Update for schools: 2 November 2020

This update includes a message from Dr Tim O'Neill, information about PPE for mainstream schools and the elections due on 7 May next year.

Message from Dr Tim O’Neill

Dear colleagues

I am writing to thank you all for the hard work and commitment you are continuing to show despite the significant and constantly evolving challenges of keeping schools open during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite rising case numbers and many schools having to isolate bubbles of pupils, particularly towards the end of the first half-term, attendance at Birmingham schools compared favourably to elsewhere in the country and other core cities. This was down to your dedication to Birmingham’s children and families and is very much appreciated by everyone at BCC.

I hope you managed to have some rest during the half-term break as the next few weeks promise to be no less challenging than the last seven months. As I am writing, the DfE is yet to publish updated guidance for schools following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Saturday evening of a second national lockdown. Officers will closely consider the implications of any changes in guidance and will update you as soon as possible.  Schools have been revisiting their risk assessments regularly and I would encourage you to continue to do this as further guidance is published, hopefully in the coming days.

We will continue to share updates with you regularly in the coming weeks to support you at this challenging time. Thank you again for all you are doing for Birmingham’s children and young people.

Best wishes


Dr Tim O’Neill
Director Education and Skills

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) available for mainstream schools

Last month we provided an update on the PPE available to schools as part of the commitment announced within the Adult Social Care Winter Plan to meet all COVID-19 PPE needs until 31st March 2021. We are now able to provide mainstream schools with information about the PPE we will be providing. The Department of Education (DFE) is very clear that the PPE being provided is for use when:

  • A child in the school setting presents symptomatic and PPE is required
  • A child requires aerosol generating procedures.

The amount of PPE to be supplied is based on a calculation provided by the DFE and also takes account of the local infection rate for school aged children. This PPE has been supplied to us by the DfE for distribution to schools in line with the usage outlined above and is intended to provide sufficient PPE until the Christmas break. The packs will be based on two school sizes and will include the following items of clinical grade PPE:

Schools with 1-1000 pupils

  • 200 x Type IIR face masks
  • 200 x aprons
  • 400 x gloves
  • 10 x visors
  • hand sanitisers

Schools with 1001 – 2300 pupils

  • 300 x Type IIR masks
  • 400 x aprons
  • 600 x gloves
  • 20 x visors
  • hand sanitisers

These packs will be delivered to mainstream schools between Wednesday 4th November and Friday 6th November. PPE for special schools and City of Birmingham School is being dispatched today and tomorrow.

A further supply will be available in January 2021 and we will provide an update on the quantities and access arrangements nearer Christmas. We will continue to monitor both PPE usage and the local infection rate during the intervening period.

If you have any queries regarding this PPE delivery, please contact edsi.enquiries@birmingham.gov.uk

Free school meal vouchers

At the end of term the council announced it would fund one week of free school meals vouchers for eligible pupils and that these would be available retrospectively via schools. We are working with Sodexo and will provide schools with clear information about how and when these vouchers will be accessed in our email update tomorrow.

West Midlands Combined Authority Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner elections

The above elections that were due to take place on 7 May this year will now take place on 6 May 2021. Preparations are underway for this election and the council’s elections office may be in contact with schools in the coming weeks regarding their use as polling stations. The government has confirmed there are no plans for changes in legislation which allows returning officers to use schools as polling stations. The council will be closely monitoring all aspects of government and Public Health guidance over the coming months to ensure the safe running of next year’s election. The elections office wants to work with any schools to minimise any potential disruption and where possible keep schools open. Where that may not be practicable schools are asked to consider whether it would be possible to use polling day as a training day.

Wellbeing for Education Return training

The Wellbeing for Education Return project has been developed and funded by the Department for Education (DfE) and Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), partnered with Health Education England (HEE), Public Health England (PHE), and NHS England and Improvement. The train the trainer programme aims to support staff working in schools and colleges to be further equipped to respond to the additional pressures some children and young people may be feeling as a direct result of the pandemic, as well as any emotional response they or their teachers may be experiencing from bereavement, stress, trauma or anxiety over the past months.

The offer of two 1.5hour training sessions for Senior Mental Health Leads in school will be offered to every school and college in England to help build support for new and emerging mental health concerns and also support the whole school community around mental and emotional health. In Birmingham sessions will be delivered jointly by the Education Psychology Service and Birmingham Education Partnership.  We have responded to feedback from schools and will be offering a 1.5 hour webinar this term to leads with a follow up in the spring.   Webinar 1 will include a section on staff support and wellbeing.  Training will be by schools consortia and network in order that all discussions can be locally based.

We know that many schools in the city already have mental health leads.  As we develop our whole school emotional wellbeing offer across the city this is a first step in working with mental health leads across the city.

Training will be delivered as twilight sessions on Zoom between 11th and 18th November. To book please go to: https://bep.education/events/mental-health-senior-lead-training/. Sessions will be grouped by Consortia/Network. Please select the date that applies to your Consortia/Network. If you are unable to make the date assigned to your Consortia/Network or need to change please email events@bep.education.

Lesson plans: examples of schools adapting teaching practice for remote education

The DfE is continuing to work with schools to understand how they are adapting their teaching practice for remote education. Schools have shared a range of lesson plans annotated with tips and ideas they have found useful when teaching remotely.

These lesson plans are an optional resource designed to help teachers consider how they might adapt their teaching practice for the remote context. The examples are intended as a source of ideas, not as teaching resources or lessons the Department for Education expects schools to teach. They do not reflect departmental endorsement of any particular approach to remote teaching and we do not expect teachers to create formal lesson plans.

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