Q&As with Charlotte Jones, Acting Director of Education, Glos County Council

Last year, we campaigned on behalf of parents and guardians, particularly those with their own businesses, who were finding it impossible to cope with workload and the teaching of their children during the pandemic.

We contacted Cotswolds MP, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, during one of his live sessions at the Barn Theatre and he invited Melissa from Rock the Cotswolds, Amy from Cirencester Rocks and Mark from Oasis Events (one of our Rockers) to talk to him and a panel of teachers to discuss concerns.

Following the session we collated details about the difficulty of homelearning from local parents and passed this to September for Schools who gave it to Robert Halfon MP, the Chair of the Education Select Committee.

We continued to campaign and had more online parent / guardian sessions with Sir Geoffrey who set up a meeting with Charlotte Jones of the LEA and head teachers from local schools and colleges.

From all of the sessions we had, our issues and suggested solutions were passed on to the Department of Education.

Subsequently, government guidelines acknowledged that parents and guardians are a vital part of ensuring children’s education is taken seriously and amends were made to include them.

In a final session, Melissa from Rock the Cotswolds, asked Charlotte, Sir Geoffrey and a panel of head teachers questions collated from local parents.

The link at the end takes you a recording of the original meetings that took place with additional questions that we did not have time to get answered here below.

Government Guidelines as of 7th August 2020

A) Quote from guidelines: 

‘Since 15 June, primary schools have also had flexibility to bring back other pupils where they have no space to do so’.

Question: Minimum Standard on Blended Learning – if we end up in a position where schools can only manage a partial headcount on site each day, has the guidance been improved to ensure we don’t end up in the polar situation that we did this year, with certain year groups being in nearly full-time and some left at home with minimum engagement for months on end with associated mental health issues? What common platform is being suggested for online learning e.g. MS Teams/Zoom/Webex etc?

Answer: The DfE has published guidance regarding remote learning and blended learning. The Local Authority is working with head teachers to provide guidance for Gloucestershire schools so that they can plan for different scenarios: a national or local lockdown; closure of identified bubbles; families needing to isolate.

Broadly, if a school is at an early stage, the advice is that schools should start from a DfE backed resource such as  the Oak National Academy which is sufficient as a minimum provision. Schools can then map their curriculum against the themes for the whole year. Schools will then be able to work towards other platforms such as  Google classroom, MS Teams,  that suit their needs. The LA is collecting the best practice from schools and will work with schools to share good practice. A webinar will be available on the subject for schools to access.

Question: What would stop all schools turning to online engagement and teaching pupils each day during lockdown? If teachers aren’t actually teaching Key worker children for example can volunteers sit in the classrooms with them?  We had tens of thousands of people volunteering for the NHS during lockdown, why can’t we have the same for schooling?

Answer: The expectation is that children attend school as they would normally do and that teachers return to their place of work. The aim is for children to be taught by specialist staff (their teachers and teaching assistants).There are safeguarding considerations regarding the use of volunteers in schools which make it impractical for a volunteer workforce to be employed at sort notice.

Question: If space and staff levels were not available during the last lockdown what has a school, unable to take years back due to space and staffing issues, done in the last six months to improve that – are the government guidelines (i.e. do not use space outside of school such as a village hall) tying the hands of the smaller schools with no solutions?

Answer: Government advice states that no additional accommodation and capacity is required for the return to schools in September. During the initial period of lockdown, there was a requirement to adhere to a minimum of 2m social distancing and schools were closed other than for children of key workers and vulnerable children. Social distancing is no longer a requirement as part of the return to school strategy and schools will be putting in place a range of mitigation measures (following government advice and agreed by each school individually) on classroom use, building circulation, keeping groups of children separate in different areas of buildings, teaching in same groups, ideally with same teachers, implementing good hand hygiene and infection control measures. Some schools, dependent on their size and location may operate staggered timetables and will maximise the use of outside space for teaching and learning, when weather permits. Additionally during the initial period of lockdown, many school staff were required to remain at home due to their own circumstances – all staff will be required to be back in school from September, unless a personnel risk assessment indicates otherwise.

Question: What advice do you give schools who will not deviate from the government guidelines but find they are stuck with limited staff and space?  What funds and support are they offered?

Answer: Government guidelines state that schools will be operating at full capacity within their existing accommodation. All staff are expected to return to school at the start of September, unless through risk assessment it has been agreed by the head teacher that a member of staff should continue to shield and remain at home. That member of staff may then carry out activities for the school that do not require them to be in school, for example home learning development and delivery or other school required functions. This will be for the head teacher to determine.

B) Quote from guidelines: 

‘While coronavirus remains in the community, this means making judgments at a school level about how to balance minimising any risks from coronavirus by maximising control measures with providing a full educational experience for children and young people.

Question: There are ‘no plans at present to reimburse additional costs incurred as part of the process above’ – how can schools be expected to offer a full educational experience with no reimbursements for additional costs such as expensive hand sanitiser, wash basins, ventilation systems and so on?  Aren’t we just expecting schools to eat into their contingency budgets meant for other projects?

