Category: Education

Opening schools and educational settings to more pupils from 1 June: guidance for parents and carers

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These are very challenging times for our country. Measures put in place to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) have been hard for us all, but have kept people safe and saved lives. Keeping people safe continues to be the government’s priority.

Since 23 March, in line with the scientific advice, nurseries, schools and colleges have remained open to a priority group of children and young people, children of critical workers and vulnerable children. We have been clear that we would review this arrangement in line with scientific advice. We are now past the peak of the virus and the Prime Minister has set out a recovery strategy, while also ensuring that safety remains our absolute priority. This means it is time to begin the phased return of children and young people to nurseries, schools and colleges in a way that is measured, reduces risks and is guided by science.

Why can more children now attend school and childcare settings?

We want to get all children back into education as soon as the scientific advice allows because it is the best place for them to learn, and because we know it is good for children’s mental wellbeing to have social interactions with other children, carers and teachers.

As a result of the huge efforts everyone has made to adhere to strict social distancing measures, the transmission rate of coronavirus has decreased. We anticipate with further progress that we may be able, from the week commencing 1 June, to welcome back more children to early years, school and further education settings. We will only do this provided that the 5 key tests set by government justify the changes at the time, including that the rate of infection is decreasing and the enabling programmes set out in the recovery strategy are operating effectively. As a result, we are asking schools, colleges and childcare providers to plan on this basis, ahead of confirmation that these tests are met.

What does the latest scientific advice say?

We have been guided by scientific advice at every stage. The latest scientific advice to government is that:

  • there is high scientific confidence that children of all ages have less severe symptoms than adults if they contract coronavirus and there is moderately high scientific confidence that younger children are less likely to become unwell if infected with coronavirus
  • limiting the numbers of children going back to school and college initially then gradually increasing numbers, guided by scientific advice, reduces risk of increasing the rate of transmission
  • schools and other settings can make changes to how they are organised and put measures in place to reduce risks

We have provided advice to schools and other settings on the steps they should consider taking, this includes:

  • limiting the amount of contact between different groups of children (such as smaller class sizes with children and staff spread out more)
  • additional protective measures, such as increased cleaning and encouraging good hand and respiratory hygiene

Can my child return to school?

From the week commencing 1 June, we are asking:

  • nurseries and other early year providers, including childminders, to begin welcoming back all children
  • primary schools to welcome back children in nursery (where they have them), reception, year 1 and year 6
  • secondary schools, sixth form, and further education colleges to begin some face to face support with year 10 and 12 pupils, although we do not expect these pupils to return on a full-time basis at this stage
  • all schools and childcare providers to continue to offer places to the priority groups – vulnerable children and children of critical workers – they have been supporting since the end of March
  • special schools, special post-16 institutions and hospital schools to work towards a phased return of more children and young people without a focus on specific year groups and informed by risk assessments
  • alternative provision to welcome back children in reception, year 1 and year 6 and begin some face to face support with year 10 and 11 pupils (as they have no year 12)

This approach aims to limit numbers within schools and further education settings while ensuring that the children and young people who can benefit from attending most are able to do so.

What if my child is eligible but has siblings who are not?

We are asking that only these year groups return to childcare providers, schools and colleges from 1 June. This does not include siblings in different year groups unless those siblings are in a priority group, for example, the children of critical workers.

We hope that all primary school children can come back to school before the summer holidays, for a month if feasible, although this will be kept under review. Reducing the risks for children and staff is our utmost priority.

How will risks to children, teachers and families be managed?

We have provided guidance and support to schools, colleges and childcare settings on implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings to help them to reduce the risk of transmission as more children and young people return.

To prevent the spread of coronavirus, schools and other settings will use a range of protective measures to create safer environments in which the risk of spreading the virus is substantially reduced. Whilst such changes are likely to look different in each setting, as they will depend upon individual circumstances, they are all designed to minimise risks to children, staff and their families.

