Devon SLS Updates Newsletter: Summary from primary MS Teams meetings held on 5 January 2021

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Spring term  |  6 January 2021

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Dear colleagues,

Thank you to everyone that joined the primary meetings yesterday and it is our intention to organise further MS Teams meetings to support school leaders over the coming weeks. The sessions were helpful for attendees to discuss common themes that are arising and whilst further clarity and guidance is still awaited from the DfE in many instances, it was beneficial to have the opportunity to share experiences and provide reassurances.

Not surprisingly, many schools are seeing an increase in the numbers of pupils still attending school as children of critical workers. The implications this has for staffing in terms of resourcing and ensuring safety is an ongoing concern shared by all. Rest assured this feedback is being passed back up the line to the DfE via the L/A, RSC and unions.

A summary of the common themes discussed at the meetings were as follows:

Critical Workers (CW):

Definition/interpretation - full or part-time offer/one or both parents? Ability to forecast regular numbers & accommodate, arrange and adequately staff bubbles. Some schools reporting almost half of pupils are in across all year groups. See current Guidance on GOV.UK - Critical workers and vulnerable children who can access schools or educational settings which was last updated on 5 January 2021.

Attendance coding:

Clarity around use of ‘C’ (or ‘X’) if CW children only attending part-time? See current Guidance on GOV.UK - School attendance: guidance for schools which covers registers and attendance codes (including circumstances due to coronavirus (COVID-19)), school hours and term dates, and improving school attendance.


Although current DfE guidance around face coverings suggests otherwise, school leaders said that they are permitting staff to wear face coverings in the classroom if requested (preferably shields as opposed to masks). 


Clarity around size – 15? – or flexible up/down according to CW attendance with some being part-time. Ability to staff bubbles and challenges around requirement to provide remote education and planning at the same time.


Generally little resistance to being in school – some reported receipt of Section 44 letters from staff. Others would rather be teaching own class in school.


Clarity around whether relaxation of statutory elements of EHCPs still in place or whether reverted back to full requirements. Some parents keeping SEND children at home – recommend write to confirm a full time place is available in school to avoid any subsequent parental concerns. Impact on staffing numbers, individual staff and other pupils where SEND 1:1 support required.

Nursery Provision:

In-school provision (notably where mixed year group with Reception) & Governor-run  pre-schools – urgent clarity required on whether these are required to remain open with full provision or just CW. Note - please see latest schools priority alerts email 06/01/21 'Update for Primary Schools with Early Years provision' from Val Smith, Senior Manager (Early Years and Childcare Service) and follows a meeting earlier today with Vicky Ford, Minister for Children and Families. 

Before & After School Clubs:

Expectations that private and in-house provision will continue for the purposes of CW children – issues around sustainability and staffing noted.

In-school / Home Learning:

Challenges around equity of provision (CW in school/non-CW at home), meeting needs of all children including mixed year groups and SEND pupils. Live lessons v use of Oak Academy. Hardcopy resources (paper/pens) where IT provision limited for project-based work. Regularity of check in with parents and marking discussed. 

Note the DfE announcement today:

'We have set out clear, legally binding requirements for schools to provide high-quality remote education. This is mandatory for ALL state-funded schools and will be enforced by Ofsted. We expect schools to provide between three and five teaching hours a day, depending on a child’s age.

If parents feel their child’s school is not providing suitable remote education they should first raise their concerns with the teacher or headteacher and failing that, report the matter to Ofsted.

Ofsted will inspect schools – of any grade – where it has serious concerns about the quality of remote education being provided'.


Clarification on inspection arrangements awaited for this and next term and whether this will include scrutiny of remote curriculum offer. See also announcement above.

SATs Tests:

Are they happening? Confirmed today Year 6 SATs cancelled.

Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV):

How to deploy CEV staff if shielding at home? Suggestions included undertaking welfare checks and parental check-ins.


Cost & availability of school kit/supplies if staff working from home – suggestion they work from school. 

HR/Working Patterns:

HR advice be clear and follow up in writing regarding working arrangements and expectations.

Free School Meals:

Devon Norse can provide hampers from next week. Local DCC Christmas scheme extended but schools to pay. Any news on re-introduction of National scheme? DfE have confirmed today extra funding to support schools to provide food parcels or meals to eligible children. National voucher scheme will be re-introduced where local solutions not possible and school remains 'closed'.

Catering & Cleaning:

Clarification on furloughing of catering and cleaning staff awaited. Devon Norse working on communication for schools using its services – to follow.

Track & Trace:

Not in place previously – be aware re mixing of bubbles to avoid the need for large numbers to self-isolate in the event of a positive case & keep records of contacts.


Possibility that school may need to close completely – discuss plans in advance with staff and parents, notably critical workers.

Local Learning Communities:

DCC likely to resume use of these networks, so engage if they were effective and worked  for you locally.

Daily Record Keeping:

Awaiting details from DfE on attendance and DCC locally for vulnerable and EHCPs.

Keep in touch

Devon SLS will continue to escalate the issues experienced by schools so please make us aware of any that you are experiencing either directly to DSLS representatives who attend the regular DCC meetings and who are listed below and/or to the DSLS Office at

Devon SLS Representatives:

Rachel Shaw -
Jamie Stone -
Alun Dobson -
Phil Randall -
Matthew Shanks -
Sammy Crook -

Sent on behalf of:
Rachel Shaw
Chair  |  Devon Schools Leadership Services


Devon Schools Leadership Services CIO

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Contact: E     T  01392 380518     W    

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Venture House, One Capital Court, Bittern Road, Sowton, Exeter, Devon EX2 7FW

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