Answer: The local authority provided schools with emergency packs of PPE including supplies of hand sanitiser during June and July. Schools have their own procurement arrangements for further supplies should they need them. Government guidance clearly indicates that good hand hygiene and hand washing, use of washable face coverings in certain situations and the immediate disposal of used tissues etc are the most effective way of reducing the risk of infection. Schools have sufficient toilets and hand wash facilities for all children to use and they will have plans in place to ensure these are used on a regular basis. All schools will be following government guidelines wherever possible in terms of maximising ventilation around the buildings and making effective use of outdoor spaces for teaching and learning, weather permitting.

Schools have been asked to record and track all additional costs related to COVID-19 and have been provided with a template to do so.  The government has provided guidance on what schools can claim reimbursement for, which includes, additional premises costs, free school meals and the costs of additional cleaning. The government do not expect additional costs to be incurred from September.

C) Quote from guidelines:

‘While our aim is to have all pupils back at school in the autumn, every school will also need to plan for the possibility of a lockdown and how they will ensure continuity of education’.

Question: ‘Where is this plan actually going?  Who will see it and check it is workable and that there are budgets to put it in place?  If parents are an important part of making it work – i.e. home learning – have they been sent a survey to find out what worked and what didn’t over the 12 weeks of home learning they had to undertake?  Having done a recent poll of parents from four different schools we found that not once were they asked if the work sent home was manageable, appropriate or stimulating for the children.

Answer: Many schools have contacted parents and carers to find out what worked for children during the lockdown. A survey of the views of Year 6 pupils has also been conducted by the Local Authority; with results shared with individual schools.

Schools are responsible for ascertaining from children and their families what has been achieved and what the impact has been on children’s learning. Schools will be assessing and monitoring children as they return so that they are in a position to ensure that there is feedback to children and a suitable plan is in place for future learning and any necessary ‘catch-up’.

Question: How are schools being monitored by the LEA to ensure catch up plans are happening and they are going to be ready for 2/3 September?

Answer: The LA officers and officers from the RSC’s office  have been working with schools throughout the lockdown period and will continue to do so from September to ensure that  plans for catch up are in place. Schools will ascertain where the gaps are and plan accordingly. There will be some targeting of support and visits to schools to identify any particular needs for support. This is the case for schools that are in challenging circumstances and would routinely  be part of the LA’s programme of work.

D) Quote from guidelines: 

‘School leaders will be best placed to understand the needs of their schools and communities and to make informed judgements about how to balance devilry a broad and balanced curriculum with the measures needed to manage risk.’ 

We expect schools and trusts to work closely with parents, staff and unions as they normally would when agreeing the best approaches for their circumstances.

Question: ‘Who asks if schools are working closely with parents, staff and unions? It cannot be assumed it’s being done.  The normal relationship between schools and parents, for example, has shifted and so the relationship needs to be reviewed.  Parents should no longer just be seen as the people who drop off the children and pick them up.  Three months of doing the teachers’ jobs at homes means parents are vital in getting an ongoing workable strategy in place.

Answer: The majority of schools have been working closely with their families and the community and have strong relationships with parents and carers.  The LA has been communicating with union representatives throughout. There is strong recognition of the role that parents and carers have played in making provision for children during this period. The expectation is that schools should be prepared to continue to plan for remote learning and a blended approach should there be a need for a local lockdown.

SECTION 1: PUBLIC HEALTH ADVICE TO MINIMISE CORONAVIRUS 

E) Quote from guidelines: 

‘Schools should thoroughly review their health and safety risk assessments and draw up plans for the autumn term that address the risks identified using the system of controls set out below. 

Question: ‘Who checks the plans?  Who ensures that they are workable?  Who knows if the governors are spending the money wisely in relation to COVID?  This is an unknown disease and we are expecting people who are not health experts to make a judgement.

Answer: For LA schools, they are required to send them to our Safety, Health & Environment (SHE) Team where they are reviewed and any queries will be raised with the school. Schools are best placed to know if they are workable and once in use they have the option to modify them if necessary. The HSE and District Council Environmental Health Teams can make spot checks and take enforcement action in any workplace if appropriate. For academies and free schools, it will be the Trust’s responsibility to ensure assessments are undertaken.  With regard to school budget management, the governing body and the head teacher remain responsible for spend in a school.

Question: Active engagement with NHS Test and Trace – will schools and parents get access to the 90 minute LamPORE rapid swab tests that hospitals and care homes are expecting?  If getting children educated is important as the government says then pupils and teachers should also be on the list for testing?

Answer: The use of rapid testing for Covid-19 is relatively new and availability of testing is limited and centrally co-ordinated by the Department for Health and Social Care. There are plans to commence some rapid testing in Gloucestershire in line with the national guidance we have received; initially this will be  undertaken with patients that are admitted to hospital in an emergency to help reduce the risk of transmission in this vulnerable setting.  When DHSC announce the further availability of this test, we will work with the local system to explore how it could be used most effectively used in line with the National Testing Strategy.

F) Quote:

‘How contacts are reduced will depend on the school’s circumstances and will (as much as possible) include:

– staff maintaining distance from pupils and other staff as much as possible

Question: How is this possible if a ‘full level of educational experience’ is expected.