Schools and other settings should communicate their plans to parents once they have had a chance to work through them in detail. Approaches we are asking schools and other settings to take include:

  • carrying out a risk assessment before opening to more children and young people – the assessment should directly address risks associated with coronavirus so that sensible measures can be put in place to minimise those risks for children, young people and staff
  • making sure that children and young people do not attend if they or a member of their household has symptoms of coronavirus
  • promoting regular hand washing for 20 seconds with running water and soap or use of sanitiser and ensuring good respiratory hygiene by promoting the catch it, bin it, kill it approach
  • cleaning more frequently to get rid of the virus on frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles, handrails, tabletops, play equipment and toys
  • minimising contact through smaller classes or group sizes and altering the environment as much as possible, such as changing the layout of classrooms
  • reducing mixing between groups through timetable changes, such as staggered break times or by introducing staggered drop-off and collection times

If my child is eligible, is it compulsory for them to attend school?

We strongly encourage children and young people in the eligible year groups and priority groups (such as children of critical workers) to attend, as requested by their school or college, unless they are self-isolating or there are other reasons for absence (such as shielding due to health conditions).

You should notify your child’s school or college as normal if your child is unable to attend so that staff are aware and can discuss with you.

Parents will not be fined for non-attendance at this time.

Do all vulnerable children and young people who are not currently attending have to go back to childcare settings, school or college now?

Educational settings should continue to offer places to priority groups. In particular, as per the existing guidance on supporting vulnerable children and young people during the coronavirus outbreak, vulnerable children of all year groups continue to be expected and encouraged to attend educational provision where it is appropriate for them to do so.

For children who have a social worker, attendance is expected unless their social worker decides that they are at less risk at home or in their placement.

For children who have an education health and care (EHC) plan, attendance is expected where it is determined, following a risk assessment, that their needs can be as safely or more safely met in the educational environment.

For children who are deemed otherwise vulnerable, at the school, college or local authority discretion, attendance is expected where this is appropriate.

Should I keep my child at home if they have an underlying health condition or live with someone in a clinically vulnerable group?

Children and young people who are considered extremely clinically vulnerable and shielding should continue to shield and should not be expected to attend.

Clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable) people are those considered to be at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. A minority of children will fall into this category, and parents should follow medical advice if their child is in this category.

Children and young people who live in a household with someone who is extremely clinically vulnerable and shielding should only attend if stringent social distancing can be adhered to and the child or young person is able to understand and follow those instructions.

Children and young people who live with someone who is clinically vulnerable (but not extremely clinically vulnerable) as defined in the social distancing guidance and including those who are pregnant, can attend.

Can children be tested for the virus?

Once settings open to more children and young people, staff and pupils in all settings will be eligible for testing if they become ill with coronavirus symptoms, as will members of their household. This will enable children and young people to get back to childcare or education, and their parents or carers to get back to work, if the test proves to be negative.

A positive test will ensure rapid action to protect their classmates and staff in their setting.

What happens if there is a confirmed case of coronavirus in my child’s school, college or childcare setting?

When a child, young person or staff member develops symptoms compatible with coronavirus, they should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 7 days. Their fellow household members should self-isolate for 14 days. All staff and students who are attending an education or childcare setting will have access to a test if they display symptoms of coronavirus.

Where the child, young person or staff member tests positive, the rest of their class/group within their childcare or education setting should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days. The other household members of that wider class/group do not need to self-isolate unless the child, young person or staff member they live with in that group subsequently develops symptoms.

As part of the national test and trace programme, if other cases are detected within the child or young person’s cohort or in the wider education or childcare setting, Public Health England’s local Health Protection Teams will conduct a rapid investigation and will advise schools and other settings on the most appropriate action to take. In some cases, a larger number of other children and young people may be asked to self-isolate at home as a precautionary measure – perhaps the whole class, site or year group.

Where settings are observing guidance on infection prevention and control, which will reduce risk of transmission, closure of the whole setting will not generally be necessary.

Will education be provided as normal to children and young people who are attending?

Education settings still have the flexibility to provide support and education to children and young people attending school in the way they see fit during this time.

