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Education Bulletin - 22 October 2020

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Updated 22 October 2020

Important contact details

Children's Service general queries

General Covid-19 queries to the Local Authority


Message from Judith

Dear colleagues

Firstly I hope you have a relaxing break next week if possible.

As the term goes on we're reflecting on quantity and quality more and more. Quantity- how many children are out of school? What is attendance looking like? How many cases are there in the city amongst children and their families? The regular monitoring and daily portal returns are of course another burden the system is managing. As a city the rate of infection is increasing as you may have seen on the news. In the last 24 hours the Plymouth rate has risen above SW rates and all services are feeling the pressure. The system wide response and collaboration remains really strong however and the work of schools has been a credit to you all.

The quality question is increasingly being asked of course. The DfE have made toolkits and webinars available, for example, to assist with remote learning. I hear from many of you however that the day to day operation of running a school and the disruption of suspected/confirmed cases is all consuming. After the break we will try to examine in greater detail the experience of pupils and what learning we can share about remote and classroom based learning in these challenging circumstances.

Thank you for the kind feedback we have received about LA support - including of course Public Health input. We will be maintaining this and understand also that the DfE have extended the opening hours of the helpline. We've heard that some of you have been told by the helpline that only so many requests for advice can be made: the DfE are looking into this as this is not their understanding. We are not the only local area to report this issue to them. Also this week I have asked that the DfE policy team look at the guidance on pupils who have visited a tier 3 area during half term. The guidance is unclear as travel to or from a tier 3 area is advised (strongly) against: however it is permissible to travel under certain circumstances. If a pupil is visiting a parent with whom they do not usually reside, then the guidance is ambiguous about the status of household 'bubbles' and it is this aspect in particular we need clarifying. We cannot see that a school can ask the pupil to self-isolate if there are no symptoms or no reason to believe they have been exposed to Covid; on the other hand, it is not an unreasonable request depending on the circumstances. Please make sure you include your school approach to this clearly in your RA. I hope I will receive the DfE guidance in time to share before schools return.

Take care - no Bulletin next week!



School reassurance visits

In July 2020 the Plymouth City Council Health Safety and Wellbeing team carried out several reassurance/engagements visits to those schools under local authority control and those who requested such a visit through our HSW buy back services. Overall, findings were good and consistent with measures outlined in schools' risk assessments and best practise has been shared where possible.

To continue our support for our schools the HSW team will be carrying out another round of reassurance visits in the weeks beginning 2 and 9 November. This will present another chance to proactively engage with schools and offer the chance for Heads and key staff to meet with a representative of the team to discuss any questions or concerns that might have arisen since the return to school in September.

If you have had a previous visit, or are part of a local authority controlled school you can expect to be contacted to arrange a visit during this period. If schools buy back PCC health and safety services and want to take the opportunity to arrange a visit then please contact the team at copying your email to and we will get back to you.

These visits will be considered alongside any visits by the HSE, Ofsted or enforcement officers for schools. Health and Safety information and guidance can be found on our POD pages and our school room pages We look forward to continuing to work with you during this unsettled times and if you have any queries or questions then please do not hesitate to contact us


Head teacher Teams meeting

The weekly Head teacher Teams meeting is an opportunity to discuss matters arising with colleagues or to address specific themes.  The next meeting is scheduled for Monday 2 November at1pm.  As this is the first Monday back, it will be matters arising only. The agenda for Monday 9 November at 1pm will be 'digital learning'.

If you wish to join either meeting or have an item for the agenda please contact  Sessions will be recorded and a link will be made available on the 'Essential information for schools' web page


Plymouth Maintained Schools' Early Years (PMSEY) Forum online

The forum for Early Years leaders in maintained schools (including Special schools and nurseries), is organised by PCC Early Years team and will take place on 18 November 4 - 5pm. There is no charge and we encourage all EY leaders to attend.

The meeting will focus on considering the implications on practice and provision of the EYFS reforms which come into effect in September 2021, helping us all to become more familiar with the changes and what has stayed the same.

