Before I get stuck in with the update this month, If you are short of time, you can HEAR all the exciting DfE news by subscribing to my new podcast series! You can find it on Spotify, Google Podcasts or iTunes by searching for Mr M's Musing: The Podcast. Give it a listen, a like and a sub, and please, tell your friends! I'll be looking for guests to interview in the coming months so, if you want to have your voice heard, drop me a line and we'll work something out! On with the post...
Latest COVID-19 advice:
Contact tracing has ended for households (well, everyone) as has the requirement to self-isolate or take daily tests. Having said that, the official guidance is still to stay at home and avoid contact with other people.
The main difference, as far as I can see it (and I’m not a government advisor nor am I a medical expert) is that, if you have been in close contact with someone who has had a confirmed positive case of COVID-19, then you are to limit close contact. This does not rule out returning to school. The guidance makes it clear that these people will have been living with a COVID-19 positive person during the courageous stage, so chances are they’re safe(?). Anyway, that’s the latest advice. Unless you have full-blown COVID - wear a mask and go to school (yes even though masks are no longer mandatory, they are strongly advised if you have, or have been in close contact with people who have, COVID-19.
For SEND settings, regular testing is still advised. This includes specialist institutions and specialist areas within mainstream schools (because there’s nothing like a bit of selective medical testing to make children feel included!).
So why all the changes? Well, according to What the latest advice on testing and self-isolation means for education settings, neither Omicron nor COVID-19 is as big a threat as they once were, what with 72% of the country being fully vaccinated and 57% having had their booster, and with face-to-face being such a priority (not enough of a priority to invest any real money into it, mind), the government feel that ‘greater normality’ should return to the school day.
Basically, there’s been a lot of truancy suspected and the government is keen to remove COVID as a convenient excuse. More on that later.
‘Get Help Buying for Schools’
The Department for Education has a new ‘Get Help Buying for Schools’ service. It consists of a website, which is pretty easy to navigate, sees you clicking through a series of flowchart questions about what sort of provisions you are looking to buy, and leads you to a list of approved vendors with no obligation to buy. The benefits of this, according to the department, are that the vendors have already been quality-checked; have been through a ‘competitive tender process’; comply with the law; and they may (although I think they mean ‘might’ - the DfE need to brush up on their modal verbs!) have draft specifications and help.
Clicking through the various questions (there aren’t many and it doesn’t take long) leads you to a summary page and a recommendation of more than one vendor. After saying that I wanted books and stationery for children, I was offered a choice of two places:
|After six clicks, I was offered these choices.|
There is a handy buying guide with advice on how to ask for discounts and utilise what you already have. It’s split into several categories.
I’ve not been able to find out exactly how a business gets to be one of the 52 approved outlets. Apparently, there is a ‘benchmarking exercise’... but I could only find one for Libraries. I’m sure it’s all above board.
Improve and Maintain Attendance
I said I'd come back to truancy. There are two webinars coming up this month focusing on improving attendance (there is a bit of a theme this month!). The first one is tomorrow (if you’re reading this on Tuesday, March 2nd); then there is another on March 9th. Follow the links to register your interest. Both are at 4pm and both will be recorded so you can watch them at your leisure.
A similar webinar was hosted bach in December and is available on YouTube:
There is a gov.uk guide on improving attendance to go with it as well as a brief outline of a pilot study using text messages to curb truancy, and a template text for schools to use. Nothing groundbreaking but it’s always nice to have a guide.
Russia and Ukraine Violence
There is an acknowledgement that the current fighting in Ukraine might just be disturbing for some children. The DfE blog has posted an article on how to avoid misinformation and spot fake news.
The first thing this post does is recommend Education Against Hate.com, which is a website I was not previously aware of. On first inspection, it is a very unassuming website but their teaching resources (for both Primary and Secondary - that’s elementary and high school for those of you across the pond) are pretty good.
I had a look at their one-hour lesson on spotting conspiracy theories in the media and I would happily spend an afternoon exploring it. It covers PSHCe, Digital Literacy, English (talk about writing to persuade!)... There’s also training for staff on various issues, and they have a blog! I think it’s a really good website and definitely one to check out or at least recommend to your school’s inclusion lead.