For example, we have heard of at least two cases where children of Key Workers (as young as six years old) were refused help with understanding work when they asked their teachers in class because teachers had to keep a distance from the children.  These key worker children were given the same work that children being home schooled would receive but with no help or access to explanation.  If they didn’t understand the powerpoint or links they worked through it was too bad. The teachers did not mark their work and parents were not allowed to mark it as the laptop had to stay at school.

When key worker parents asked for the work to be sent to them so that they could go through it again with the children they were refused.  This needs to be addressed instantly if lockdown happens again, the stress it caused both parents and children plus the pointless exercise of expecting a Key stage 1 and Key stage 2 child to teach themselves through powerpoint is utterly absurd.

Answer: The intention and expectation during the lockdown was for educational provision to be made for the children of key workers and for vulnerable children. It was not possible for children to receive a full curriculum under the circumstances of the emergency.

Where parents are concerned that there children are not receiving appropriate support then this should be raised with and discussed with the school.

The expectation for September is that all children receive an appropriate broad and balanced curriculum.

G) Quote:

Minimise contact with individuals who are unwell by ensuring that those who have coronavirus symptoms or who have someone in their household does not attend school.

Question: Without a test how can you be sure these symptoms are not a cold?

The Coronavirus symptoms are: ‘Hot to touch – head or chest’ – no thermometer needed – all children feel hot when under the weather; Persistent cough – when you have a cold these can last for weeks; No sense of taste or smell – again this can relate to a cold

Answer: If a child is displaying symptoms of Covid-19  (a new continuous cough, a temperature or a loss of taste and/or smell), they must stay at home whilst their household follows the guidance for ‘households with possible Covid-19’. The guidance states that the household should self-isolate whilst the symptomatic individual (in this case, the child) is tested; the parents should notify any setting the child attends (such as school, for example).  Testing is readily available through either home swab testing kits or mobile testing units.  If the parent/carer is able to get their child tested as soon as possible, it can be determined whether or not the child has the Covid-19 infection.  If they test positive they must continue to isolate for the full ten day period required for symptomatic individuals, and their household contacts need to isolate for 14 days.  If they test negative, it is therefore most likely to be a different illness (such as a cold). It’s important to note that the symptoms of Covid-19 are based on current best available evidence, there is a risk that not all positive cases will have these symptoms and a risk that people without Covid-19 will experience these symptoms due to other illnesses, this is unavoidable but the current national guidance aims to limit transmission as far as possible.

Question: Who decides that the symptoms are related to potential COVID or are just winter bugs?  It is all subjective so which member of staff will say to a child they need to go home?  One teacher may think it’s fine and another may not. Equally how will a working parent instantly know that they have to make the decision to keep their child off home until tested for COVID or not?

Answer: Both parents/carers, as well as education and childcare settings should be adhering to the guidance of isolating and undertaking testing if the child has the following Covid-19 symptoms (a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste). If a teacher is concerned, the school should discuss with the parent of the child to ascertain if these are new symptoms or a consequence of an alternative condition e.g. current infection. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have published a helpful illustrated digital book for primary school children to support them in understanding Covid-19 and the measures taken to control it. The book is called ‘Coronavirus: a book for children’ and can be accessed via the Gloucestershire’s Healthy Living and Learning website. It’s important to note that we urge people to be cautious and if they are unsure it is best to self-isolate the household, arrange a test and await the result before returning to the school or childcare setting.

H) Quote from guidelines:

Introduce enhanced cleaning, using products such as detergent or bleach.  

Question: Are there products that schools can use that are not harmful to the environment, to children, those with asthma and are alcohol free and not flammable?

Answer: Some schools employ their own cleaning staff and procure their own cleaning materials and supplies, others employ cleaning contractors.  All schools have a responsibility to carry out risk assessments in relation to cleaning products and to ensure that the cleaning materials in use meet COSHH and child safety requirements. Schools are required to ensure they have appropriate data sheets of all chemicals and supplies that they procure.

I) Quote from guidelines:

Where necessary, wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) – this applies in specific circumstances 

Question: What are the specific circumstances? If a child wants to speak to a teacher closer than 1m should the teacher wear PPE?

Schools have been issued with packs of PPE and will determine when it is necessary to use it in line with Public Health England (PHE) advice. All schools have been issued with guidance on the wearing and use of PPE, however for the vast majority of mainstream school activities there is no requirement for PPE. If there is a suspected case of C-19 in school, then the use of PPE is advised when supporting that child or adult, in isolation and until they leave the school building. In schools that cater for children with special needs, there may be a requirement for more regular use of PPE when providing personal care for some children/students. PHE provide regular updates in the use of PPE in schools and early years settings.

J) Quote from guidelines:

Minimise contact, measures for arriving at and leaving school:

Question: Is this really workable? It doesn’t work with buses and staggered start times as pupils move up to secondary school.

Arrangements are being put in place to minimise the risk of transmission and infection on home to school transport including full cleaning of vehicles after every journey and the supply of washable face coverings to all students. Additional buses are being brought into service to ensure only children from a single school travel together, thereby minimising the risk of infection between schools. Each school will advise parents of the arrangements in place for dropping off and collection of children as these will differ from school to school.

K) Quote from guidelines:

Engage with the NHS Test and Trace process

Question: is there a better way of testing whether anyone in school may have asymptomatic COVID?  Recently it was shown that high levels of the virus is present in respiratory droplets during the presymptomatic stage that can last a week prior to the symptoms showing. This is one of the major reasons for the spread of the pandemic.

