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Frequently Asked Questions

Updated 7 July 2020

Plymouth Parent Carer Voice (PPCV) have been working with families to understand the questions that are important to them during the time that COVID is significantly restricting our day-to-day lives. The questions in this document are about schools, in particular children and family's experience of learning.

In Plymouth, the SEND Strategy Steering Group meets frequently to consider how well the needs of families, children and young people are being met in the city. The group is made up of representatives from different sectors, for example, health, schools, early years providers and social care. In order to answer the questions that families have asked, our representatives have consider responses and these are outlined below:

Will children with SEND be disadvantaged by the estimated grades system for GCSE examinations? Some pupils perform better than expected under exam conditions.

Response from secondary school Head teacher representative:

The exam results of pupils taking examinations in the summer of 2020 will rely heavily on estimations. Schools have provided estimated grades, which are based on teacher predictions, to Ofqual. These predictions are based on previous assessments and each teacher's wider professional judgement. It is not known how closely aligned final grades will be to teacher predictions, however, each school's past performance will be a factor in the grades awarded to individual pupils.

Our Plymouth secondary Head teacher representative does not believe that pupils with SEND will be disadvantaged disproportionately under this system.

Read the National guidance about the how GCSE grades will be calculated.

What feedback do we need from families about their experiences and how do we best capture it?

Response from representatives across all sectors:

What feedback is needed?

  • Has the coordination of response across Plymouth allowed families to feel safe, secure and supported initially by education at home then a supportive return to school?
  • Has the coordination of response allowed families to return to work when they were required to?
  • How have families coped with home learning and isolation?
  • What have been the positives and negatives of home learning?
  • Where home learning has been more effective, should schools offer a blended approach going forward?
  • What has been the child/young person's willingness to engage?
  • What is the impact of home schooling on mental health?
  • What support services did families feel were lost?
  • Has the experience of lockdown changed family views about what is wanted for their child's/children's education?

How is the feedback going to be captured?

PPCV and Plymouth City Council have designed a questionnaire. This has been distributed to families via schools, the Local Offer, Plymouth Information Advice and Support for SEND (PIAS) and PPCV. Questions are about the following key areas: home learning, the return to school and access to high quality information.

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Young people have also been asked to think about the sorts of questions they think are important. Youth Ascends, Plymouth's young person's forum are carrying out this work.

Feedback to PPCV indicates that families are interested in the organisational detail of school return. How do we ensure that this is effectively communicated?

There are a number ways in which the details of the September return to school will be communicated to families. Schools have told us that they communicate by email, by phone and by using virtual platforms like Skype and Zoom. Schools have also told us that they understand the importance of regular, good quality communication. Your child's school is the main way that you will receive information. Schools have and will continue to communicate with families on a regular basis. Government guidance about the September return to schools can be found on the GOV.UK website.

In Plymouth we also ask schools to let Plymouth City Council know about their plans. This is so we can understand what services are available as well as when and how they can be accessed. This also means that when families ask us, we can provide them with the right information.

We will also use the results of our questionnaire (FAQ 2) to understand what else families need to know. The results of the questionnaire will be published on the Local Offer.

What holiday activities are in place to support families and children? How can we commence planning in this area?

Because of the current situation the short break activities available for families across the summer holidays are more limited than they normally would be. These will be planned in accordance with all government guidance on social distancing and additional hygiene measures. Booking for all the activities will be through Routeways as usual, using their booking site.

Please also visit the Routeways main website to see what other short break activities are available

The short breaks statement also holds information on the different short breaks available in Plymouth and can be found on the SEND Local Offer in the Plymouth Online Directory.

As the return to the schools starts, what will happen if families decide not send their children to school because of their health needs?

The return to school for all children, including medically vulnerable children is covered by government guidance.

It is expected that where a child has a medical condition that meets a government definition of vulnerability, their return to school will be planned through a risk assessment process. Each school's SEND Link from the Local Authority will play a key role in supporting decision making with the SENCO and family.

A SEND link is a professional who works with children and young people with special educational needs, for example, an educational psychologist.

What guidance needs to be put in place for the September return to school?

Guidance about the return to school for all pupils is formulated at a national level. Responsibilities of the local authority include implementation of guidance at a local level. To date this has included supporting schools with risk assessment at a whole school level as well as for those students with identified vulnerabilities.

In Plymouth, it is expected that information for individual families for the September return will be planned at a school level. Your child's school will be in contact with you at the soonest opportunity with this information. Where questions remain unanswered, families and schools are able to contact the Plymouth City Council at

Schools have told us about a range of successful ways in which they have communicated with families. These have included producing video tours in advance of return to highlight changes and differences, producing a COVID home/school agreement and 1:2:1 virtual meetings to support the induction of children back into school.

As a result of lock down, will there be an increase in families opting for EHE? How can we ensure that we understand any emerging patterns?

To date, in Plymouth, there has not been an increase in parental notifications of home education. During the period of lockdown, the number of requests has been lower than would normally be seen. However, it is anticipated that after an extended period away from school families may make the decision to home educate as re-opening begins.

Our school representatives report that many families are keen to see their children come back to school and understand the benefits; these include the structure of the school day and opportunity to socialise with others.

FAQ document would be very helpful. Who do we need to work with in order to construct this, for example, Public Health.

A number of 'frequently asked questions' documents about COVID 19 are already in place. These provide essential information and details about services. Sources of information which include frequency asked questions from a verity of services include:

Nationally, it has been indicated that there is variance in terms of the quality of home learning packages between schools. How will this disparity be adjusted for, particularly in the case children approaching key assessments in 2021?

Our Head teacher representatives acknowledged that differences between schools exist and emphasised that all schools will be supporting pupils to catch up in September.  In particular, there will be an emphasis on pastoral care and wrap-around support which will be more important than ever before. The current situation is also an opportunity for school leaders to better shape things for the future underpinned by the safety and wellbeing of students.

Plymouth City Council and schools are working together to understand the successes and challenges of home learning, particularly for children with special educational needs.  Both schools and the council will continue to gather the views of families so that experiences can be understood; this will include recognising and responding to gaps in learning for individual pupils.

In addition, the government has announced additional funding to support pupils, including those with special educational needs, with their return to school, the purpose of the funding is to help pupils 'catch up'.

How will we employ what we have learned from the improvements in student mental health and wellbeing during this period of home schooling and use this knowledge to positively manage the upcoming transition, so that children who found school difficult don't return to their previous levels of distress when they return?

Nationally, the government has produced guidance about the teaching of wellbeing for schools. Plymouth schools will be using this guidance.

In Plymouth, all schools have a link Educational Psychologist who is able to offer consultation and advice to staff, parents and young people. Written advice for schools has been produced by the Educational Psychology Service regarding support for children and young people's social, emotional, mental health and wellbeing during and after lockdown.

This includes specific guidance to support

  • return to school
  • enhanced transitions planning advice and vulnerability assessment tools
  • training for school staff
  • for parents and children through EP helpline.

Read the guidance.

How will the return to school transition for the cohort of children whose parents have reported a positive transformation from being at home?

Nationally, the government has produced guidance about the teaching of wellbeing for schools. Plymouth schools will be engaging with this guidance.

In Plymouth, advice for schools has been produced by the Educational Psychology Service regarding support for children and young people's social, emotional, mental health and wellbeing after lockdown.

Consideration will be given to how educational psychologists will work with school SENCOs so that plans can be implemented to maintain pupil resiliency at individual and group levels. A multi-agency approach will also be adopted through termly planning meetings.

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