The agenda includes:

  • The EYFS reforms and the new Development Matters - what is the best practice in terms of assessment?
  • An Early Years curriculum - what is it, what does it look like?
  • Reception Baseline - are you an early adopter, how's it going? 
  • AOB and date for next meeting, ideas for discussion topics.

To ensure an invitation to the meeting on Microsoft Teams schools should email:  


NHS Test and Trace App

We are aware that the NHS Test and Trace App has been sending advice to self-isolate via a notification but that this alert is not retrievable either on individual's phones or in the app. Most of the notifications are just reminders that the functionality is on and working. Others are labelled Possible COVID-19 Exposure. These messages do not come from the NHS COVID-19 app. The app uses a risk-scoring algorithm to filter out false alarms based on distance and time. So, people only need to take action if they receive a notification directly from the NHS COVID-19 app.

Please find helpful info here:


Reception Vision screening update

Reception vision screening was paused during lockdown in March 2020 but will restart from October 2020 with the schedule below. Vision screening will be undertaken with the safety of all those involved being the priority.

Children currently in year 1 (Reception class of 2019/2020)

  • Catch-up screening for current year 1 children who have not yet been tested will aim to commence in October 2020.
  • If schools have concerns about the vision of a child from this cohort prior to their eye test in school, please e-mail  The e-mail should include the child's name, date of birth, a contact number for their parent/guardian and a description of what has been noticed and by whom. This e-mail will be picked up by a qualified Orthoptist who will contact the parent/guardian and triage them appropriately.

Children starting reception in September 2020 (class of 2020/2021)

  • Vision screening for children starting reception in September 2020 will aim to commence in November 2020 or as soon as catch-up screening finishes (whichever is sooner).
  • As children need time to settle into their school environment and vision screening would not normally commence until October time, this is not a significant delay to screening.


NQT Coronavirus induction guidance update

In Spring term 2020, the DfE amended regulations to ensure that any NQT absences related to the coronavirus outbreak will not contribute towards the 30-day absence limit that would extend statutory induction. This provision that was due to expire on 1 September 2020 has now been extended by a year, until 1 September 2021. Guidance has been updated to reflect this change and can be found here.


Government Guidance: Recruiting Teachers from Overseas

The government has published guidance about recruiting teachers from overseas once the UK has left the EU. The guidance recommends that, in addition to the usual checks, 'schools can ask candidates for a teaching position to provide proof of their past conduct as a teacher as issued by the professional regulating authority in the country in which the applicant has worked - where available, this can be considered together with information obtained through other pre-appointment checks to help assess suitability.'

Schools do not however, have a legal duty to request this information and there is no reference to this in KCSIE, nor does the guidance mention it being recorded on the Single Central Record. Further information about recruiting teachers from overseas after 1st January 2021 can be found here:


Stay safe (and spooky) this Halloween

We would ask schools to share these with families before the half term break begins, or via your social media if you are already on half term break.

As you'll see, this year police and partners across the South West are asking families to ditch the usual trick or treating plans and channel all their creativity into celebrating safely indoors as we all continue to do our bit to prevent the spread of coronavirus and keep infection rates low across the region. 

Suggestions include:

  • Organise a Halloween themed scavenger hunt around your house or garden.
  • Arrange a virtual fancy dress party online and invite your friends and family.
  • Get creative in the kitchen; look online for recipes for spooky snacks using harvest vegetables.
  • Decorate your living room and create your own scary cinema.
  • Play Halloween inspired games and safely carve a pumpkin.


Developing writing skills -and helping beat loneliness

Plymouth City Council has a commitment to tackling loneliness in the city, and one of the ways we look to do this is by encouraging inter-generational conversations and activities which decrease the risk of loneliness, and encourage friendship and development.

Several initiatives started before the pandemic such as primary schools visiting patients in Mount Gould Hospital, and secondary schools enjoying croquet sessions with older people have been put on hold, and so the Council wish to continue fostering links between generations in a COVID-safe way.