Answer: We are still learning about the virus that causes Covid-19 infection.  At the moment regularly testing people who do not have symptoms is not recommended unless they are in a setting such as a care home where infection is more likely to lead to serious health consequences.  There is currently no programme to test people without symptoms in schools.  Whilst current evidence suggests that children may be more likely to have asymptomatic infection, it does tend to be a mild illness for them.  To better understand how Covid-19 might affect schools, a new Covid-19 study to assess and monitor the prevalence of Covid-19 among pre-school, primary and secondary school pupils and teachers has been launched by the government. This surveillance study seeks to better understand how easily the virus spreads among children and adults within schools over the coming months by swab testing to see if they have the infection. The initial phase of the study will collect data from up to 100 schools from across England. The study will add to data on antibody and virus prevalence already being collected through national surveillance programmes and other nationwide studies, which report weekly and aim to inform the future approach of how to manage school settings.

L) Quote from guidelines:

If someone tests positive they should follow the stay at home guidance. 

Question: If there is a positive test in a class bubble, how will staff know who to send home because they have been close to infected pupil or member of staff?

Answer: Education and childcare settings have been advised to keep records of who is within each bubble and any essential mixing that takes place. When there is a confirmed case in a school bubble Public Health England and the Local Authority health protection team will work with the school to  understand who has had close contact and needs to self-isolate.

Question: If a child coughs persistently or shows signs of COVID and indeed tests positive – how far around the classroom do you go in sending people who’ve come into contact back home for 14 days?

Answer: When there is a confirmed case in a school (or other education or childcare setting) bubble Public Health England will work with the school to  understand who has had close contact and needs to self-isolate.  Close contact is defined as face to face contact with a case for any length of time, within 1m, including being coughed on, a face to face conversation, unprotected physical contact (skin to skin). This includes exposure within 1 metre for 1 minute or longer.  It also includes extended close contact within 1 to 2 metres for 15 minutes (or more).  For educational and childcare settings all children and staff within the class and or bubble will typically fall into this category.  Anyone who has had close contact with the positive case when they are likely to be infectious will be required to self-isolate (i.e. 48 hours prior to symptom onset up until and including 10 days after their symptoms appear).

 

M) Quote from guidelines: 

Close contact means: face to face contact with an infected individual for any length of time, within 1 metre and also extended close contact with 1 to 2 metres for 15 minutes.  

Question: This will be a large proportion of the bubble surely? Does the whole class go home to self isolate or get tested?

Answer: When there is a confirmed case of Covid-19 in a school bubble Public Health England will work with the school to  understand who has had close contact and who needs to self-isolate.  This only applies if the case is confirmed as positive for Covid-19 by laboratory test.  If a child, young person or staff member is a possible case (i.e. they have symptoms of Covid-19 but do not yet have a test result) only their household contacts need to self-isolate until they receive the result of their test result.  If it is negative the household will no longer be required to self-isolate, if it is positive Public Health England will advise on further self-isolation.  Children, young people or staff should not be tested unless they have symptoms or are advised to by Public Health England as part of a wider surveillance testing programme.

N) Quote from guidelines:

‘If the test delivers a negative result they must remain in isolation for the remainder of the 14 day isolation period. This is because they could still develop the coronavirus within the remaining days.

Question: This makes no sense – if the test result is negative but you still have to self isolate – what is the point of doing a test?

Answer: The incubation period of Covid-19 is typically up to 14 days, therefore if you are isolating due to coming into contact with a confirmed case and experience symptoms within those 14 days (but test negative) your symptoms may have been due to another circulating virus. You could still be incubating Covid-19  and develop symptoms. Because of this you need to complete the full 14 days isolation as per guidance. Testing while you have symptoms ensures that, if confirmed, you are aware of the need to isolate for 10 days from the onset of symptoms (regardless of whether you were previously isolating due to being a contact). People shouldn’t be undertaking testing if they do not have symptoms (asymptomatic).

Section 2: SCHOOL OPERATIONS

O) Quote from guidelines: 

Attendance – the availability to issue sanctions, including fixed penalty notices in line with local authorities’ codes of conduct’. 

Question: How can parents be fined for not sending their children to school when there is no assurance their children won’t catch Coronavirus from someone at school?  Will this penalty money be given to unpaid parents who had to teach their children during lockdown?

Answer: The legal requirements in relation to fining comes from the Department for Education. The school are the decision makers who determine whether a request for legal procedures should be initiated.   The LA then undertakes the administrative process and as part of this will consider the overall position on attendance and the support that schools have put in place prior to making a decision on how to proceed (in accordance with statutory requirements) The LA has provided support and guidance on attendance during the COVID period and continues to support schools to ensure the provision for the child is in place. Resource from fining is held by the LA to administer the process.

P) Quote from guidelines: 

Action for all schools and local authorities

– identify pupils who are reluctant or anxious about returning – this includes those who have not engaged with school regularly during the pandemic 

Question: Will a survey be done by parents to voice their feedback on how their children have fared, what they think they may be worried about?  Can meetings be set up with parents as soon as children are back to give their new teachers some feedback as to how the last 12 weeks have been for the children?

