News Updates

Take a look at what's been happening in the world of education and health and safety since our last issue...

Ceiling Collapses at Dulwich School

Twelve children and one adult were taken to hospital after a ceiling collapsed in a Year 3 classroom at Rosemead Preparatory School in Dulwich on Monday 15th November. A further 16 people were treated for minor injuries at the scene and 13 people required hospital treatment. A statement from the school said: “This morning in one of our Year 3 classrooms, a ceiling collapsed resulting in the attendance of the emergency services. Some injuries were sustained and some of those involved have been taken to hospital, and we are working with our students and families to support them. We are working closely with the authorities to understand the cause of the incident and we will provide more information as soon as we can. Parents and families can be reassured that the school day is continuing, as usual, today for the rest of the school.”

London Fire Brigade said about 20 firefighters were called to the primary school at 9.22am after a ceiling on the second floor collapsed.

A spokesman for the Fire Service said, “All other children and staff were safely evacuated from the building. Firefighters carried out a systematic search of the building and confirmed with the school that all children and staff were accounted for. A specialist USAR (Urban Search and Rescue) team and equipment were also used to confirm the building was at no further risk of collapse.” Labour’s Helen Hayes, the MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, said: “Very concerned to hear of the collapse of a ceiling at Rosemead School this morning. My thoughts are with the children, staff and parents. I hope no one is seriously injured. I’ve contacted the school to offer my support. My thanks to the emergency services who attended the scene.”

Education Secretary Launches New Attendance Alliance

On Thursday 09 December, The Education Secretary hosted the first meeting of leading experts working with children to improve school attendance. Although recent trends in attendance levels have been largely influenced by COVID, the government state they are determined to address the wider underlying causes of children not being in school. Persistent absence increased to 16.3% in secondary schools in autumn 2020, compared with 15.0% in 2019, not including non-attendance in COVID circumstances.

The inaugural meeting began with analysis of data and evidence from member organisations, and consideration of how members can exert their combined influence to address the issues identified.

The alliance members, including Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman, Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel De Souza and Chief Social Worker Isabelle Trowler, issued a joint call on all those that engage with children, whether as a parent, teacher, GP, police officer, social worker or anything else – to work together to break down any barriers they find to them being in school for every possible day. Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said, “Where children aren’t in school without good reason or don’t want to be in school something has gone substantially wrong and needs fixing. This new attendance alliance includes the people with the power to do just that.” Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for Children and Families will be working with all social work leaders and local authorities that have had particular success driving high attendance rates amongst children with social workers to share their innovation and best practice widely SOLACE and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services are to work together to better understand and formalise how the best results can be achieved when multiple organisations need to work together to address persistent and entrenched disengagement from school. The Northern Education Trust and Confederation of School Trusts, supported by leaders of special schools and alternative provision, will convene a working group of trust leaders to sit beneath the alliance to identify the best practice in supporting children to attend school regularly

Pressure On NTP As Catch-Up Tuition Falls 90% Below Enrolment Target

Dutch multinational company Randstad who are responsible for delivering the government’s flagship National Tutoring Programme (NTP) is under increased pressure after claims that pupil enrolment for subsidised tuition is more than 90% below target, enrolling just 5% of the target number of pupils for the 2021-22 academic year. On Tuesday, MPs on the cross-party education committee were told 28,000 pupils out of an end-of-year target of 524,000 had so far been enrolled, though schools were almost a third of the way through the year. The DfE have said that figure was out of date and has since increased, while the TES reported 8% of the target had started tuition

Talks are underway to create a not-for-profit consortium of education charities which could take over the running of the NTP from September 2022.