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets the standards that schools and childcare settings must meet for the learning, development and care of children from birth to 5 years old. Early years settings should use their best endeavours to deliver the learning and development requirements as far as possible in the current circumstances.

Schools and colleges continue to be best placed to make decisions about how to support and educate their pupils during this period. This will include:

  • consideration of pupils’ mental health and wellbeing
  • assessment of where pupils are in their learning in order to make any necessary adjustments to their curriculum over the coming weeks
  • prioritisation of high needs groups and support for those in transition years

Schools and colleges should use their best endeavours to support pupils attending as well as those remaining at home, making use of the available remote education support.

For pupils in year 10 and 12, we are asking schools and colleges to supplement remote education with some face to face support for these year groups from 1 June. We do not expect these pupils to return to school or college on a full-time basis at this stage, and so we do not expect a full timetable to be offered as schools and colleges look to minimise the number of pupils in school or college each day. Schools and colleges should consider how to best use additional year 10 and 12 time to support those pupils who are starting their final year of study for GCSEs, A levels and other qualifications next academic year.

How should my child travel to and from their childcare, school or college?

Children, young people and parents are encouraged to walk or cycle where possible and avoid public transport at peak times. The government will shortly publish guidance on how to travel safely, which schools, parents and young people can refer to when planning their travel, particularly if public transport is required.

Home to school transport provided or organised by schools, trusts or local authorities varies widely. Schools, trusts and local authorities should work together and with relevant transport providers to put in place arrangements which fit the local circumstances, including the measures being put in place to reduce contact. Further guidance is available on implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings.

Will school meals be available for children and young people who are in school?

Schools should provide meal options for all children who are in school, and meals should be available free of charge where pupils meet the free school meal eligibility criteria. To ensure food is available for pupils who attend, educational settings are expected to reopen their kitchens if they have closed and ensure staff are able to work safely.

We are also continuing to ask schools and colleges to work with their food providers to offer meals or food parcels for benefits-related free school meal pupils not attending school. Now that schools are opening more widely, school catering teams will be better placed to do this. The provision of food vouchers for those eligible under the benefits criteria will also continue to be available where needed for those not attending.

Will childcare, schools and colleges keep their usual opening hours?

It is possible that some settings will make changes to their start and finish times or introduce processes for drop-off and collection times to keep children and families safe.

Start and finish times will be clearly communicated to parents and carers alongside any other new arrangements.

Free Training from Nottingham University,

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Free training from the University of Nottingham . In response to the coronavirus emergency, the University of Nottingham has organised an Adult Education programme online of over 30 one-hour free online sessions on a range of topics.

The sessions are intended to be of interest especially to the communities of Nottinghamshire and the East Midlands, with some courses related to the epidemic, while some are more general.  

For more information visit the Nottingham University Website by clicking here.

Categories: Education

Ofqual seeks views on GCSE and A level grading proposals for 2020

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Following the government’s decision to cancel exams to help fight the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), and that students should be provided with calculated grades this summer, we have set out exceptional arrangements for awarding GCSEs, AS and A levels, along with the Extended Project Qualification and the Advanced Extension Award in maths, so that as far as possible students are not disadvantaged by these unprecedented circumstances.

We have worked quickly to develop these arrangements so that schools and colleges know what is expected of them and that students can have their results in time to progress to further study or employment as planned. We have consulted with a variety of representative groups, and have sought views from those representing students. We explained when we published our information document that we would consult on some of the implementation decisions we must take, and changes to our regulatory framework. We have today (Wednesday 15 April) launched a consultationseeking views on the following.

Who should receive a calculated grade

Whether students entered for exams in year 10 or below should receive a calculated grade this summer

We set out in our information document that we considered the arrangements should only apply to students in year 11 or above, who needed grades to progress, and that we would consult on this view. We have since received representations from centres, parents and others indicating that the progression of some such students would be disrupted if they were not awarded a grade this summer, and to exclude them would have an unfair impact. We now consider the fairest option is that results should be issued for students in year 10 and below who anticipated sitting exams this summer and we are seeking views on this proposal.

