for school leavers, young people and adults.

The information on these pages will be updated on an ongoing basis in line with changing advice and guidance at a national and local level. We welcome:

  • contributions from school leaders, particularly sharing good practice
  • your comments about navigation as well as strengths and weaknesses in the information offer
  • your questions about September, your school and your community (which will added to the FAQs)

In the first instance, please contact childrensservicesresponse@plymouth.gov.uk this 'inbox' will be manned by the EP&S team throughout the summer break and questions will be answered promptly, and shared as part of the Frequently Asked Questions, if appropriate.  There is no such thing as an unnecessary question, as it is likely that many others share the same difficulties.  The Frequently Asked Questions will be updated by subject specialists throughout the summer break, so if you don't find the answer you are seeking, please ask the question. When you log on, you will see that some areas of the site are more populated than others. This reflects the changing local and national picture.  In the coming weeks, we expect to have consistent information across each of the sections. This site is focused on supporting you, and will develop to meet your needs.

Wellbeing for Education Return project

On the 4th August, the DfE wrote to the Chief Executive to notify of additional grant funding to enable the Local Authority to work with local partners to tailor and deliver wellbeing and mental health training and support for education settings.

The DfE understand that the Local Authority has a key role to play in supporting educational settings' readiness for the impact of the pandemic and lockdown on wellbeing.  Teachers and other education staff may need additional support to recognise and understand the range of children and young people's reactions and know how to support them, their parents and carers, and their colleagues.

The Wellbeing for Education Return project seeks to better equip education settings to support children and young people's wellbeing, resilience and recovery in the context of COVID-19 and associated measures.

There are two elements to the project:

  • A national training package, which will provide guidance and resources for education staff on responding to the impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of students
  • The Local Authority will put in place one or more local experts who will work with partners and deliver to leads in education settings, and provide ongoing advice and support until March 2021.

We expect to use existing groups to make sure we capture the capacity and capability of partners to support and create synergy with existing programmes. Wellbeing for Education Return aims to equip nominated education staff with the knowledge and skills to introduce and conceptualise clear, coherent information and resources to their settings' staff and to support and enable discussions with children and young people, parents and carers. 

Information about the project is being shared now, as the training resources will not be available to Local Authorities until early September - and it is expected that the materials will then be tailored by local experts, to reflect local needs and services, and be delivered to education settings later in September and October.

To provide resilience in the system, the local expert(s) will provide ongoing support to maintained schools and academies through the Autumn and Spring terms (2020/21).

Details of the Plymouth arrangements for implementation of this project will be shared with schools early in the Autumn term.  If you have any questions about the project, please contact Bev Gates, Interim Lead Commissioner for Schools Beverley.gates@plymouth.gov.uk

DfE Communication to Schools - implementation of RSHE Education

(Relationships Education, Relationships, Sex and Health Education - Statutory in September 2020)

Emotional and Mental Health is supported through every aspect of educational delivery, however at the present time Government education policy is also supporting C&YPs Emotional & Mental Health through the delivery of the new Relationships, Sex and Health Education statutory requirements.  Reacting to the Covid 19 Pandemic, the DfE have recently published further guidance setting out flexibility in the delivery of the new RSHE curriculum for schools, focusing on mental health.

  • In summary:
  • DfE continue to assess the impact of Covid 19 and there is now an element of flexibility regarding how schools discharge their duty to deliver RSHE within the first year of compulsory teaching (2020 - '21)
  • Schools are encouraged to begin teaching in September or whenever is practicable within the first few weeks of the 2020 - '21 academic year
  • Schools that assess that they are not ready for this must aim to start teaching to the new guidelines by the start of the summer term 2021
  • To assess if a school is ready to deliver statutory RSHE in September or a soon as possible thereafter, the school should conduct an 'assessment of preparedness'
  • 'Schools should consider prioritising curriculum content on mental health and wellbeing, as knowledge on supporting your own and others' wellbeing will be important as pupils return to schools'
  • The new guidance relating to the 'Right to Withdraw'is in place, as of September 2020
  • Ofsted's Inspection Handbook sets out that inspectors will consider the provision for RSHE as part of a wider judgment of pupils' personal development, although this is not expected during the Autumn term.

To support schools throughout the last academic year, the 'Narrowing the Gaps' Team (within EPS) have provided a PSHE, Wellbeing and Citizenship Hub CPD which focused on helping schools prepare their curriculum, consult with the school community and share best practice. We also delivered a range of off-the-shelf, bespoke training engaging issues of equality, prejudice, health and wellbeing, mindfulness, PREVENT, and facilitated school community consultation.

There is currently no official resource available to assist schools with the 'Assessment of Preparedness for Statutory RSHE' (as referred to by the DfE). We have reacted quickly to this, producing a useful, new resource that many schools are currently using. Our assessment tool for schools, regarding RSHE is part of a Citywide RSE Multi-Agency project.

