Thank you to schools for rising to unique challenge

Public Health England South East & Brighter Futures for Children press release

Schools across Reading are being thanked for the work they have put into delivering education for children in extremely difficult circumstances at the end of a very challenging term.

Public Health England (PHE) South East and Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) are joining forces to send out a positive message highlighting everything that schools have done over the past three months, in particular the extra tasks they have had to take on because of COVID-19.

PHE SE Regional Director Dr Alison Barnett said the last few months had been “pretty tough” but that she was proud of how education providers had risen to the task. Following months of closure and the complexity of delivering high-quality education to pupils at home, returning all students to classrooms in September was a logistical challenge like no other.

“It has certainly been a difficult year – for teachers, pupils and for parents,” she said.

“Our Health Protection Teams have been in daily contact with schools and know the pressure that they have been under – but we also found they have increasingly grown in confidence in managing cases themselves.

“Although numbers remain high across Reading, staff and parents have consistently gone above and beyond to make sure pupils have been able to learn as safely as possible and I want to thank them for these efforts.

“The risk to children of becoming severely ill from coronavirus remains very low and the impact of being out of school can be profound and life-long. To ensure we can continue to control numbers and protect our loved ones, it is vitally important that schools, parents and pupils keep to the COVID-19 guidelines as much as possible, both over the holiday period and when they return for the new term in January.”

Prof Dr Kate Reynolds, Director of Education at BFfC, said she was enormously impressed by the commitment of Reading’s schools throughout the pandemic.

She said: “I would like to thank headteachers, teachers and school staff for the role they have all played in keeping schools open despite all the challenges they have faced

“It is vital that, in order to keep schools as safe as possible, parents continue to keep children home from school if unwell and to get them tested.

“It is also worth remembering that about one in three people who have coronavirus have no symptoms and will be spreading it unintentionally.

“This is why it is so important to continue to follow the advice, such as wearing face-coverings and socially distancing at the school gates and anywhere else where staff, parents and students may mix in the final days of term.

“We want to do all we can to protect our community and look forward to more time with friends and family in 2021.”

Cllr Ashley Pearce, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education, said: “Children’s education is so important, and I know it has been a huge joint effort to keep schools open this term and to provide distance learning when required.

“It has been an extraordinarily difficult period for all school staff and I would like to thank them for their commitment and dedication throughout the pandemic. I would also like to acknowledge the challenges faced by parents and children over the last few months and thank them for their understanding and co-operation.”

Notes to editors

  • Covid-19 guidance for schools is available at Gov.UK.
  • Public Health England (PHE) exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. It does this through world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, advocacy, partnerships and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health & Social Care.
  • Follow us on Twitter: @PHE_SouthEast

Happy second birthday to Brighter Futures for Children

03 December 2020

Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) is celebrating its second birthday today (Thursday 3 December).

As a not-for-profit company we have made significant progress in delivering education and children’s services since 3 December 2018 and remain committed to driving forward improvement.

BFfC has continued to focus on delivering quality services for children and young people in Reading despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic this year.

We’re proud of how far we’ve come and want to celebrate our birthday by marking a few of our achievements and to say a huge thank you to everyone at BFfC for helping us get this far.

Here’s a look back over the past two years:

Reading’s children’s services improved its Ofsted rating to ‘Requires improvement to be good’ in October 2019. In March 2020 BFfC’s Independent Fostering Agency’s status moved up to ‘Requires improvement to be good’ following an Ofsted inspection.

Since lockdown in March, BFfC has adapted its ways of working to continue providing vital services to children, families and schools.

Our social care, early help and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) teams have worked with around 5,000 children and young people through the pandemic. More than 2,000 risk assessments were carried out to check what additional support may be required by children with SEND.

The Education service has been providing support and advice to Reading’s schools under challenging circumstances throughout the pandemic. Almost 500 laptops have been distributed to disadvantaged children in Reading through the government scheme to help with online learning.

BFfC created a local Free School Meal voucher scheme in March, before the national operation was set up, and issued 14,226 five-day food vouchers to families. Staff also worked with Reading Borough Council and the University of Reading to make sure no children went hungry in Reading during the October half-term break.

Our children’s centres have continued to provide virtual activities for families across Reading and held outdoor socially-distanced walks when government guidance has allowed.

Elevate Careers Service introduced a live chat facility on the BFfC website for the first time to offer advice to students on exam results days this year and has seen the numbers of young people not in education, employment or training in Reading falling dramatically.

Other achievements in 2020 include the creation of the Mental Health Support Team, in partnership with the NHS Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group, which provides school-based support to children and young people experiencing mild to moderate mental health problems.

Cressingham children’s home achieved an ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted judgement in February, matching the achievement of Pinecroft children’s home in August 2019.

BFfC has also worked closely with Reading Borough Council, neighbouring councils, the DfE and education providers to ensure more school places are created for children with SEND, including the new Oak Tree School in Wokingham and Hamilton School in east Reading.

Government funding of almost £23,000 was secured by BFfC in August to help schools promote children’s mental wellbeing when they returned in September following the coronavirus lockdown and summer break.

BFfC joined forces with the University of Reading again in November to host the Big Education Conversation which featured teachers, academics and school pupils in an online debate about why Black Lives Matter in education. The company was also proud to support the national Youth Climate Summit, virtually attended by Reading school pupils, the same month.

Di Smith, Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children, said“I would like to thank our partners for all their support in helping us achieve what we have so far.

“Our staff have been incredible in demonstrating their commitment to Reading’s children by quickly adapting to new ways of working, forced on us by the coronavirus pandemic. They have continued to provide essential services and been there for children and families when needed.

“I feel Brighter Futures for Children has truly established itself and made great strides forward. However, we are by no means complacent about the task ahead and recognise there is still much to do to provide the outstanding service Reading’s children deserve.”

Cllr Ashley Pearce, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education, said: “Happy 2nd birthday to all at Brighter Futures for Children and well done to everyone who has worked so hard to support our schools during this very difficult year.

“It has been a tough time for Headteachers, school staff and pupils and I’m sure the assistance offered by the experienced education team at BFfC has been very welcome.

“I hope we can look forward to a calmer 2021 with a focus on supporting schools to provide the best possible education for Reading’s children and young people.”

Cllr Liz Terry, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said: “This has been an extraordinary year for everyone but I am particularly proud of our children’s social care team which has continued to support families and vulnerable children throughout the pandemic.

“Social workers and family workers don’t always get the recognition they deserve as key workers but they carry out vital work and are supported by a dedicated team behind the scenes.

“I’d like to wish everyone at Brighter Futures for Children a happy second anniversary and look forward to continuing improvements to services for children and young people in Reading.”