The impact of our proposals on private candidates

In line with our information document, we propose that exam boards should issue results for private candidates for whom a Head of Centre can confidently submit a centre assessment grade and include the student in their centre’s rank order. Other private candidates will have studied with an established provider, such as a distance learning provider that is also an approved exam centre and might similarly be able to receive a calculated grade. However, other private candidates will have no existing association with an exam centre. Exam boards are exploring, with us, whether it might be possible for some centres, such as those with particular experience of working with distance learners, to work with those private candidates who need a grade this summer in order to progress. The centre might be able to submit centre assessment grades and a rank order for those candidates, even though there is no existing relationship between the centre and the candidate by considering a range of evidence about their likely attainment. We do not yet know whether this will be possible, or how many students will be able to receive a grade in this way. Exam boards will continue to work with us to explore all options for how such a process could work and will provide an update on this no later than 30th April

Standardising centre assessment grades

The aims of our approach to standardising grades and the principles which underpin it

For example, the document sets out our proposals to address key questions such as:

  • how should we use statistical evidence to identify and adjust overly generous or harsh centre assessment grades?
  • should evidence of changes in a school or college’s past performance inform our interpretation of this evidence?
  • how can any issues of bias be addressed through statistical adjustment?

Our overriding aim is to make sure arrangements this summer are as fair as possible for all students. We are alert to concerns that unconscious bias could influence the grades schools and colleges might have expected their students to have achieved in the exams and assessments. Our consultation includes an equality impact assessment, of which we will take account when finalising these arrangements, and we have separately published a review of the research literature on bias in teacher assessments.

Appealing calculated grades

Whether appeals should include an opportunity to review:

  • the centre’s professional judgements
  • the procedures followed by the centre and/or exam board
  • the outcomes of the statistical process

We explain in the consultation why we consider that, in the exceptional circumstances of this summer, appeals should only be allowed on the grounds that the centre made a data error when submitting its information; or similarly, that the exam board made a mistake when calculating, assigning or communicating a grade

The autumn exam series

We explain our proposals to allow exam boards to run an autumn series for those students who were entered for the cancelled summer series. We are still considering with government how the autumn series should operate, and will set out our proposals in a further consultation soon.

Putting in place the regulatory requirements

Proposals to suspend temporarily a number of the provisions in our current rules so that the exam boards can deliver the results in line with the exceptional arrangements necessary this year. We will also put some new regulatory arrangements in place to make sure all exam boards work in line with the agreed new arrangements so that, as far as possible, standards and public confidence in the qualifications are maintained

In light of the speed with which the arrangements must be finalised if students are to receive their results in good time, and no later than the dates originally published, this consultation will close on Wednesday 29 April 2020. We encourage everyone with an interest to read the proposals and respond.

GCSE, A and AS Levels examinations.

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There are no doubt some among our community who were due to take exams this year. Hopefully, they will be aware of the alternative arrangements, but just is case below is the announcement made by HM Government this afternoon.

1. Did exams need to be cancelled?

From Friday 20 March, all educational settings are closed to everyone except the children of critical workers and vulnerable children.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is expected to continue having a significant impact on the education system, and the country, for months to come. Therefore, exams have been cancelled now to give pupils, parents, and teachers certainty, and enable schools and colleges to focus on supporting vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

2. What will happen to those who have already done some non-exam assessment?

Students who were due to sit A level, AS level or GCSE exams this summer will receive a calculated grade. The calculated grade process will take into account a range of evidence including, for example, non-exam assessment and mock results, and the approach will be standardised between schools and colleges. There’s separate guidance from Ofqual on awarding GCSE, AS and A levels which includes the implications for non-exam assessment.

3. How will you address the fact that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to have their grades under-predicted?

This summer’s calculated grades are not predicted grades. Ofqual, the independent qualifications regulator, is developing a fair and robust process that takes into account a broad range of evidence, including assessments by schools and colleges of the grades that students would have been likely to obtain if exams went ahead and their prior attainment. Ofqual will make every effort to ensure that the process does not disadvantage any particular group of students.