The other thing the DfE recommends is to have a read of How to Help Students Talk About the News byTom Bigglestone. The bullet points for discussing the war with children are as follows:
- Establish the facts of the situation
- Explore a range of diverse perspectives
- Be comfortable not having all the answers
- Encourage respectful differences of opinions
Even though it’s billed as Help and advice for talking to pupils about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it’s more a link to a website focusing on better communication in general.
Get the Jump!
Get the Jump is the latest DfE effort to introduce 14-19-year-olds to the world of work. It’s a website you’re encouraged to direct your children to. There are links to the various pathways to further education, most of which come with their own case study, video, subject choices and job opportunities.
It’s a little bit ‘How do you do, fellow kids?’ but it’s not bad. It’s certainly better than anything that was available when I was at this point in my educational journey. Guide them to it and see what happens. Probably guide parents to it as well.
National School Breakfast Programme
This programme aims to help schools provide a healthy breakfast for children. Participating schools will receive 100% subsidised provisions until the end of this school year. Beyond that, qualifying schools will pay just 25% of the cost for the following academic year.
Places are limited and only open to schools with at least 40% of their children in bands A-F of the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index. If your school is already receiving provisions from Magic Breakfast or Gregg’s, then you cannot apply for this scheme as well. You can register your interest here
If you’re not sure where your school falls on the IDACI, or if you’re just curious, this link will take you to an interactive graph. Select your area from the third drop-down list and hit apply. The higher the score, the lower the rank. Basically, the closer you are to the left of the graph, the more deprived the area.
Excellence in Computing
The Computing Quality Framework is a(nother) new evaluation tool to see how well your school is delivering the computing curriculum If you're still calling it ‘ICT’, I strongly suggest you use it!
It’s a fairly bog-standard evaluation tool, you’ve seen them before. This one assesses your success at delivering the curriculum and suggests resources. I haven’t been able to test it out myself because you have to have an account approved before you use it and that can take up to 48 hours.
If you don’t want to go through all of that (I think you should though, especially if you are the Computing lead), then I can recommend Barefoot Computing. You have to register for an account but their resources are phenomenal and cover absolutely everything you will ever need to successfully deliver the entire computing curriculum (not just ICT).
That’s almost it - other points of note:
- You can still enter (until Friday 4th March) a colleague (or yourself, why not?) for a National Teaching Award. Follow this link to do that.
- World Book Day (as if you didn’t know) is 3rd March. You can check out my slightly jaded podcast on that topic here or read my most successful blog post ever about the scariest teaching day I have ever taught here.
- The EdTech Demonstrator online conference takes place on Thursday 10th and Wednesday 16th of March. It’s online; it’s free; it’s absolutely packed with seminars. I’ve signed up to a whole day and I’ll let you know what I thought of them.
- And finally, Bett 2022 is upon us! If you’ve never been to Bett, it takes place annually in London’s ExCel on March 23-25. It’s free to attend, you just have to register, and boy-howdy is it worth it! If you’re the Computing lead for your school, get the day off for CPD purposes and go (if you can). The latest edtech is there, there are hands-on, live demonstrations from all the big names in technology (Google, Microsoft, Promethean…); there are smaller start-up companies; there are talks from every from the DfE to Darcey Bussell; and most of all, there are freebies. I used Bett every year to fill up my prize bag. It’s a wonderful event. I’ll be heading in on the Wednesday, give me a shout on Twitter if you want to meet up for a coffee or a guide (it can be a bit intense), I’d love to see you there.
And that’s it. That’s your March round-up from the Department of Education in England. Thanks for reading this far. If you like what you’ve read, you can check out my other posts on various educational aspects; I’m currently in the middle of a series of posts about marking and how to make it easier.
For clarity, the Department for Education is a branch of the Government and covers schools in England only. Nadhim Zahawi is currently the Secretary of State for Education and you can contact him (or his office, at least) here: email@example.com.
You can contact me by clicking on any of the links below or you can simply leave a comment under this post. Thanks for reading and stay healthy, physically, emotionally and mentally!