Heads Up 22 January 2021


Ian Budd

Hello and welcome to Heads Up.

As we end the third week of the new term, we do so with continued resilience and determination to provide education and support for our children and young people in Warwickshire and to use the screening opportunities offered to us during the pandemic. Lateral Flow Device (LFD) testing is playing its part and its roll out for secondary age pupils, staff in Primary schools and now for the Early Years sector is a significant contribution towards managing outbreaks and, of course, enabling staff and children to work and play in our schools and settings.

There has been a very strong response to the option of undertaking the government’s initial phase of LFD testing, in secondary settings, and these sites are moving through the important planning, set up and rollout at pace with almost all secondary schools and with all special schools having completed their testing of pupils in school. Alternative Providers and Independent Specialist Providers have also responded positively, and ongoing support is being provided to help achieve the screening for all the pupils at these settings.

Testing kits are being delivered by the government to primary schools for staff to self-test at home, providing a quick turnaround and enabling them to return to work following a negative test without a protracted delay for self-isolating.

It is important to keep hold of these positive steps. There is no immediate single answer in the fight against COVID-19 but the solution, in time, is probably a composite of multiple lines of action. I firmly believe that in terms of education in Warwickshire, we remain focused and we are endeavouring to engage positively across the action open to us. That can only help us in our collective and concerted effort to work through this very challenging period in our professional and our own lives.

Speaking of leadership, before the pandemic, you will recall that I spoke of the importance of ‘ethical leadership’, a principle that I hold dear. This week, Warwickshire County Council has taken delivery of a first phase of laptops and devices to allocate to schools for onward distribution among the young people who need them. This will help to ensure that as many as possible of our more vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils and students have a device and the internet access that they need to be able to actively participate in our outstanding remote learning offer.

This allocation of devices by the council is designed and intended to complement the Government scheme and will need to be with those young people as soon as possible in the coming weeks. We are very proud that the Council has taken this step and not delayed in making the necessary arrangements to ensure that these young people, many of whom already face significant obstacles to their learning, do not have to wait longer than necessary to receive their devices from their school, setting or education provider.

Whilst few of us would probably have envisaged remote learning becoming such a major factor in our children’s education, that does not mean we should not embrace it. Necessity is the mother of invention, they say, and some of the new ways of teaching that remote learning has brought to the fore, not to mention the spirit of innovation, should be celebrated, built on and included in our teaching and support for young people.

Inclusion in education is such an important part of the national agenda, we really have to maximise the opportunities for contact with learners during lockdown that technology affords us. Remote teaching is not just about providing children and young people with the means to learn; it is a means for teachers and students to connect, support and monitor progress, safeguard and ensure

wellbeing. Do urge your staff to keep in touch remotely with their pupils and regularly check in on them.

This is a useful point to remind you that the annual Safeguarding Audit is currently being prepared and finalised, with the help of school leaders and DSLs, to take place in March. It is an important management tool in our work to review and evaluate our safeguarding arrangements and ensure our action plans are timely and addressing any necessary improvements.

As ever, your wellbeing is of vital importance. The County continues to promote the 5 Ways to Wellbeing campaign, with really quick and easy steps to change your daily routine for the better. Please take a look and see if there is anything that you can adopt if ever you are in need of a boost.

Finally, I was delighted to read of developments of the Nuneaton Education Strategy which met this week. A very welcome example of focused improvement work and ‘business as usual’. The enthusiasm and energy to bring about the changes to attainment in the area were every bit as evident as they were prior to the pandemic. These last months have been tough for everyone but they have not dampened the determination of this group driving their 5-year place-based improvement strategy to achieve what it has set out to do. The emerging Pride in Nuneaton approach is a great idea and involving young people to share their visual and artistic support for their local area is so heartening.

So, there are some real reasons to look forward and feel optimistic. On that note, it is Friday, so I’ll sign off there and wish you all the best for a good weekend with rest and recuperation time. See you next week.

Ian Budd