Agenda item


To follow.



Purpose of the Report:


To provide an overview of the work undertaken and planned to support schools’ preparations for the full reopening in September.



Julie Iles, Cabinet Member for All Age Learning


Liz Mills, Director – Education, Learning and Culture


Key points raised during the discussion:

  1. The Cabinet Member updated the Committee that the Department for Education had praised Surrey County Council for the work carried out around risk assessments for vulnerable groups of children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Free school meals had continued for those in need and targeted webinars had proved valuable for governing bodies and school leadership teams during the pandemic.


  1. The Director informed Members that a dedicated team for safeguarding had been put in place and the council had exceeded other local authorities regionally and nationally in this area. The Director added that school attendance would be mandatory again from September and there was guidance for each school setting on how to implement social distancing measures. Nationally, there was a consultation underway to support decision making around year-10 and year-12 students. The Service was prioritising school readiness and transition arrangements and was continuing to work with the Department for Education to ensure national guidance was disseminated locally.


  1. Another area of focus for the Service was to be examinations and accountability arrangements, as the learning gap between socially disadvantaged children and other cohorts would have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.


  1. The Director continued that the Service would target financial support available from central government, including the £1 billion catch-up support package.  There was a plan in place for every child and young person not in a regular school setting.


  1. The Chairman relayed the concern of Family Voice regarding the enforcement of school attendance in September, given that a number of children would require high levels of support to catch up to where they were educationally six months previously. The Director stated that the Service wanted all children and young people to return to full-time education in September and that in fact a large number of children with statutory plans had remained in educational settings throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. All guidance was about providing assurance to enable parents to return their children to school full time. Additional support would be provided to make this transition possible for all children; emotional well-being and mental health support was to be redirected to support school pupils and an additional support service was to be provided to parents. Officers from the Service met with Family Voice every week to pick up on concerns and use them to inform planning.


  1. A Member was concerned about some schools not providing adequate remote learning for their pupils during the COVID-19 pandemic and asked what would happen if there was a second lockdown. The Director assured Members that there was regular contact with schools regarding this and the majority of schools did provide home learning programmes, which would be the national focus of Ofsted going forward. Maintaining the quality of education provision would be a challenge for all schools and best practice should be shared to ensure school leaders could provide the best support for pupils. Schools which had been underperforming in this area would receive support and challenge to assist their improvement.


  1. A Member emphasised the importance of prioritising pupils who would have the most significant learning gaps, referring to the increased incidence of traveller families in Surrey with children who miss education. The Director stated that there was a dedicated team focusing on support for these children, particularly those in primary school – this would be a focus in September. 


  1. A Member stated that many parents were anxious about returning their children to school when the government had just increased the quarantine period for those returning from abroad. Considering this, convincing all parents that schools were safe for their children could present a challenge.




i.              That a verbal update on the implementation of the Recovery Plan supporting the reopening of educational settings is given to the Select Committee at its next meeting on 21 September 2020.



Supporting documents: