Dear all, 
The DfE have now reviewed their advice regarding overnight school visits, and so I’m writing to share the latest news, and also to give you an update regarding visits generally. 

 Residential visits 

The Department for Education continues to advise against domestic (UK) residential and overseas visits. 
The Institute for Outdoor Learning have shared news that the Government has, however, publicly recognised the enormous benefits the sector provides for children’s wellbeing, as well as the expertise and skills within it - and is committed to now working on a roadmap to an Easter 2021 restart for residential education. 
From this week, a newly formed School Travel Sector Stakeholder Group will be working with the Department on: 
A full framework for the safe reintroduction of domestic residential visits 
Approval of sector COVID-safe protocols 
Public Health England’s scientific guidance 
Interim holiday cancellation insurance 
Raising the profile of residential education’s positive contribution to children’s wellbeing across Government Departments and External Organisations 
The position will be reviewed in February and we will provide an update then. We will contact all groups with a booking at Sandwell’s centres in the spring term in the next few days. 

Day visits 

The DfE is encouraging schools to access local outdoor spaces for delivering the curriculum. Day visits are allowed, and the final decision rests with schools. The general advice from Sandwell’s Public Health team is that visits only take place to nearby open spaces, swimming lessons and Bikeability. If you teach in a Sandwell school, a full update has been sent by Aileen and Christina - Sandwell’s Education Visit Advisers - who are available to answer your questions. 
In line with the advice, we are not offering day visits at the centres or outreach at schools until January at the earliest. 
With advice changing, review dates planned, and so much to keep up with, we are updating our Covid Response page with a table of “what we can currently deliver”. It’s currently virtual art programmes along with ideas for self-led outdoor learning activities; our hope is that day visits will be on that list in January. 

And finally 

Many of our team are supporting other areas of the council and will have spoken to Sandwell teachers more often recently than we normally do! We’re supporting Public Health, Travel Assistance Service, Elective Home Educators and with completing calls to Clinically Extremely Vulnerable residents. We are thrilled to help, but it doesn’t stop us desperately missing seeing young people and staff at our centres. 
We have deeply talented people, and incredible places – we are determined to offer all of the support that we can as soon as we are allowed. We know how much children benefit from outdoor and creative experiences - and we know that staff teams do too. And probably now more than ever. 
If any staff teams would benefit from facilitated time together in a neutral environment, then I hope that we can offer that to you from January. Some ideas are HERE, and we’ll be in touch soon. 
Please give me a call if there is anything you would like to discuss. 
Yours sincerely, 
Richard Oakes is Sandwell Residential Education Service's Manager, and former school governor. 
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