Answer: Schools have the autonomy to undertake surveys and meetings with parents to consider what they and their children may be worried about. Schools have the ability to access a range of specifically targeted support to enable children to return to school. This in the short term has been made available to schools without charge from the Educational Psychologists and Advisory Teachers to support children return to school during this time.  Where there are specific support or services a school identifies a child would benefit from, schools can use these resources and where required purchase additional Educational Psychology support over and above the already existing resources.

Many schools have already been seeking the views of parents/carers to find out how their children have coped with lockdown and responded to either home learning or on-line learning. It is the responsibility of schools to make arrangements with parents to discuss feedback and individual child needs. Head teachers will be updating all staff and ensuring they have the appropriate information for the start of September. If a parent is unhappy or concerned in any way, they should contact the head teacher of their school.

Q) Quote from guidelines:

Supporting staff ‘it is important that planning builds in the need to avoid increases in unnecessary and unmanageable workload burdens’.

Question: What happens if a teacher says they can cope but in fact they are not because they are having to set home learning work, look after key worker children at school, teach a different year group, teach their own children at home.  How can the head teacher know that a teacher is delivering and coping?  Who and what are they comparing their work to?

Answer: Head teachers will have in place clear policies regarding staff wellbeing, workload and processes in relation to support for staff including HR and resources available from, for example, Occupation Health. Head teachers will also have systems in place in order to respond to the needs of their staff on a case by case basis and will carry out risk assessments alongside staff. Teachers and other school staff are working in extraordinary circumstances and these are being taken into account by Heads and governors.

R) Quote from guidelines:

Once the school is in operation, it is important to ensure good ventilation and maximising this wherever possible for example opening windows and propping open doors as long as they are not fire doors.  

Question: This is not practical in winter and shouldn’t all doors be fire doors in a school?

Answer: The management of the school site rests with the head teacher on a day to day basis and they along with the site manager will consider the most effective solutions for ventilating the building whenever and wherever possible (as stated in Government guidance). Clearly in very cold weather there will be a need to risk assess the need for ventilation alongside the temperature of the building. To note whilst many doors in school buildings are fire doors, there is no requirement for all doors to be fire doors, and not all will be.

Question: What provision has been made re. ventilation in classrooms for September? And have schools been allocated additional funding for this?

Answer: In accordance with Government guidelines, that all schools will be returning in September and that no additional buildings or facilities will be necessary, no additional or forced ventilation facilities are being put in place and no additional funding has been allocated for this purpose.

SECTION 3: CURRICULUM, BEHAVIOUR AND PASTORAL SUPPORT

S) Quote from guidelines: 

Remote education, where needed, is high quality and aligns as closely as possible with in school provision; schools and other settings continue to build their capability to educate pupils remotely, where this is needed

Question: Why have parents not been asked for their feedback on remote learning?  It is unrealistic to expect working parents to oversee young children who have a powerpoint presentation and five minute video and offer a full and wide curriculum.  Let’s learn from the last six months that home learning has been varying in levels of effectiveness not only nationally but also between classes in the same school.

Answer: There have been variations in the response from schools to remote learning. Some schools were already in a position to be able to adapt their teaching to on-line platforms, other schools were less prepared for this. All schools will have done what they could to respond and adapt whether by providing resource packages or signposting children and parents to on-line providers such as the Oak National Academy. Improving provision in this regard is a high priority for all schools and the on-line offer is developing all the time.

Question: How do the parents work whose children have come back for 14 days of self isolation?  How do they do the home learn/work set up again that clearly didn’t work the first time around? Will the isolated pupil be given work to catch up seeing as so much time was lost over the Spring?

Answer: Schools are used to supporting children who have missed periods of learning for a range of reasons through extended absence. ‘Catch-up’ and filling any gaps in learning as a result of self isolation will be a priority for all schools. Schools will assess the needs of the children and plan for the most effective way of making up the learning time and securing catch-up.

Home learning was a positive educational experience for many young people. Teachers and children report that children received good provision at home and returned to school having made  gains in their learning. Teachers will be acutely aware of those children who have slipped backwards and those who have significant gaps in their knowledge and understanding. Schools have been and will continue to plan for those children to make progress as quickly and efficiently as possible.

T) Quote from guidelines:

Plan on the basis of the educational needs of pupils. Curriculum planning should be informed by an assessment (for example quizzes, observing pupils in class, talking to pupils to assess understanding, scrutiny of pupils’ work) while avoiding the introduction of unnecessary tracking systems.

Question: Why are parents not included in part of this process?  They will be able to update the new teacher in a much quicker and effective way than a test surely if they’ve been teaching their children for the last 12 weeks?

Answer: Schools are used to supporting children who have missed periods of learning for a range of reasons through extended absence. ‘Catch-up’ and filling any gaps in learning as a result of self isolation will be a priority for all schools. Schools will use information from home and from their assessments of the needs of the children and plan for the most effective way of making up the learning time and securing catch-up.

Teachers will be acutely aware of those children who have slipped backwards and those who have significant gaps in their knowledge and understanding. Schools have been and will continue to plan for those children to make progress as quickly and efficiently as possible without adding unnecessary bureaucracy for schools staff , or additional pressure for children

U) Quote from guidelines:

Develop remote education so that it is integrated into school curriculum planning. 

