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COVID-19 Schools' Bulletin - 27 May 2021

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Updated 27 May 2021

Important contact details

From Ming Zhang
Service Director of Education, Participation and Skills

Dear colleagues,

While half-term is around the corner, I have concluded many school visits with a growing sense of optimism about our collective ambition that every child in Plymouth attends a Good or Outstanding school. A huge thank you to the Headteachers who have taken the time to show me around, sharing your school's improvement plan and your thoughts on the city's future education.

That sense of optimism is also reflected in my visit to our local University. Last Thursday, I was sitting on the final interview panel of the University of Plymouth's recruitment exercise to appoint a new Director of the Institute of Education, an important element in the University's ambition to have a world class education research capacity and their drive to strengthen local connections with schools and colleges. It was encouraging to see that our local University attracts so many high calibre professors from across the country applying for posts.  

In this week's bulletin, I would like to bring to your attention that the DfE has highlighted the issue of an increase in pupils being electively educated at home (EHE) mainly due to fear of the pandemic, health and/or safety concerns. Yesterday, the Department issued an open letter to parents advising them to discuss with their local authorities and schools, what measures have been, or could be, put in place, before they decide to home educate their children. I have included this letter in today's bulletin.

Over the last twelve months of the Coronavirus pandemic, most local authorities have seen an increase in children being home educated. The DfE survey estimates that at least 75,668 children are home educated across all 151 LAs in England. This is a 38% increase on 2019. The most common reason cited by parents for home educating their child was due to health reasons directly related to COVID-19. Vulnerable learners being educated at home is a concern. There is an increase in the number of children with an EHCP being home educated, and this is the cohort whose specific needs very often require the support that can only be provided in schools.

In Plymouth, 27 pupils with an EHCP have opted for elective home education. This number is too high and we are examining the cases to gain a deeper understanding around this and to have suitable measures in place to reduce the number of EHCP and other vulnerable children being home educated. In the meantime, if a child with an EHCP attends a mainstream school wanting to be home educated, we continue to ask schools to arrange an early review of the EHCP and invite the 0-25 SEND Team and the Plymouth City Council Educational Psychology Service to the meeting. If a child is on roll of a Special school the school must not remove the pupil from their roll until permission has been granted by Plymouth City Council.

As a strong collaborated education community, we are already doing effectively what the DfE sets out in the letter, supporting the parents to make an informed choice that is best for their children. With the support from schools, we are seeing the number of EHE in the city being steadily reduced in recent months, this trends indicates a trajectory of returning the EHE number to pre-pandemic level of 369:

  • Pre-pandemic (2019) = 369         
  • January 2021 = 396
  • February 2021 = 394
  • March 2021 = 381
  • April 2021 = 376

We continue to ask schools to keep children on roll for a brief period of time (with the parent's consent) so that Education Welfare Officers and schools can meet with the family, seek the voice of the child and ensure that the parent is making a positive and informed choice.

While PCC's services and schools adapt a caring approach to support parents who may have genuine reasons to electively home educate their children, we have issued School Attendance Orders to some parents whose children do not receive suitable education while being home educated. Schools have been extremely supportive of being named on School Attendance Orders, and as a result we have been able to support children to return to school quickly. In issuing School Attendance Orders we are actively seeking the preference of the parent so that we can try and name a school on the Order which has space and is a school that they want.

I would like to thank all school leaders for their support and collaboration in this area of work.

Have a restful half-term break.

Ming

 

COVID-19 updates

Use of LFD and follow up PCR

We have been asked by our public health colleagues to send a reminder about the process required should a student or member of staff test positive using an LFD test. This should then be followed up within 48 hours by a PCR test.

There have been situations, when a second LFD is taken instead. This does not follow national guidance. The PCR follow up will provide a more sensitive and accurate outcome on which to base decisions on continuation or ending of isolation of those affected.

The guidance, therefore, remains as it has been.

If there is a positive test from a LFD, inform in the usual manner and if required, ensure that close contacts are kept away from school until the PCR confirmatory test is taken. If this is negative, everyone can return. If it is positive, the 10 day self-isolation period must be maintained.

Having informed us about the positive test from the LFD, it is really important to let us know the result of the PCR, so that we can either close the case or offer further support should it be required.

Testing in summary

LFD's are for asymptomatic testing only-that means you use these tests when you do not have any Covid symptoms - commonly as part of the routine testing done at home.  You do not use an LFD if you think you have any symptoms of Covid.

A PCR Test must be used to confirm whether a positive LFD test outcome is correct or not (i.e. to validate it). You must not take a second LFD test to do this.

A PCR Test should be used if you develop Covid symptoms to confirm whether or not you have Covid. Do not use a LFD if you think you have symptoms book a PCR test.

