Update for schools: 10 July 2020

This update has information about the risk assessment for reopening in September, important attendance information, recordings of the sessions that took place this week and more.

Risk Assessment

The risk assessment for full reopening in September that was shared with you earlier this week has been updated and can be accessed at this link. The risk assessment is a generic tool for schools to use and can be adapted for each school’s use. If there are any changes to government guidance over the summer that mean that the risk assessment has to be updated, we will inform schools of this.

All schools and academies will be required to update their risk assessments in line with the government guidance. Education Infrastructure will be contacting all schools and academies next week asking them to confirm that this will be done before full reopening in September.

Maintained schools will need to resubmit their completed risk assessments. We would be grateful if these can be returned to edsi.enquiries@birmingham.gov.uk as soon as possible and by 24th August at the very latest. 

September return: seminars that took place this week

Thank you to everyone who attended the sessions earlier this week. Recordings of the safeguarding and governor session are below:

A recording of the guidance shared at the session about risk assessments and the school estate will be shared next week.

Covid Summer Food Fund

We have confirmed with the DfE that nursery aged children should be included when schools order vouchers through the Covid Summer Food Fund. We will therefore not be issuing vouchers through Sodexo for early years children.

Schools should continue to accept and verify free school meal applications up until the end of the term and claim late applications via an exceptional order on Edenred system.

Pupil Attendance

Colleagues will now be aware that, from September 2020, attendance at school will be compulsory for those children who are registered with you.  Consequently, the Department for Education has requested that the local authority and schools set out their expectations for parents in relation to attendance from next term.   We have revised the ‘Whole School Letter’ used for our legal processes to take into account the impact of Covid 19.  We would advise schools to send this out to parents by email, or post or by pupil post, as well as placing the letter on your website.   Even if your school does not use legal processes usually, we would advise that you ensure parents receive a copy.  The letter should include the school’s logo and, preferably, should be signed by the Head teacher. The letter can be found on our webpage under both FAST-track and the Leave in Term Time sections: https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/info/20014/schools_and_learning/690/pupil_attendance_advice_for_schools/2

For the first half term it is important that schools continue to work in partnership with parents to encourage full attendance, using Early Help and other resources such as those provided by the #you’vebeenmissed campaign.   Meetings should be informal and supportive in the early stages.  We would like schools to refrain from calling formal FAST-track ‘School Attendance Review Meetings’ (SARMs) in the first half term.   Whilst schools are free to use the Leave in Term Time letters (LD1 and LD2) now for leave requested next academic year, the Education Legal Intervention team will not be accepting referrals for unauthorised leave taken in the first half term.  This is to take into account any confusion as to whether attendance was compulsory or not when the parents booked their leave.  When reviewing requests for leave in term time, schools may also need to think about whether parents have been key workers during the pandemic, or whether the family has suffered loss due to Covid 19 in the last few months.

Draft BCC Education (Penalty Notice) Code of Conduct

The Department for Education has also asked local authorities to review their code of conduct for issuing penalty notices, to take into account the issues raised by Covid 19.  Any change to codes of conduct must be subject to consultation with schools.  You will find the draft document at https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/school-attendance

The main changes are:

  • as directed by the DfE no penalty notices or prosecutions will be instigated for Covid 19 absence
  • penalty notices will now be issued for a second subsequent offence relating to unauthorised absence.  A third offence would mean the case would be referred straight to Court. 
  • the threshold for ‘straight to court’ cases, where the offence is considered too serious for penalty notices to be issued, has changed from 40 to 60 sessions
  • the overall threshold for issuing penalty notices is still 20 sessions but in relation to unauthorised Leave in Term Time referrals, the number of required unauthorised absence sessions for the previous 12 calendar months is now 12 and the number of G codes prompting referral has reduced to 8, which will help schools with those families who try to avoid sanctions by going on leave for 4 days not 5.
  • ‘12 calendar months’ will not include the 5 month period between March and the beginning of September which can be discounted.

If you have any comments please send them by 24th July 2020, marked for the attention of Edwina Langley, to attendance@birmingham.gov.uk.

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