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Education Bulletin - 5 May 2022

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Updated 5 May 2022

Important contact details

From Ming Zhang
Service Director of Education, Participation and Skills

Dear colleagues,

Due to the success of the vaccination programme, COVID-19 is now no longer considered an uncontrollable threat to health and will be managed under the direction of The UK Health Security Agency in the same way they manage other respiratory diseases, such as flu. The City Council on May 1 moved Plymouth's COVID-19 status from Amber to Purple.

However, we must remember that we are still in the midst of a pandemic and COVID-19 is still well established, with an estimated one in 17 people across England infected. This means that we still need to remain vigilant and continue to practice good hygiene habits to help minimise the risk as we move to a Purple status.

While nationally and locally we have moved into "Living with Covid", school attendance has once again become a priority issue.

School attendance

During the pandemic Plymouth City Council worked together with all the schools, irrespective of governance, to ensure that children who were more vulnerable were in school. In Plymouth, school attendance rates of vulnerable learners and key workers were better than the national average throughout the pandemic lockdown periods. This proves that by working together closely, we can achieve something better that we would otherwise under perform. Working together in the most challenging circumstances, I believe that these positive relationships have become embedded while we are moving to a new normal in ensuring a good attendance level.

For this reason, we voluntarily take part in the Children's Commissioner's attendance deep dive and the DfE's attendance project. We want to have an attendance rate that is among the best in the country.

The Attendance Audit and deep dive that had been undertaken by Children's Commissioner is part of the Secretary of State's Attendance Action Alliance. Last week, I met the Children's Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza, together with the representatives from nine other LAs in the country to discuss the findings from the deep dive of ten areas so that we could get an early feedback before the Commissioner's report being shared widely and its publication in the summer. While the full report will be available after its publication, I would like to share with you some take away from the meeting:

  • All children should have access to support through a family of schools to meet their needs;
  • Exclusions are a "teachable moment": children should be in good quality education provision at all times and receive targeted support following exclusion and suspension;
  • Let children be children: no child should feel they need to miss school to support their family;
  • Clear roles and responsibilities: schools and local authorities need to work together with a clear focus on attendance;
  • Ofsted inspections of schools and LAs should have a focus on attendance;
  • September is a critical moment.

Clearly attendance is once again a priority of the DfE. My teams are keen to work in partnership with schools and other partners to co-design attendance strategies and to address any barriers to good attendance, because every single day of school really counts. Building an inclusive education system where all learners can thrive is a key part of this, and it is at the heart of the government's Schools White Paper.

If you need a discussion on the local authority's attendance service offer, please contact our Inclusion and Attendance Lead Isabelle Morgan (

Social Mobility in the South West

Last Thursday I took part in a roundtable discussion on the Social Mobility In The South West, where politicians, employees, academics and school leaders explored how we in the South West can move forward the social mobility agenda and ensure this is the best region for people to live, to work and to thrive irrespective of their backgrounds. A significant proportion of the social mobility information presented at the event was related to Early Years, schools and skills.

Living and working in this most beautiful region of the country, it is even harder to cast my mind from the following social mobility challenges of SW:

  • School attainment gaps between poor pupils and the rest are the largest of all England regions at the end of both primary and secondary school;
  • 40% of disadvantaged pupils attained a standard pass in GCSE English and Maths in 2019 compared with almost 60% in Inner London;
  • 17% of disadvantaged students went on to university in 2018/19 - the lowest rate of all English regions - compared with 45% in London;
  • Upward occupational mobility was the 3rd lowest of all English regions.

The data presented was thought provoking while it gave us the evidence that Plymouth is in the right direction and on the right track in building a stronger partnership in tackling child poverty, refocusing on early years and supporting disadvantaged cohorts in improving outcomes for all children and learners.

The region will collectively propose to establish a South West Social Mobility Commission to galvanise the efforts to level up opportunities and improve the education and skills outcomes for all. I will keep you posted on this development.

EEF Research Trial

I have been contacted by Ark Curriculum Plus, which is funded by the DfE's Accelerator Fund to work with the EEF to run a Randomised Control Trial for English Mastery programme. The programme is a whole curriculum approach, including classroom resources, comprehensive implementation guidance, and a bespoke support programme for all participating schools.

The trial is limited to 60 schools. EEF/Ark Curriculum Plus are looking for schools from our area to participate. The cost is heavily subsidised, costing schools £900 a year for the two years of the trial.

They would like to identify any secondary schools that

  • Are interested in education research
  • Are interested in helping to shape national policy
  • Need support in developing and implementing their curriculum or
  • Are looking to offer research-based professional development to their teachers.

To discuss this in more detail, please contact Philip Entwistle of EEF by following this link. Best regards.



Education updates

Ofsted EIF roadshow for curriculum middle leaders

Ofsted will deliver a roadshow explaining how inspectors use deep dives and other inspection activity to arrive at an evaluation of the quality of education. This will be of interest to primary and secondary colleagues who lead subjects or particular areas of the curriculum (e.g. faculty heads), as part of the roadshow will look at the role of these colleagues in the deep dive process.

  • Date: 20 June 2022
  • Venue: Tor Bridge High
  • Time: 9.15am to 12.15pm
  • Presenter: Stephen Lee

Please note this is a cross phase event.

Places will be allocated up to a maximum of 48 on a first come first served basis. Book using the following link: leader-roadshows-3

National Tutoring Programme

Education Secretary urges remaining schools to participate in the National Tutoring Programme. New data to be published showing individual schools' involvement in the National Tutoring Programme. Parents in England will be given access to data revealing how their school is using the National Tutoring Programme, the Education Secretary has announced on 2 May 2022.

Link to the announcement: urges-remaining-schools-to-participate-in-national-tutoring-programme

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