Randstad was awarded the contract to run the programme in June after it submitted a £25m bid, which was considerably lower than rival bids and far below the £62m maximum suggested by the government. Nick Bent, the chief executive of the Tutor Trust, one of the partners providing tutoring in schools, told the committee: “I’m afraid all the evidence we’ve seen so far about Randstad’s performance in delivering this contract suggests this is a massive false economy and that the previous secretary of state [Gavin Williamson] made a mistake in awarding this contract to Randstad. Our day-to-day experience of working with them is they simply do not have enough staff or the right expertise.” The DfE maintains the programme is on target and the 28,000 figure does not take into account the school-led tutoring arm of the programme, which is the largest component. Data will be published next year to update progress. In a statement, they said, “The NTP is on track to reach hundreds of thousands more pupils this year, as part of a significant expansion to give schools more flexibility to deliver tutoring that works for them and families, and ensure no child is left behind. We have set high standards for the programme and feedback from schools shows the positive impact it is having in helping pupils to catch up.”

Ofsted Claims Nearly All Children Have “Faltered” During The Pandemic.

Ofsted has called on schools to offer pupils sport and extra-curricular activities to try and “regain a sense of normality” in their lives. Chief inspector Amanda Spielman has said that loneliness, boredom and misery became commonplace in school-age children and the loss of education, disrupted routine and fewer activities led to physical and mental health problems for many, adding that some regressed in basic language and social skills.

In Ofsted’s annual report, Spielman said the message around the “harm” that lockdowns cause children – and the importance of in-person schooling – “needs repeating now”. She added: “Children struggled with a hokey-cokey education”

Ofsted found that despite the best efforts of many thousands of parents, teachers, social workers and carers, the challenges of the pandemic were so great that nearly all children fell behind in their education. The report said: Further education (FE) students and apprentices saw their classroom doors closed, their placements curtailed and their job prospects limited. Many SEND students have struggled and have been unable to access the local support services they rely on, while many vulnerable children have been overlooked, the report said. In its annual report, Ofsted also raised concerns about children in care feeling less safe due to lockdown restrictions and broken relationships with staff. It also revealed that some children in alternative provision (AP) settings had become more involved in criminal exploitation, including gang violence, and child sexual exploitation amid the pandemic. The watchdog is calling for the support for the most vulnerable children and those with SEND to rapidly return to pre-Covid levels. Spielman concluded; "Every generation gets one chance to enjoy its childhood and fulfil its potential. We must do all we can to make sure this generation is not denied its opportunity."

NASUWT "Increasingly Concerned" Over Government’s "Poor" Ventilation Advice

NASUWT has told a watchdog it is “increasingly concerned” over the government’s “poor advice” on ventilation in classrooms and fear that the current guidance could lead to “unsafe working practices in schools.” They have urged HSE to intervene.

In a letter to the regulator, Dr Patrick Roach from the NASUWT said they were “increasingly concerned that the issue of ensuring sufficient ventilation in school buildings is becoming muddied by poor advice from the Department for Education” on carbon dioxide monitors. He added: “We are writing to seek intervention from the HSE to support our efforts to ensure that schools can continue to remain open safely and to ensure that effective action is taken to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission within schools.”

The government has issued CO2 monitors to schools to identify areas of poor ventilation in school buildings. However NASUWT claim that the advice on how to use these monitors is in “urgent need” of correction.

In his letter to the workplace safety regulator, the NASUWT general secretary said, “The NASUWT is deeply concerned that the DfE guidance may give rise to unsafe working practices in schools, and could result in schools being in breach of statutory regulation.” James Bowen from the school leaders’ union NAHT said “Getting CO2 monitors into schools was an important, if overdue, first step. However, the monitors themselves will not fix the issue of poor ventilation. Where these monitors are identifying issues that cannot be solved through simple, minor changes to the environment, then the government needs to step in and provide more substantive solutions.”

A DfE spokesperson said its guidance on the use of CO2 monitors was reviewed by HSE and the UK Health Security Agency.

Ofsted’s Message to Schools: Don’t Do Your Own Curriculum Deep Dives

Ofsted, the school's watchdog has published a blog post advising schools to “keep it simple” when approaching the curriculum. Heather Fearn and Jonathan Keay, from Ofsted’s curriculum team, told schools while there will be consultants “offering their own advice” on how to prepare for an Ofsted inspection, this may not be beneficial. They said, “Unfortunately, this advice can often be overcomplicated and can divert your energy from the simple things that matter.” Ofsted simply advised that schools should keep in mind if its curriculum identifies the knowledge pupils need to achieve their education and whether or not pupils have learned that knowledge. They should not “prepare special documentation for Ofsted on ‘intent’, ‘implementation’ and ‘impact’” – the three key aspects of a deep dive.