Question: Who checks that the remote education is of a good quality and will be part of offering a solid education? If a school believes it did well with remote teaching in the past who will inform them that it was not good or effective?  What are the national benchmarks?  Who can schools learn from?

Answer: Schools are responsible for ensuring that there is good educational provision whether this takes place in school or elsewhere. Ofsted has outlined its role in monitoring what has worked well in its visits to schools in the autumn. Ofsted will share its finding and best practice with schools. There is a growing bank of resources and guidance on what constitutes good practice and this is increasing. The DfE’s guidance identifies the expectations on schools for remote learning. Schools will know what works for their children as some approaches are dependent upon the circumstances and the context of their communities. Where provision is not good enough, tis will be raised with the school. If parents are not satisfied with the provision, this should be raised with the school leadership.

Improving provision in this regard is a high priority for all schools and the on-line offer is developing all the time.

Question: Could the LEA help in acknowledging the difficulty for working parents of coping with lockdowns and more home schooling? It’s important to get home schooling right it happens again.  Is there LEA guidance prepped (just in case). Comms therefore (again) seem key to telling parents (and children) what’s going to happen in ‘new normal’ and if there’s another lock down.

Answer: The LA has and will continue to provide schools with information, advice and guidance on all aspects of government guidance as it relates to COVID. Schools in turn will be planning how this is organised and delivered within each individual school as circumstances will be different. Guidance for parents and carers has been issued by the DfE and is available on the government website at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/what-parents-and-carers-need-to-know-about-early-years-providers-schools-and-colleges-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak and the LA will be publishing a range of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on its website before the start of the autumn term. If there is another lockdown, the LA along with all schools will be guided by the government and Public Health England on any actions to be taken.

V) Quote from guidelines:

Music: Schools should consider how to reduce the risk i.e. playing musical instruments outside

Question: Can we encourage schools to try and make things as normal as possible e.g. do music in bigger spaces i.e. sports halls.  Playing music outside in winter doesn’t seem practical or possible in wind, snow and rain

Answer: Many schools are intending to make school as normal as possible and are proceeding with plans to offer Music and other arts subjects in creative ways. The music service and other local providers have provided a range of guidance for schools and have extended their offer in imaginative ways. We are waiting more guidance from the DfE and the Arts Council regarding the details of music tuition in schools.

W) Quote from guidelines:

Catch up support: We have announced a package worth £1 billion to ensure that schools have the resources they need to help all pupils make up for lost teaching time, with extra support for those who need it most.

Question: What does that £1 billion amount to for each state school?  Who really benefits from the catch up sessions? How does a head teacher decide who needs it most?  How do they not know that a pupil, they thought was coping through lockdown, has been struggling with mental health and falling behind with work?  Can the LEA give clearer guidance on this?

Answer: As stated above, schools are used to supporting children who have missed periods of learning for a range of reasons through extended absence and the potential for mental health issues as a result of self isolation. This will be a priority for all schools. Teachers will be acutely aware of those children who have slipped backwards and those who have significant gaps in their knowledge and understanding. Schools have been and will continue to plan for those children to make progress as quickly and efficiently as possible without adding unnecessary bureaucracy for schools staff, or additional pressure for children and this would be done whether or not any additional financial resources have been put in place.

The £1 billion allocation is in two parts

1.      A one-off universal £650 million catch-up premium

This is to ensure that schools have the support they need to help all pupils make up for lost teaching time.

Schools’ allocations from the £650m will be paid across 3 terms in the next academic based on:

  • £80 for each mainstream school pupil in reception through to year 11.
  • £240 for each place in a special, alternative provision or hospital school.

This means a typical primary school of 200 pupils will receive £16,000 while a typical secondary school of 1,000 pupils will receive £80,000 to tackle the impact of lost teaching time on pupils as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Schools have the flexibility to spend their funding in the best way for their cohort and circumstances but are recommended to do this in line with the guidance available from the Education Endowment Foundation.

2. A £350m tutoring fund

From the second half of the 2020/21 autumn term this will provide support to disadvantaged pupils aged 5-16 in two ways:

·         Access to heavily subsidised tuition from organisations on a list of approved partners.

·         Support to the most disadvantaged schools to employ in-house academic mentors to provide intensive support to pupils.

£96M of the tutoring fund will be used to support colleges, sixth forms and all 16-19 providers, to provide small group tutoring activity for disadvantaged 16-19 students whose studies have been disrupted.

X) Quote from guidelines:

The Department for Health and Education hosted a free webinar for school and college staff on 9 July.

Question: What is there for parents and carers?  Why are we not seen as part of this process?  We should be part of any strategy or webinar on health and wellbeing.  Most parents lost their income, clients, jobs and mental state whilst trying to hold on to incomes and simultaneously teach their children for three months – where are our webinars and wellbeing support groups?  We know of a parent who has lost her three year old child due to a virus and has to pay for her own grief counselling.  Who is supporting her through these worrying times?