Pupils who do not feel their calculated grade reflects their ability will have the opportunity to sit an exam as soon as is reasonably possible after schools and colleges open again.

4. Will all students get their predicted grade?

No. We know that simply using predicted grades would not be fair to all students. The ‘centre assessment grade’ which the exam boards will ask schools and colleges to submit for A and AS levels and GCSEs will take into account an assessment of the likely grade that students would have obtained had exams gone ahead, and these will be standardised across schools and colleges. For this reason, students’ final calculated grades will not necessarily reflect their predicted grades.

5. Will schools be using mock exam results as a barometer for results – and is this fair on students as they did not know at the time these would be used as their final mark?

Mock exam results will be one of the pieces of evidence that will be taken into account in this process, alongside other factors. There’s separate guidance from Ofqual on awarding GCSE, AS and A levels which explains to schools and colleges how to do this fairly and robustly.

6. Will the past performance of the school be taken into account when devising the calculated grade?

Ofqual’s guidance says that one of the sources of evidence schools and colleges should draw on is the performance of this year’s students compared to those in previous years. However, this is only one of the sources of evidence that will be taken into account.

7. Is this an entirely new system?

This is a new system, but one which builds on existing practices, as education professionals are used to making holistic judgements about their students. These judgements will be standardised at national level to give grades that are as fair as possible.

8. Will universities, colleges and sixth forms accept these grades?

The calculated grades awarded this summer will be formal grades, with the same status as grades awarded in any other year. They will therefore be accepted by all institutions.

University representatives have already confirmed that they expect universities to do all they can to support students and ensure they can progress to higher education.

9. What if I am unhappy with my calculated grade?

Ofqual and the exam boards are working to ensure that candidates are awarded a fair grade that recognises the work they have put in. If an A level, AS level or GCSE student does not believe the correct process has been followed in their case they will be able to appeal on that basis. Ofqual will consult shortly on the arrangements for these appeals. In addition, if a student does not feel their grade reflects their performance, they will have the opportunity to sit an exam, as soon as is reasonably possible after schools and colleges open again. Students will also have the option to sit their exams in summer 2021, in line with usual practice.

10. What about private candidates or home educated students?

Where schools and colleges have accepted entries from external candidates (students who they have not taught themselves, because they have been home-schooled, following distance-learning programmes or studying independently), those students should be taken account of in the process of producing centre assessment grades, where the head teacher or principal is confident that they and their staff have seen sufficient evidence of the student’s achievement to make an objective judgement.

Ofqual is also exploring urgently whether there are options for those students who do not have an existing relationship with an exams centre and who need results this summer for progression purposes, and will provide an update as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to be possible for all external candidates, some of whom may instead need to take exams in the autumn to get their grades.

Ofqual has asked organisations that represent higher and further education providers to consider the steps that providers could take when making admissions decisions this summer for any private candidates who do not receive a grade. They have said that they believe that institutions will consider a range of other evidence and information for these students to allow them to progress wherever possible.

11. Can private centres run GCSEs or A levels if they chose to do so?

No. Exam boards will not be issuing papers for this summer’s GCSE, AS and A levels so there will not be the opportunity to sit them at any centre.

12. Does this mean every exam in every module in every subject being cancelled, or will a limited number go ahead at GCSE and/or A level?

Exam boards will not be issuing papers for this summer’s GCSE, AS and A levels so there will not be the opportunity to sit them in any subject.

13. What about vocational and technical qualifications?

Many students will be taking vocational or technical qualifications instead of or alongside GCSEs, AS and A levels. While this process does not apply to those qualifications, the same aims apply. Our priority is to ensure that students and adult learners taking vocational and technical qualifications can move on as planned to the next stage of their lives, including starting university, college or sixth form courses, or apprenticeships in the autumn or getting a job or progressing in work.

Ofqual is working urgently with awarding organisations to develop an approach and will provide further information as soon as possible.