Cllrs. Kate and Jon Taylor encouraging schools to become involved in a pen pal scheme between local care homes and schools. This scheme would not only keep minds active and develop children's writing skills, but would contribute towards decreasing loneliness at a time where visits to care homes are more challenging and socialisation between groups much less. Details of how to get involved are included in the letter.


Join the Artists for Mayflower 400

As part of the newly launched Settlement digital art platform and Mayflower 400, locally led sewing circle sessions are launching for people in Plymouth and surrounding areas offering individuals the chance to contribute to an international artwork to be exhibited at Denver Art Museum in 2021.

The sessions will be hosted by Melinda Schwakhofer, an American artist and citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation with Austrian-American ancestry, who now lives and works on Dartmoor in the UK alongside Karen Evans, artist for Plymouth-based The Conscious Sisters who is leading the engagement programme for Settlement.  The Each/Other Sewing Circles will run, online, from 11am to midday every Saturday starting on 24 October for 5 weeks. To sign up email Please contact the group if you need materials. 

Free Mayflower Trees

Would you like to commemorate Mayflower 400 with a special tree for your community group or school? Plymouth Tree Partnership has announced that Pilgrim 400 trees will now be offered free to schools and community groups on a first come first served basis.

  • One tree per organisation.
  • Trees must be collected from Endsleigh Gardens Nursery, Milton Abbot, near Tavistock (Regrettably, it will not be possible to organise deliveries).
  • Commemorative certificates will be emailed.
  • Trees will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Don't miss your chance to plant a special piece of Mayflower 400 history.

Further information can be found via

For any community groups or schools who do obtain a tree - please let us know as we would love to see some photographs of your commemorative planting.


The Mayflower International Festival 2021

Following the postponing of the Mayflower 400 events in 2020, the new Mayflower Festival events that will be taking place in July 2021 include:

  • 8 July 2021: Rehabilitation Triathlon hosted by the Royal Marines
  • 10 July 2021: Mayflower Muster
  • 11 July 2021: Mayflower Four Nations Public Ceremony


Government updates

Extraordinary regulatory framework: General Qualifications, COVID-19 Conditions and Requirements

This document sets out regulatory requirements for awarding organisations offering general qualifications during the Coronavirus pandemic. The document has been updated:

  • with a notice on 16 October 2020 to ensure, non-exam assessment for the summer 2021 series can take place in all relevant GCSE, AS and A level subjects.
  • Transitional and saving provisions are in place and these ensure all appeals arising from the summer 2020 series will continue to be governed by the relevant parts of the GQ ERF.

Guidance for parents and carers of children attending out-of-school settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

This guidance provides information for parents and carers of children attending community activities, holiday or after-school clubs, tuition and other out-of-school settings. The guidance has been updated with information about local COVID alert levels.

What parents and carers need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak (Updated)

This guidance provides information for parents and carers about going back to schools, nurseries and colleges in the autumn term. The guidance has been updated to information on alert levels.

Attendance in education and early years settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

This guidance includes statistics on attendance in education settings since Monday 23 March and early years settings since Thursday 16 April. The guidance has been updated with 'Attendance in education and early years settings during the coronavirus outbreak: 23 March to 15 October 2020'.

Actions for schools during the coronavirus outbreak

What all schools will need to do during the coronavirus outbreak from the start of the autumn term.

Updated information on Prevention, other considerations (system of controls), response to any infection, pupils travelling from abroad, attendance, workforce, Safeguarding, school uniform, wraparound provision and extra-curricular activity, behaviour expectations, hospital schools and contingency planning for outbreaks.

Direction issued to the Chief Regulator of Ofqual

Directions from Gavin Williamson MP, Secretary of State for Education, to Sally Collier, Chief Regulator of Ofqual, about awarding results for qualifications being assessed for summer 2020. Added 'Direction to the Chief Regulator of Ofqual about appeals for summer 2020 GCSEs, AS and A levels'.

PE and sport premium for primary schools

How much PE and sport premium funding schools receive and advice on how it should be spent. Guidance includes link to the Conditions of Grant for 2021 to 2022.


Next Bulletin: 5 November 2020

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