Answer: COVID has placed a considerable mental strain on many people, both adults and young people alike. The LA has been working throughout the lockdown period to identify those in need of additional support both online and where appropriate, face to face offering information, advice and guidance and signposting people to where they can get further help in relation to mental health and well-being. Information is available on the Council’s website at https://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/covid-19-information-and-advice/advice-on-covid-19/looking-after-your-wellbeing/

The Gloucestershire Parent Carer Forum (PCF) is a strategic partner to the LA and the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), this forum facilitates parents voice and supports both organisations to be aware of and respond to parent care questions or concerns.. Parents can contact the PCF who will be able to support parents to find the best support available to them which may be from the LA, CCG or the voluntary and community sector. Parent Carers can also receive support from the Gloucestershire Carers Hub which is commissioned by the LA and the CCG to provide support and promote well being and advice and guidance for parent carers. SENDIASS is another support service to parent carers and young people, 16-25 offering free confidential and impartial advice and guidance on all matters in relation to Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

Glos Families online directory is a LA service which provides a wide range of information and guidance to families and has had specific information on COVID 19 and  well being.

Y) Quote from guidelines:

Outdoor sports should be prioritised where possible.

Question: My 11 year olds are keen to know what sports will look like as they move to secondary school. Fleshing that out they a(mean that they are keen for competitive sport – hockey and football – if it means no physical contact then so be it (e.g. following the guidance of grass roots sports organisations

Answer: Any questions about school related activities including how sports will be organised and delivered should be addressed to the school where your children will be attending. Schools will be determining how best to organise physical activities in accordance with government guidelines.

SECTION 4: ASSESSMENT AND ACCOUNTABILITY

Zi) Quote from guidelines:

For state-funded schools, routine Ofsted inspections will remain suspended for the autumn term. However during the autumn term, inspectors will visit a sample of schools to discuss how they are managing the return to education of all their pupils. These will be collaborative discussions, taking into account the curriculum and remote education expectations set out in this document and will not result in judgement.

Question: What is the point of Ofsted not judging what’s being done?  Who is going to check that schools are going to implement a high level of home learning if necessary?  Pupils and parents have no say in what is and is not delivered to them so there has to be a minimal, national standard.

Answer: The visits carried out  by Ofsted in the Autumn term will not be inspections therefore a judgement cannot be made or changed. What Ofsted states is that they will carry out  a programme of ‘visits’, not inspections, that will aim to reassure parents, ministers and the public about how schools and colleges are managing the return to full education of their pupils and students. Inspectors will use the visits to work collaboratively with leaders, listening and providing appropriate challenge. Ofsted will report back on the national picture across England.

For maintained schools and academies, visits will not result in an inspection grade or judgement. Ofsted will publish a brief letter that establishes the context of the visits and what leaders agree are their next steps in resuming pupils’ full-time education.

Specifically the purpose of the visits is as follows:

From September 2020 Ofsted will  visit all inadequate schools and a sample of schools across the other Ofsted grades (outstanding, good, requires improvement).

The visits will be based around a series of professional conversations with senior and middle leaders. They will focus on:

  • identifying the barriers schools have faced and are still facing in managing the return to full education for pupils
  • how leaders are ensuring pupils resume learning the school’s extant curriculum, including the blend of classroom teaching and, where necessary, remote education
  • how pupils are settling back into expected routines and behaviours
  • how any identified and specific health and well-being issues for particular pupils are being addressed and what may be needed at local and/or national level to support this
  • safeguarding

Ofsted goes on to clarify that as these visits are not inspections, so they will:

  • not use the education inspection framework and school inspection handbook, but Ofsted will publish a brief operational note in September about how Ofsted will carry out visits
  • not result in any grade or progress judgement; Ofsted will publish a brief letter after a visit containing information agreed with leaders about their next steps in managing the return to full-time education for their pupils
  • not judge schools on their response to COVID-19 during the spring and summer terms 2020
  • not require any pre-written planning or other documentation for the visit; the lead inspector will make a simple phone call to discuss the logistics of the visit
  • not ask schools for documents or records in a certain format; we will use what schools have already, if needed to support discussion
  • not require teachers to prepare any lesson plans or examples of assessment, or to put up any displays for the visit
  • not use lesson visits as a method of collecting evidence
  • not involve a general review of a school’s policies

Question: In the situation that there will be closures of classrooms and potential lockdowns of school as the virus spreads over winter – what thought has gone into ensuring there is a minimum level of home learning?  The government has acknowledged that the work sent to homes was not sufficient to keep children stimulated and engaged A) so that they could continue working at a normal pace B) so that their parents could work from home – what are the LEA’s benchmarks, who are they observing that did it well, who will implement this and again, why have parents not been asked for their feedback on what worked and what didn’t?  They have offered to do this voluntarily but received no reply from schools.

This has been answered above.

Question: Could the LEA work with OFSTED to ensure that there is an absolute minimum of teaching both in the school and if having to offer home learning again.  OFSTED has deferred normal school inspections but this is the now the new normal and schools should be inspected more now than ever as levels of teaching have varied wildly over the last few months.  Until a vaccine is tried, tested and given to everyone, OFSTED needs to work effectively in this new environment.

Answer: Ofsted visits will take place in the Autumn. The focus of the visits will be to identify what has worked well for children and how schools have responded to lockdown and to recovery. Home learning and its quality will be part of this work. The LA is working with schools to support their planning for effective home learning.