Any schools that have not yet accessed the assessment tool, or requiring additional advice and support should email Michael.house@plymouth.gov.uk

Uniform Store Plymouth - a free service for families

Uniform Store Plymouth, managed by a partnership of Plymouth churches including www.plymouthvineyard.org.uk  and www.redeemerplymouth.uk are collecting good quality second hand uniform as well as partnering with local businesses to source new uniforms which will be offered to families at a pop-up shop in New George from 18 August. All donations will be safely cleaned before redistribution. For full details of how to donate or how families can benefit from this initiative, please see the flier attached. 

Skills Launchpad Plymouth launched on Wednesday 12 August 2020

I hope you have by now picked up that our Skills Launchpad Plymouth is now live and was reported at Cabinet on Tuesday 10 August. Early indications are that it has been received favourably and has created a lot of interest. As well as a press release, I have included the Assets pack for Schools and Flyers.

Please see www.skillslaunchpadplym.co.uk

Our City wide one stop shop has developed been developed in collaboration with a full range of service providers delivering in the City and launched in time to for students in receipt of A level and GCSE results and support their next steps.

I would also draw your attention to support for Adults from the Skills Launchpad as I am sure the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic will be felt by parents and I would encourage you to make them aware of the offer available, which again is comprehensive.

Skills Launchpad Plymouth will be a living offer, evolving over time to respond, support give direction for all our citizens and businesses.

See, Hear, Respond

See, Hear, Respond is a new programme providing support for children, hidden from view and not currently receiving support from statutory services, who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.   The programme has been developed to work with children experiencing hidden harm and adversity to support crisis intervention to de-escalate issues of concern.

For further details see the flier attached to this issue; a link to a webinar which walks you through the model of working, who it is aimed at, the three strand response, and how to refer can be found at:

https://web.microsoftstream.com/video/911f9afd-f1cd-444c-9288-b800be4a2137

For information please contact: tracey.watkinson@plymouth.gov.uk

The challenges of changing information and expectations for A level and GCSE exams

Detailed below is the chronology of the changing landscape related to the examinations in 2020.  This information will be familiar to many, but explain the challenges experienced by secondary colleagues, particularly over the past week.

03 April 2020

Following the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the sustained closure of schools and colleges, Ofqual announced a system based on teachers submitting grades and ranking for students, and then immediately consulted upon the announced approach and the standardisation process being applied to the students outcomes to ensure fairness and validity of results (compared to previous years when students sat the actual examinations).

22 May 2020

Ofqual published the detail of the exceptional arrangements, incorporating the process for standardisation and the establishment of an additional autumn examination series.

The consultations determined that the vast majority of students who would have taken their formal examinations in the summer of 2020 would be awarded a centre assessment grade (CAG) formulated from teacher assessment of what the teacher believed the student would have achieved had they the examination in the summer of 2020, school moderation of the teacher assessment and place ranking against other students taking the same subject in the school. The small number of students for whom a centre assessment grade would not be possible, were to take the examinations in the autumn (October 2020 for A levels and AS levels, and November 2020 for GCSEs).

The consultation also determined that examination boards would be required to apply a standardisation process using a statistical model which included the expected national outcomes for this year's students, the prior attainment of students at each school and college (at cohort, not individual level), and previous results of the school or college.  This process was the preferred option for 89% of the consultation respondents.

An appeal process against the calculated grade (the centre assessment grade following standardisation) was detailed and concluded that a student could not appeal their centre assessment grade or ranking attributed by the school.

12 August 2020

Prior to the release of the A level (AS, EPQ and AEA) qualifications in England, the Scottish Government determined that students who had taken their Higher examinations would revert to the grades attributed by their teachers, if their calculated grade was lower.  This forced an announcement from the Education Secretary outlining a 'triple lock' process for students in England allowing them to accept their calculated grade, appeal to receive a valid mock result, or sit the autumn exams.

13 August 2020

The release of the A level results, saw an increase of 2.5% in the highest grades of A and A* and a higher number of disadvantaged students going to university than in 2019, 39.1% of centre assessment grades were downgraded in England. [35.6% by one grade, 3.3% by two grades and 0.2% by three grades]

The Education Secretary announced that appeals for A level, AS level and GCSEs would be free for schools and colleges following the implementation of the 'triple lock' system, and all other appeals for state schools will be reimbursed [alongside the cost of entry for autumn exams - previously announced].

17 August 2020

The Education Secretary announced that students in England will receive centre assessment grades for their GCSEs on 20 August 2020 and for their A level and AS level results received on 13 August 2020.  Ofqual and the DfE have concluded that application of the algorithm has resulted in too many inconsistent outcomes for A and AS level students.  The Government and Ofqual have jointly agreed to revert to centre assessment grades.  GCSE students will receive their centre assessment grade directly from their schools or colleges, and A and AS students will be reissued with their centre assessment grades.  However, if the calculated grade is higher, the calculated grade will stand.