14. Will students be required to do further work to contribute towards their grade?

There is no requirement for schools and colleges to set additional mock exams or homework tasks for the purposes of determining a centre assessment grade, and no student should be disadvantaged if they are unable to complete any work set after schools were closed. Where additional work has been completed after schools and colleges were closed on 20 March, Ofqual is advising head teachers and principals to exercise caution where that evidence suggests a change in performance. In many cases this is likely to reflect the circumstances and context in which the work is done.

15. Can schools and colleges take incomplete coursework into account?

Ofqual’s guidance on awarding GCSE, AS and A levels makes clear that schools and colleges do not need to ask students to complete any unfinished non-exam assessment work for the purposes of grading. Where they do choose to take into account coursework completed after 20 March, Ofqual is advising head teachers and principals to exercise caution where that evidence suggests a change in performance. In many cases this is likely to reflect the circumstances and context in which the work is done.

16. What will young people with university offers do?

The grades awarded this summer will be formal grades, with the same status as grades awarded in any other year. There is no reason for the usual admissions cycle to be disrupted.

University representatives have already confirmed that they expect universities to do all they can to support students and ensure they can progress to higher education

17. Do universities need to start making unconditional offers / should I accept an unconditional offer now that exams are cancelled?

Universities should not begin making new unconditional offers and applicants should feel no pressure to accept such offers, as they will be awarded a formal calculated grade for each exam they would have taken.

18. If I already have an unconditional offer, does that remain?

Yes. An unconditional offer means you have already met the entry requirements, so the place is yours if you want it.

19. If I take the exam option, will I still be able to go to university this year?

Students who do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance will have the opportunity to sit an exam as soon as is reasonably possible after the beginning of the academic year.

While it cannot be guaranteed in every circumstance, Universities UK has assured us that the majority of universities will do all they can to ensure that such students who take this option are able to begin their course with a delayed start time.

If a student is in this situation, they should speak to the university from which they have an offer after receiving their calculated grade.

20. Are iGCSEs and the International Baccalaureate also cancelled?

Yes. Summer exams for both international GCSEs and the International Baccalaureate have been cancelled in all countries this year.

21. How will colleges, sixth forms and universities cope with the fact that these students will have missed out on some of their education?

These are extraordinary circumstances. We are working with schools, sixth forms, colleges and universities to ensure that we do everything we can to best help students prepare for and progress to the next stage of their education.

22. Might the exams be reinstated if the coronavirus (COVID-19) is not as bad as expected?

No. The decision has been taken to cancel all exams this summer.

Schools to close

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The Prime Minister announced this afternoon that Schools would close at the end of school on Friday.

The Prime Minister said:

So I can announce today and Gavin Williamson making statement now in House of Commons that after schools shut their gates from Friday afternoon, they will remain closed for most pupils – for the vast majority of pupils- until further notice. I will explain what I mean by the vast majority of pupils.

He went on to explain what he meant by the vast majority of pupils:

But of course, as I’ve always said, we also need to keep the NHS going and to treat the number of rising cases. So we need health workers who are also parents to continue to go to work.

And we need other critical workers with children to keep doing their jobs too – from police officers who are keeping us safe to the supermarket delivery drivers, social care workers who look after the elderly and who are so vital. We will be setting out more details shortly about who we mean in these groups.

So we therefore need schools to make provision for the children of these key workers who would otherwise be forced to stay home. And they will also need to look after the most vulnerable children.

This will mean there will of course be are far fewer children in schools and that will help us to slow the spread of the disease. And these measures are crucial to make sure the critical parts of the economy keep functioning and public services keep functioning.

The Government expects nurseries and private schools to follow suit, with an indication that there would be a financial help from the Government.

The full text of the Prime Minister’s statement can be viewed by clicking on this link.

Partial closure of Toothill School

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Toothill school is closed to children in the 8,9 ,10 and 12 year groups from Wednesday 18th March.

The closure appears to be because of staffing shortages.  The school intends to establish and maintain a remote learning system by setting work via Microsoft ‘Team’.

Students is years 7, 11 and 13 are requested to continue to attend the school until further notice.

Categories: Coronavirus Education