Update for schools: 7 September 2020

This update includes information following the events of the weekend, a reminder about the Early Years survey and declaration of conformity required from schools and more.

Events this weekend

Following the tragic and shocking events over the weekend, we want you to feel reassured that Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Police are working together to support all those affected by this incident, including schools. It reminds us of the importance of continuing to raise awareness of the dangers of knife crime and its consequences.

Last year the Home Office in collaboration with PSHE Association shared free online teaching resources for schools. The Home Office #knifefree lesson plans for KS3&4 are available at this link. These PSHE lessons challenge the myths and communicate the realities of carrying a knife to secondary school students, using the Home Office #knifefree campaign as stimulus for discussion. These lessons inform young people of the consequences of carrying a knife and inspire them to pursue positive alternatives, using real life stories of young people’s experiences as a basis. Accompanying teacher guidance will help you plan the lessons into your PSHE curriculum safely and effectively. PowerPoint slides are included for each lesson will help you to deliver engaging and effective lessons.

We have commissioned two interactive workshop sessions for schools that will be delivered by an experienced intervention provider. We will share information and booking links with schools tomorrow.

Contact details for headteachers/principals

It is extremely important that the council has contact details for every headteacher so that we can contact you in the case of an urgent issue. Please ensure your contact details are up to date and let School and Governor Support (school.support@birmingham.gov.uk) know if contact details change. If your school’s leadership arrangements have changed this academic year, please contact us using the same address so that we can confirm the contact details.  

Early Years survey

A reminder that we are asking that all providers and schools with a nursery class complete the form every week by Wednesday evening at 7pm; and in addition any time you have changes to your setting. Once a school/setting reports that they are closed, they are not required to submit another return until they reopen. Please note: Schools need only complete information relating to the nursery class. This applies to both the children and staff.

We are required to report to the DfE on a weekly basis with the information contained within the survey so it is really important that complete it regularly. The survey can be accessed using this link – Early Years Settings.  Any queries please contact EYDuty@birmingham.gov.uk.

Reminder: Declaration of conformity required from all schools

The council requires all schools in Birmingham (including academies) to submit a declaration of conformity that confirms that a risk assessment has been undertaken and an accompanying action plan is in place ahead of full reopening in September.

Please could you complete the declaration form available at this link and return it to edsi.enquiries@birmingham.gov.uk as soon as possible. The same email address can be used if you have any queries about this process. If you have already made your return this morning, thank you for this and apologies for sending this reminder. Thank you in advance for your support with this matter.

Shortfall in staffing due to a teacher having symptoms and/or being required to self-isolate

If your school is struggling with a shortfall in staffing because a teacher has coronavirus symptoms and/or is required to self-isolate we would ask that schools explore all possible options to cover their absence, including engaging supply teachers.  We know that you will agree that ensuring that pupils are safely back in school given the time they missed last academic year is crucial to their learning and wellbeing there are options available to the school in order to cover their absence.

Possible approaches to managing a shortfall in staffing include:

  • bringing additional teachers in to help, who may be supply teachers, teachers on temporary agreed loan from other schools, or teachers provided by your trust or local authority (considering the guidance in section 2 about consistent staffing across the week)
  • asking suitably experienced teaching assistants who are willing to do so to work with groups under the supervision of a teacher (schools need to be mindful of a TA’s roles and responsibilities as per their job description)
  • using some senior leadership time to cover groups, although you should as headteacher consider your own workload and that of your senior colleagues to make sure this is manageable, and you have sufficient leadership time remaining

Contacting Birmingham Public Health

Please use the email address BCCCOVID19@birmingham.gov.uk (included in the Public Health flowchart) to contact the Birmingham Public Health team instead of using individual’s email addresses. This will ensure your enquiry is dealt with as soon as possible.

Reporting self-isolation

If your school has to self-isolate groups of pupils as a result of a positive COVID-19 test, we would be grateful if you could please provide information to edsi.enquiries@birmingham.gov.uk

sKIDs PLUS study (Covid 19 Surveillance in Kids in Secondary schools): Information from Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust

Dear Headteachers,

As we start to re-open secondary schools for the first time since lockdown in March, we are aware that some staff, students and their families remain concerned about the risk of infection and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in educational settings. Public Health England (PHE), initiated a prospective national study in preschools and primary schools during the summer half-term (sKIDS). This suggested that SARS-CoV-2 infection and transmission rates were low in preschool and primary schools. PHE are extending this study into secondary schools and higher educational settings and we hope that you and your team can help. In Birmingham this project is being run by Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust on behalf of PHE.

We are looking for secondary schools and sixth form colleges to recruit staff and students for the sKIDs PLUS study, (Covid 19 Surveillance in Kids in Secondary schools). This surveillance aims to test children and staff four times in the academic year to get a better understanding of childhood transmission and immunity in secondary school children and the staff looking after them. In Birmingham, we are hoping to recruit 4 secondary schools or sixth form colleges from across the city. We would like to send teams into schools and colleges to take blood tests from staff and students testing for antibodies to Covid19 commencing the week starting 14 or 21 September.

