Agenda item

Agenda item

Update on Opening of Schools for All Children and Young People

Report of the Director of Education


This report provides a further update on the full reopening of schools for all pupils in the Autumn term with a specific focus on school attendance.


The Committee received a report of the Director of Education which provided a further update on the full reopening of schools for all pupils in the Autumn term with a specific focus on school attendance. The report also noted that, through the learning and education system, children were informed about and understood environmental issues and the negative impact of carbon; promoting safe and healthy lives.


Officers referred to the main points and themes within the report, which included:


·         Attendance;

·         School closures;

·         Virtual School;

·         Elective Home Education (EHE); and

·         Exclusions.


Some of the key points and themes that arose from the Committee’s discussions were:


·         Sport for children during lockdown, including swimming and sports activity outside of school;

·         To commend the work of the Director of Customer Services and Transaction and her team in setting up a system to provide payments for families entitled to Free School Meals;

·         Highlighting that the National Education Union (NEU) was calling for schools to be closed during the lockdown;

·         Actions being taken to provide children with laptops or other devices and internet access;

·         What had been the outcome from the Outbreak meetings referred to in the report;

·         What could be done to reassure parents that it was safe for their children to return to school; and

·         Where parents chose to home educate, ensuring that the child was provided with a suitable education and that parents understood that the child would be taken off the school roll.


The Director of Education informed the Committee that her service was working with schools to identify the best solution for providing devices and internet access to children.  She advised Members that allocation of laptops to schools by the Department for Education (DfE) was now based on the number of pupils being required to self-isolate. 


The Director of Education reported that the Council had arranged for Quality Assurance professionals to visit all Manchester schools to get an understanding of the remote learning offer across the city and what help schools might need.  She suggested that, once this had been completed, the Committee might want to consider a report on this.  Members welcomed this suggestion.  A Member requested that this include a particular focus on Years 11 and 13 as these pupils were due to take important examinations in the summer of 2021.  The Member also requested that, where schools were streaming lessons, data be included on how many pupils had the equipment to access these lessons.  The Executive Member for Children and Schools expressed concern that Manchester children would be expected to take examinations at the same time as and be compared against pupils from other parts of the country where levels of COVID-19 were lower and pupils had missed less school due to self-isolation.


The Director of Education advised that she would check what sports activities children were able to access during lockdown and share this information with Members.


The Director of Education explained how multi-agency Outbreak meetings took place when an unexplained cluster of COVID-19 cases occurred in a school to ascertain why this had happened and to identify what could be put in place to prevent it from happening again.  Examples included staff or children from different bubbles coming into contact at break time or staff car-sharing.  She advised Members that this information was being shared with schools and they were being asked to consider this in their risk assessments.


The Director of Education reported that the Council had undertaken spot checks of 10% of school risk assessments and that the Health and Safety Executive was also checking how schools were managing the situation.  She advised that all the feedback was that Manchester schools were managing this well and evidence showed that infection was largely coming from the community rather than being spread in schools.  She drew Members’ attention to the Attendance Helpline which parents were able to ring to speak to someone who was not from the school who had access to school risk assessments and could give them reassurance about the measures that had been put in place.


The Head of School Quality Assurance and Strategic SEND advised that 118 new applications for EHE had been received since September 2020, which was 50 more that for the same time last year.  She stated that 74 had so far been assessed and judged as either suitable or unsuitable, 70 of which had been completed within 20 days.  She reported that the current policy was that once parents had requested to home educate and that education had been deemed to be suitable, the child would be removed from the school roll.  She informed Members that parents were asked for the reason that they had decided to home educate and, while some had cited anxiety about the spread of COVID-19 in schools as a reason, others stated that they had enjoyed having more time with their children during the first lockdown.  She also cited some of the work schools, particularly special schools, had done to address parental anxiety, such as arranging a bespoke package with a limited timetable.




1.            To request a report on remote learning, to include a particular focus on Years 11 and 13 and information on the numbers of pupils who are able to access any streamed lessons or online learning that is being made available.


2.            To note that the Director of Education will provide information to Members on sports activity available to children during lockdown.


3.            To recognise the contribution of staff, parents and pupils in the re-opening of schools, to acknowledge the challenges they are facing and to ask the Strategic Director of Children and Education Services and the Director of Education to pass on the Committee’s thanks.

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