Agenda item

Schools/Education Pandemic Recover Update

To provide Members with an update on the pandemic recovery plans for schools.


The Chairperson welcomed Councillor Sarah Merry (Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Education, Employment and Skills); Melanie Godfrey (Director of Education and Lifelong Learning); Mike Tate (Assistant Director of Education & Lifelong Learning), Neil Hardee (Head of Services to Schools); and Suzanne Scarlett (Operational Manager, Partnerships and Performance to the meeting.


Councillor Merry was invited to make a statement during which she confirmed that there was a shared commitment to ensure that the return to school is positive, it is based on re-engagement and wellbeing with support that can be relied on.  Further, whilst we are concerned about the impact of the last year on children, it is important that we do not use language that 

suggests that they have lost out and that will stay with them.  They should not become the Covid generation.


The Chairperson invited questions and comments from Members.



Members asked that references to Looked After Children in the documentation is amended to Children Looked After.



Members were pleased to note that over 20,000 digital devices have been issued and that those involved in education other than at school (EOTAS) have become more engaged. The Assistant Director advised that the intention is to move towards a one to one device led approach to the foundation phase and above.  It will help with the blended learning approach and a change in the pedagogy that has been seen in the second lockdown phase.  In relation to the EOSTAS pupils, not only has there been real engagement through the use of technology but also with engagement with youth services and out of school provision.  They are all opportunities on which to build in the future.



Members referred to the enhanced level of specialist support services and queried whether they are currently able to cope with the pressure on those services and how will they be developed in the future. Members were advised that through use of technology and the different ways of working better use can be made of the specialist support services.  There has to be focus on the wellbeing and confidence of children and young people when returning to school.  It is important to allow Teachers and Head teachers to teach whilst we put that wrap around support in place for them to be able to use for mental health, wellbeing etc.  Linked to that is the summer engagement piece which will help in moving us towards the September full time engagement.



Members referred to examination year groups returning to school this week and that certain schools have announced that exams and assessments will start next month.  Members queried whether all schools are on board with the wellbeing plans in the circumstances.  The Cabinet Member advised that she hoped and believed all schools were on board with the well-being agenda, it is something that they should be thinking about now.  School Governors can also help push that agenda.  The Assistant Director advised that in terms of exams prior to Christmas they were to be cancelled but it has only been in the last few weeks that the process of determining grades has come out to schools.  There will be some exams; they will be class room based which is far better for wellbeing.  They are also one part of the teacher determined grades.  There will be coursework pieces and prior assessments so that a rounded picture can be obtained to give the grade.



Members sought information about the number of Covid cases at present in schools and the number of teachers who have received vaccinations.  The Assistant Director advised that certainly before Christmas there was up to 60 cases a day.  There continues to be cases with schools being open for vulnerable and key worker pupils.  All primary schools are open from today.  Numbers will rise, there is no doubt.  Cases are recorded and are reported daily, we will continue to provide information about schools in your wards also.   Vaccinations will build confidence; staff in special schools have been prioritised. It should be noted that, due to the age profile of staff across Cardiff, within a matter of weeks almost 60% will have had an offer of a vaccination.  Schools also are offering staff lateral flow device tests (LFT’s), twice a week on a voluntary basis.  In just over a week 6,500 tests have been taken; there have been two positive cases and 14 void cases, where the device has not registered a reading. The two positive LFTs have resulted in positive cases.  LFT’s will also be available for pupils year 10 and above, they can be collected from school and take them home. 


We will have them available for pupils year 10 and above – they can collect from school and take them at home. LFT’s are used when pupils are asymptomatic.  All contact details are sent through to track and trace.



Members asked when engagement will take place with School Leaders in respect of long term strategic planning and whether there be will plans to respond to concerns about attendance where they may occur.  Officers advised that the new curriculum and ALN reform bill are still on the horizon and that the response in respect of well-being sits well with the new curriculum, further, improvement partners will continue to focus on that when they are looking at the school development plans.  Several focus groups are looking at a peer driven long term recovery approach.  In terms of attendance, whilst it still does not need to be reported it is critical to work on it.  There have been issues with online attendance, issues with the inability to engage over time and we have used the vulnerable learner panel to help reengage and to undertake welfare checks.  It is important also to monitor non-attendance and non-engagement.



Members discussed 17 – 18 year who are reported as feeling worried most of the time and becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training); whether there will be adequate provision; and how that can provision can be accessed by learners and families. The Assistant Director referred to the focus on school counselling and the support for our young children and how we continue to build a full package around schools.  One of the opportunities that has arisen as a result of the pandemic is the vulnerable learner panel, where those vulnerable learners have been identified across the city.  Specific responses have been to the vulnerable learner panel for direct involvement with Children’s Services and our own services.  That has been particularly successful.  


In relation to 16 year old transition into further education, Officers advised that the Youth Service have been working virtually and engaged those who have been previously disengaged.  The level of NEET’s this year has been one of its lowest ever but the level of support then has to be considered. There have been additional courses and provision to ensure that continues.  In Cardiff there has been a broad range of support for young people.


Young people have indicated that they do feel they could benefit from school counselling, however, young people feel that it should be face to face rather than on screen.  Those who need face to face engagement will be prioritised.


A school also needs to be considered within the community, it will be important to encourage continued parental engagement; to develop family learning; and to develop continued family and community support. 



RESOLVED – That the Chairperson writes to the Cabinet Member on behalf of the Committee expressing their comments and observations during the Way Forward.


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