In practical terms, this would involve the school sending out an email to all parents and staff about the study, which includes a link to the study website. Parents and staff members would need to enrol online at least 5 days before the blood test day. We will send a team of healthcare professionals to your school or college to take the samples on one day in September, and then again for one day near the end of each term. We will require a large room, ideally an assembly or sports hall on the day, and will give you the list of students and staff taking part so that you can arrange an appointment system. All children will be offered local anaesthetic cream before the blood test, this takes around 20-30 minutes to work, so they may need two visits to the testing room or to wait there while the cream works. The samples taken are  1) nasal swabs looking for current infection, 2) blood samples looking for antibodies and 3) saliva swabs which we will use to develop antibody tests so that blood tests may no longer be needed in the future.

Having successfully visited 18 primary schools in Birmingham last term, we are confident and keen to emphasise that we aim to disrupt the schools as little as possible. We have infection control protocols, wear appropriate PPE and ensure social distancing measures at all times.

The data we will be collecting is hugely important and to date, has not been collated nationally before, so we cannot stress enough how vital this study is and we cannot do this without your help.

If you think your school would be interested in taking part please email  Joanna Garstang at  joanna.garstang@nhs.net no later than 5pm on Wednesday 9th September giving  a contact name and number, and a member of the research team will call you to discuss it further.

Yours sincerely

Joanna Garstang

Consultant Community Paediatrician

Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust

Active Schools Commonwealth Games Event – Monday 12th October 2020, 1-3pm at Edgbaston Stadium

Sport Birmingham are hosting an Active Schools Commonwealth Games event on Monday 12th October, 1-3pm at Edgbaston Stadium. The event is aimed at Head Teachers and senior colleagues from all schools across Birmingham will include:

  • Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games update by Ian Reid, Chief Executive of Birmingham 2022
  • Education Inspection Framework briefing by Association for Physical Education - an opportunity for Physical Education, School Sport and Physical Activity (PESSPA)
  • Launch of Pathway to Podium - an exciting initiative available to all Birmingham schools to recognise and encourage schools' contribution to PESSPA
  • Birmingham Primary PE & Sport Premium Awards 2020 - a celebration of the positive work that schools are delivering in terms of PESSPA

The stadium, as a major conference and event facility, is adhering to national guidelines regarding social distancing and cleaning/hygiene processes. Even though we have secured a larger room for the event, this does mean that the number of people able to attend has been capped at a lower level to ensure the safety and comfort of those attending. To register to attend the event, please visit https://www.sportbirmingham.org/events/2020/10/active-schools-commonwealth-games-event and complete the registration process.

Message from Secretary of State

Please see email below sent from the Secretary of State earlier today.

From: Gavin Williamson <Education.Secretary@public.govdelivery.com>
Sent: Monday, September 7, 2020 1:03 PM
Subject: Message from the Secretary of State



7 September 2020

Dear colleagues,

Now that the new academic year has begun I wanted to write and congratulate you and let you know how very grateful both I and the Prime Minister are for your efforts in getting us to this point.

I know that welcoming all our pupils back has meant significant adjustments for you and your teams and I am filled with admiration for the magnificent way you have responded.

Since I last wrote to you, most of our schools and colleges have now returned and I am sure pupils and all staff will have had a wonderful first few days catching up with each other, and I do hope that you enjoyed it too. I have been absolutely delighted to see on social media some of the reunions that have been taking place.

We know from reports we have had from our local teams that children are returning as planned, while the National Association of Headteachers released data from its members on Friday that showed nearly all schools had reopened.

As the Prime Minister has made clear, getting children back into school has been a national priority. I don’t need to spell out to you how important it is for a child’s educational development and long-term prospects. However, I realise that there is still some nervousness, both among parents and possibly some staff too, about the full reopening of our schools.

Welcoming back all children and young people full-time

The medical advice supporting this has been unanimous. The Chief Medical Officers of all the home nations recently set out the evidence of risks and benefits to health from schools opening, which led them to conclude that a pupil risked more by not being in school than they did by attending.  

Public Health England (PHE) has also just published its own study on Covid-19 transmission in staff and students attending pre-schools and primary schools during a four-week period in the summer term. PHE found no evidence that pupils or staff in these schools were at greater risk of Covid-19 than the general population.

To reduce risk, we published guidance on 2 July which set out the PHE-endorsed ‘system of controls’ that schools should put in place. I have seen for myself some of the innovative ways you have been responding to this and am deeply grateful for all the work you have been doing to implement these protective measures.  

The safety and wellbeing of you, your staff and your pupils has always been my priority. I want to reassure you again that all your staff and pupils have access to testing if one of them should develop Covid-19 symptoms. We have provided a small supply of home test kits if anyone develops symptoms while at school or college and who may otherwise be unable to access a test. Every school or college that has been attended by someone who tests positive will receive direct support and advice from their local PHE health protection team.

We all know that the disruption caused to schools and colleges by the pandemic has led to the loss of crucial classroom-based learning. For some pupils this will be more acute than others, which is why the £1 billion Covid Catch Up Fund will enable you to provide extra tuition and support for those who need it most in a way that will suit them best.

I will continue doing everything in my power to make sure that children can catch up on lost learning, continue their education and make the most of their potential as we strive to level up opportunity across the country.

And on behalf of the Prime Minister and all my colleagues across Government, I would like to say thank you again for all of your efforts, your resilience and your service to our country’s children and young people.



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