SECTION 5: CONTINGENCY PLANNING FOR OUTBREAKS

Zii) Quote from guidelines:

Where a class, group or small number of pupils need to self-isolate, or there is a local lockdown requiring pupils to remain at home, we expect schools to have the capacity to offer immediate remote education. 

Question: Schools are expected to improve their offering – how will they know what to improve if they don’t work with parents who had to teach the work?  Tools that are offered such as Twinkl and BBC bitesize, Oxford Owl are limited and not child friendly.  Books for example that are online aren’t linked to accelerated reader so it can take an hour to work out what book can be read and tested.  Links sent through every day for three months were unstimulating and resulted in the children becoming argumentative, frustrated and bored.  No person ever learned off a Twinkl powerpoint without a proper teacher. They are absolutely dreadful, clunky, outdated and children loathe them – take a poll and see for yourself.

Answer: The LA is working with schools and with the DfE guidance to identify and share good practice. There is a wide range of online resources available to schools and increasing support for teachers to find and deliver an appropriate remote learning.

Question: We are all hoping for a return to semi-normal in September but can’t ignore the risk of local lockdowns/potential school closure. What planning has been undertaken if we end up in a partial / full lockdown again with pupils stuck at home? Delivery of lessons/the curriculum can’t stop for some like it did across Spring/Summer this year.

Answer: Schools are required to plan for the delivery of the curriculum whether in school or as a remote learning resource. Schools have been asked to have this in place by the end of September.

Ziii) 

Quote from guidelines:

Schools should share the results of their risk assessment with their workforce. If possible they should consider publishing it on their website to provide transparency of approach.

Question: Why is this not mandatory?  Parents have the right to see what is being put in place for their children.  A local parent, whose three year old son died from a virus, said she is terrified that her other two children will catch something in school.  What measures are being taken to inform parents in detail?

Answer: Schools do share their risk assessment with their workforce as they are integral in ensuring any arrangements are a success. Schools and other organisations are encouraged by the Government to display risk assessments on websites and many schools do this; moreover, many schools also show additional material such as short videos explaining their arrangements.

Question: Feedback from some schools is that compulsory attendance at school must be compulsory and they are concerned that some parents may take the opportunity not to send their children back in despite the government saying there will be fines if children don’t attend. Therefore what measures can be put in place for parents to feel secure that school is a safe environment.

Answer: Government guidance has been provided on the reopening of schools with the expectation that they provide a safe learning environment.  The LA has supported schools in the risk assessment process.  Support has also been put in place by the LA to ensure schools have access to Public Health England guidance and local arrangements are in place with Gloucestershire Public Health.

 

A return to school has been determined as compulsory and support for children, young people and their families, as well as schools is available from GCC inclusion services including: Educational Psychologists, Advisory Teachers, Education Inclusion, Early Help, Restorative Practices, Gloucestershire Healthy Living and Learning and Community Social Workers. The DfE is providing reassurances to families regarding the safe return to school through a media campaign.

If parents chose not to return their child to school they can make the decision to electively home educate their child, guidance is available on the GCC website about what this entails and further guidance for parents and schools is being developed to ensure both schools and parents are fully informed of this option.  The LA strongly recommends before any decision is made that parents request a meeting with the school and LA representative to full understand the process. Parents should also be aware that the range of online learning available to children through the lockdown period will not be an ongoing resource and parents take full responsibility for sourcing and funding provision for home educated children.

Question: Why is there no general LEA communication for parents?  We are reliant on the creativity and openness of each head teacher and board of governors. If they are not communicative it leads to unrest and worry for parents and children.

Answer: The LA provides information and has published a range of generic FAQs for parents on its website throughout the period of Coronavirus outbreak, these will be updated towards the end of August to help parents with some of their concerns about returning to school in September. The LA has been meeting with head teacher representatives several times a week, throughout lockdown and into the summer term, ensuring that schools have all the relevant advice, guidance and information they need to liaise with parents, staff and students.  As many of the county’s schools are now academies, they no longer fall under the responsibility of the LA and therefore it is not necessarily appropriate that the LA is communicating with all parents about arrangements in those schools. Academies and Free Schools are the responsibility of the Trust that runs the school and they in turn are responsible to the Regional Schools Commissioner for the South West region and the Secretary of State. Any parent who has concerns or needs clarification should make contact wit their school directly, as they are best placed to discuss the arrangements being put in place in that particular school and the reasons why.

Question: Is it possible for the government to put guidelines together for parents and carers?  Unless you go looking for it parents won’t be looking at the guidelines for schools – they have a lot of unanswered questions and queries.

Guidelines for parents and carers can be found on the Department for Education (DfE) website athttps://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/education-and-childcare  Additionally the County Council will be updating its Return to School FAQs for parents and will be available to view later in August

Question: How can you ensure that schools are fair about which key workers can bring their children in during lockdown they let in and who they don’t during lockdown.  It’s at the discretion of each school and some parents have been turned away when they are within their rights to let their children into school.

Answer: All key workers will be supported to find a school place, should they need one to enable them to continue to work and they have no alternative child care arrangements. During the lockdown period, schools worked together with the LA to ensure places were available for all key worker children that required a place, although this was not always in their own school.

Click here for video of first Education panel session

Click here for video of Second Education panel session

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