17 August 2020

Ofqual announced that the statistical standardisation approach used for A levels was not generally used for vocational and technical qualifications (including BTEC). The regulatory framework, designed to encompass the breadth of study, meant that each awarding organisation was responsible for developing its own model for issuing results in line with a set of principles, as a result, there are few qualifications where the cohort has received entirely algorithmically determined grades.  For the small number of qualifications that have used a statistical standardisation approach similar to the A level and GCSE model, Ofqual have asked awarding institutions to review their approach, which is likely to mean that these results will be reissued.

BTEC and other vocational and technical qualifications

The situation with BTEC and other vocational and technical qualifications (VTQ) is slightly different. As with A levels and GCSE qualifications, vocational and technical qualifications were considered through consultation with schools, colleges, awarding bodies, teachers, parents and students.  The outcome of the consultation was published on 22 May 2020, alongside the A level and GCSE consultation process. 

The regulatory framework published by Ofsted for all VTQs (including BTEC) required all awarding organisations to develop their own model for issuing results in accordance with five key principles published by Ofqual. BTEC qualifications are made up of units, with assignments and test which link theory work with practical exercises.  The unit grades are converted to a point score, which are added together to calculate an overall grade.  Few awarding organisations chose to use the Ofqual Ofqual standardisation process when awarding grades for their VTQs.

More than quarter of a million students found out their Level 3 BTEC results last Thursday, but a few did not.  The Education Secretary confirmed that only 2% of BTEC students saw their grades downgraded (versus the 39.1% of A level students). However, all awarding organisations who used the Ofqual standardisation approach (similar to that used for A levels) have been advised to review their procedures in readiness for the release of Level 1 and 2 qualifications and reissue their results for Level 3.

At 4.30pm yesterday, Pearson, the awarding organisation for BTEC told schools not to issue BTEC grades to their students as the qualifications are going to be regraded 'to apply consistency across teacher assessed internal grades'.  Pearson had used calculated grades for examined units using historical information similar to the Ofqual standardisation process.  Practically, this meant many schools were opening envelopes to amend the information for students, and the decision will leave a significant number of Plymouth students without results for key subjects.

Whilst the U-turn means that our pupils receive higher grades than ever before, there are concerns today for current and future cohorts that cannot be ignored.

Appeal process for CAG

There is currently no process for appeal against centre assessment grades. If students do not feel that their grades are fair and do not reflect their capability.  The latest guidance relating to appeals for centre assessment grades was issued as part of the Ofqual consultation response on 22 May 2020 and states that appeals against the centre assessment grade will not be possible. 

A single year issue with far reaching implications, could be the breakdown in relationships between parents and schools as full responsibility for grades now falls to the school moderated teacher assessment.  If parents and students do not agree with the centre assessment grade there is potential for acrimony, particularly if there is no appeal process.

Autumn examination series

There is not yet clarity about the autumn examination series - if it does not go ahead, there will be a small number of students, for whom a centre assessment grade was not possible, who are significantly disadvantaged.  They will either miss employment or training opportunities, they may have to repeat a year of study, or take the examination with a significant disadvantageous delay. The small numbers wanting to participate in the Autumn will make the provision of the examination series not financially viable for many subjects and examination boards.

School by school discrepancy

Without a form of standardisation, there is no model to address the discrepancies between schools where the centre assessment grades were calculated modestly and schools where the centre assessment grades erred on the optimistic.

Impact of aspirational grades

Unsurprisingly, it is reported that centre assessment grades saw significant improvements at both A level and GCSE, with a substantial bulge at GCSE grade 4 - the concern is that there may be a significant number of students pursuing further study, without the requirement/ opportunity for further mathematics and English study.  This may, in the longer term, render the courses beyond literacy and numeracy capabilities of the students.

Schools and colleges will find themselves having to put in additional support for students who have gained access to academic study based on aspirational grade, and who may struggle with their chosen courses.  This in turn may result in an increased 'fallout' rate for courses resulting in an increase in NEETS.

Long term impacts

Whilst the results from the 2020 examination series will not be published or be used to analyse performance, there are implications for students, teachers and schools.  Students from previous and future years may be in competition for university places, employment or access to apprenticeships and training.  It is possible that those who were not 2020 students will be disadvantaged, or that the results of the students of 2020, will no longer be trusted.  The 10% grade inflation for 2020 and the number of pupils from 2020 being awarded a place for 2021, may mean that universities expect high grades of their future students, which in turn could impact negatively on disadvantaged and middle attaining pupils.

These represent the immediate concerns shared by schools and the Local Authority; and we hope they will be addressed through further revisions to the advice and guidance arising from the 2020 examination series. 

Government updates

Induction for newly qualified teachers during the coronavirus outbreak

The government have extended the period during which NQT absences related to COVID-19 will contribute towards the absence limit that would extend statutory induction to 1 September 2021.

Next Bulletin: September 2020

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