Reminder: How to get a PCR test

You can book a PCR test through using this link: https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test

Or order or book a PCR Test by phone ring 119

 

Education updates

Early Career Framework - DfE webinar

The Department for Education is holding Early Career Framework (ECF) explainer webinars for school staff to support understanding of the ECF reforms and changes to statutory induction requirements. These webinars will cover all aspects of the new reforms, including the role of appropriate bodies in supporting national roll-out. For anyone who missed the webinar last week, the Department is holding the second and final webinar on 17 of June. The session can be booked via Eventbrite here.

For more information on the Early Career Framework reforms, visit the gov.uk page, read the statutory induction guidance or email ECF.DELIVERY@education.gov.uk

 

Supporting children and families in education

Summer Emotional Health and Wellbeing Offer

For Year 11 and 13 students who will be leaving school next week, there is still support available to them within the community:

Young Devon are continuing to offer community counselling sessions in the Mutley Hub/building and Wellbeing conversations over the phone during the summer break for young people aged 11-18. Referrals can be made via our website wellbeingenquiries@youngdevon.org. Main office number is 01752 749740.

The Zone - Young people can contact via the Sexual Health Mobile: 07867358187. The Zone tel. no: 01752 206626 (for Support, advice and guidance). Email: Enquiries@thezoneplymouth.co.uk. The Zone current opening hours (by appointment only) are:

  • Monday: 4pm - 7pm
  • Tuesday: 1pm - 4pm 
  • Thursday: 12pm - 7pm
  • Friday: 10am - 1pm
  • Saturday: 10am - 3pm 

NSPCC Talk Pants resources

The NSPCC's Talk PANTS resources support conversations with children that can help to keep them safe from sexual abuse. Talk Pants helps children understand that privates are private, their body belongs to them, and they should tell someone they trust if anything makes them feel upset or worried. There are a range of resources to support use of the PANTS rule, from resources for schools and teachers to adapted guides for parents of children with Autism, for children with learning disabilities, for children with Autism and a BSL video.

The NSPCC are also able to provide recorded or live webinars for parents.

Visit nspcc.org.uk/pants for more information or contact emma.motherwell@nspcc.org.uk

Addressing self-harm training

Training: Addressing self-harm in schools, a priority for all - FREE - ACAMH

 

Government updates

Guidance for centres: awarding of VTQs: summer 2021

Guidance for schools, colleges and training centres on how results will be awarded for vocational, technical and other general qualifications in summer 2021.

Nearly 9 out of 10 parents say their child's school handled COVID-19 well

A large majority of parents (87%) think that their child's school has handled the pandemic well, according to Ofsted's annual Parents Survey for 2021, published on the 20 May 2021.

Department for Education announced a further £8 million as part of the AP Transition Fund for 2021/22

Young people in Alternative Provision (AP) at risk of unemployment or dropping out of education at age 16 are set to receive further mentoring, pastoral support and careers guidance under Government plans to level up opportunity for all young people and build back better.

The money - up to £750 per pupil - will help AP settings pay for one-to-one support such as mentors or specialist transition coaches to help young people make decisions about their options after they finish school, helping guide them into further education, post-16 training routes or directly into employment.

Multimillion-pound investment to inspire children to walk to school

A green initiative aimed at encouraging hundreds of thousands of children to walk to school has received £2.1 million in government support, Transport Minister Chris Heaton-Harris announced. The funding will help walking charity Living Streets extend its Walk to School Outreach programme to more than 1,000 primary schools across the country.

The initiative, which has been running with Department for Transport (DfT) support since 2017, aims to promote the health and environmental benefits of walking to school for children aged 5 to 11 and their families. It plays an integral role in the government's ambition to ensure more than half of children aged 5 to 10 are walking to school by 2025.

Skills and Post-16 Education Bill: impact assessment and JCHR memorandum

The impact assessment outlines the expected costs and benefits of the reforms set out in the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill. Estimates of the economic return from further education qualifications started in academic year 2018 to 2019 are also available.

The Bill provides the legislative basis for the reforms set out in the Skills for Jobs: lifelong for opportunity and growth white paper published in January 2021. The policy summary outlines further information about each measure within the Bill.

Interactive GCSE, AS and A level data visualisation tool launched

Ofqual has launched a new interactive visualisation which brings together main trends from official statistical publications in one place. The interactive tool, drawn from Ofqual's statistical releases, covers GCSEs, AS and A levels and allows users to explore the main statistical trends over the past few years. The purpose of the visualisation is to provide an overview of key statistics. Users are able to explore statistical information in a range of different topic areas including: number of appeals, certificates, entries and malpractice offences/penalties. Some breakdowns by exam board and centre type are also available.

Ofsted publishes research review on mathematics education

Ofsted has published the third in a series of reviews into different subjects across the curriculum. The latest review looks at mathematics education. The review draws on Ofsted's education inspection framework (EIF) and other literature to identify factors that can contribute to a high-quality maths curriculum, assessment, pedagogy and systems. They will use these findings to examine how maths is taught in England's schools, before publishing a report about what they have learned in the autumn.

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