Ofsted has recently been criticised by schools claiming it has not taken the impact of Covid into account during routine inspections.

“Deep dives” are a key part of an inspection and indicate if pupils have been taught the knowledge required. The blog post states: “Deep dives help us consider the effectiveness of the quality of education in a specific time frame when we inspect. They aren’t really designed for anything else. If schools want to drill down to the quality of curriculum themselves, there are probably better ways of doing this than undertaking internal deep dives.” They suggest that schools “consider curriculum effectiveness” as an “ongoing conversation.”

Parents Outraged by School Drop-Off Zone Closure

Pupils of Brynmenyn Primary School in Bridgend are no longer allowed to be dropped outside their school and instead are left to try and find a space in a busy estate. The council made the controversial decision for "health and safety" reasons, leaving the car park now only open to staff members, school buses, those dropping off children with additional learning needs, and blue-badge holders. Initially, an adjacent car park was being used, however, this has now also been withdrawn as an option. In a letter issued to the parents with children at the school, the council said: "Following an on-site assessment over the last few weeks, issues surrounding the way the Brynmenyn Primary School drop-off on the CCYD site has been used by parents/carers have persisted, leading to significant health and safety concerns by the local authority."

Parents feel that council's changes have made the school run less safe, rather than safer as double yellow lines surround the streets leading up to the school, and a housing estate sits opposite making the roads a dangerous place.

At the end of the school day, cars line the small estate on both sides of the road, mounting the pavement and blocking residents' drives. Even these spaces are hard to get, with many being claimed half an hour before the school gates open. Parent James Haskins said "There's just nowhere else to park since they've closed the parking spots. I've seen cars lined up trying to turn into the schools to try and find parking spots, and then non-school traffic actually overtaking them on the wrong side of the road." On Monday, November 15, officials attended the school, telling parents and guardians in a letter prior to the visit: "Concerns have been raised regarding the potential for accidents to occur as a result of vehicular parking/movement and pedestrian behaviour.” Upon visits, officials "directly witnessed several near-misses" which meant they were unable to give further notice of the drop-off closure and has since made the decision to close the drop-off facility "temporarily." There is no timeframe for when it could reopen but the council are monitoring the situation and "officers are looking at potential options."

The council’s Chief Executive Mark Shephard said: “It is evident that, if used properly and in the way they are intended, the school drop-off points do not pose any problem. But the unfortunate reality is that they are being misused, and staff have witnessed some incredibly reckless behaviour from drivers."

New Guidance From HSE on Managing Home Workers’ Health and Safety

New guidance from the HSE states that employers have the same health and safety responsibilities for people working at home as for any other worker.

The updated guidance applies to those who:

  • Work at home long term; and
  • Routinely split their time between their workplace and home (sometimes called hybrid working.)

Most of the time, risks to home workers will be low and the actions that should be taken to protect them will be straightforward.

There is updated advice for people E-working from home, which includes:

  • What your employer must do;
  • What you must do;
  • Stress and mental health;
  • Working on a computer; and
  • Your work environment.
Talking to workers about their arrangements is important, as working from home may not be suitable for everyone. For example, some people may not have an appropriate place to work or may prefer to come into the workplace for wellbeing, mental health or other reasons.

This guidance stresses the importance of a risk assessment to ensure the comfort and safety of a home working environment. addresses in more detail:

  • Risk assessment;
  • Stress and mental health;
  • Working with display screen equipment at home; and
  • Working environment and accidents.

. To read the HSE’s guidance on managing home workers’ health and safety in full, CLICK HERE

The Handsam Risk Assessment Template: Working From Home (RAS36) is available HERE

Handsam can also provide clients with a comprehensive Working From Home Policy. PLEASE CONTACT US FOR DETAILS.