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A message from Christine McInnes:

15 June 2021 weekly update

15 June 2021

This week, Christine discusses the delay of lifting Covid restrictions and the Ofsted review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges.

Dear Colleagues,

Thanks to those of you that joined the Meet the Director of Education on Friday 11 June. There were some challenging questions from you all and I was relieved that Alan Brookes did not draw on his inner Piers Morgan and give me too much of a grilling! Do let Alan know if it’s helpful to have me talk through what’s happening in the Education division, as I am happy to organise a termly update.

Many primary school colleagues have been asking for more information about plans for the Kent test this year and further information is included in this bulletin.

Well, what a week it has been - the G7 summit in Cornwall, the hotting up of the Northern Ireland sausage wars, the launch of the UEFA European Championships and the Government’s latest announcement about postponing ‘freedom day’.

I will desist from commenting on the covid secure Carbis Bay beach party other than to say it’s the first government social event that I would have liked an invitation to. Bare foot in the sand with a few beers - other than the company, what could be better? Football-wise, I’m in the fortunate position of having three teams to support - Italy, Scotland and England, who at this early stage (minus Scotland's brave efforts) are winning! I intend to make the most of this euphoria as no doubt it won’t last long.

Meanwhile, in education policy-land, fun is in short supply. This week’s announcement of the delay of covid-related restrictions until Monday 19 July has implications for schools, particularly with regard to Year 6 to 7 transition days. The existing DfE guidance which advises primary school pupils should be confined to their class bubbles when on site made these important events pretty much unworkable and LA advice is now to postpone transition days. A more detailed letter will be distributed through the AEOs in the near future.

On 21 March the Sunday Times broke a story about an open letter published by Samuel Schulenburg, 19, a former pupil of Dulwich College which included more than 100 anonymous accounts of assault, harassment and sharing intimate photos online. This, alongside the allegations posted on the Everyone’s Welcome website, led to Ofsted being asked to undertake a review which was published on Thursday 10 June

The report makes for gloomy and quite shocking reading. Whilst it goes without saying that of course schools make a critical contribution in addressing the issues raised, it was reassuring to have Secretary of State Gavin Williamson acknowledge there are wider societal influences at play, meaning schools and colleges cannot be expected to tackle these issues alone. This is particularly pertinent in relation to where young people are at highest risk, unsupervised spaces outside of school, such as parties or parks without adults present. Quite apart from easy access to pornography, children and young people are bombarded with images and commentary on the importance of a perfect physique, it’s hardly a surprise when they apply the same standards to make judgements about each other. We are discussing the recommendations in the report internally and will be issuing guidance in the near future.

Where I am seeing a great deal of fun is in my visits to schools. I was really pleased to look around three schools last week. A big thank you to the staff and pupils in the schools but particularly to:

  • Jenny Ashley-Jones at Reculver Church of England primary school where I was interested to find out more about the particularly strong progress made by disadvantaged and SEND pupils, as well as the effective work in addressing poor attendance
  • Ian Rowden at Blean Primary School where we saw the partial eclipse of the sun as well as finding out how to teach the phases of the moon using Oreo biscuits! The team updated me on their long term project Dramatic Progress in Literacy which has had a significant impact on children’s progress in writing
  • Jon Watson at Canterbury Academy where I found out more about their inclusive practice as well as the partnership with Ken Moffat, Headteacher of Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys and Daniel Lewis, Headteacher of St Nicholas special school.

During the week I also met with Emily Walker-Smith and Pauline Edwell of Canterbury Christchurch University to scope future partnership working.

With all best wishes

Christine McInnes
Director of Education