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The secret that could help you save on childcare costs; Check your inbox for FREE school meal vouchers; and Happy Families, Happy Futures

Left to right: Cllr Colin Slade, Tiverton East; Cllr John Hart, Leader of Devon County Council; Sammy Crook, Head of Tiverton High School; Cllr Andrew Leadbetter, Cabinet Member for Schools; Cllr Richard Chesterton, Tiverton

Devon schools included in the national school rebuilding programme

We’re welcoming an announcement by the Department for Education that multiple Devon schools are to be included in the national school rebuilding programme.

Tiverton High, Swimbridge Primary, Tipton St John Primary, Whipton Barton Infants, Dawlish College, Tavistock College, and the River Dart Academy, Dartington, are all listed to receive Government funding to help re-build or otherwise improve outdated school properties.

Devon’s Cabinet Member for Schools, Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, said:

“I’m delighted that the Department for Education has recognised that need and included the projects in the national school rebuilding programme.

“We will now continue to campaign with the school, governors and parents to ensure that they are completed as soon as possible.”

Read the full story on our website

Cycle routes being treated in winter trial

A trial to treat some of Exeter’s busiest cycle routes during cold weather is being extended this winter and it’s already being put to good use during the current cold spell.

Following the success of our initial trial runs last winter, more routes will now be de-iced when conditions are freezing, supporting our efforts to promote active travel and meet net zero carbon emission targets.

A small Powerflex vehicle is being deployed to use a liquid de-icer on around 14 miles of selected routes around the city, with a similar solution being sprayed by hand on bridge decks in the trial area. It was out last night and early this morning and will be out again at 7pm tonight.

Cycle trails with more than 1,000 daily trips have been included in the initiative, alongside areas that ensure good connectivity for onward journeys where possible, linking paths with routinely treated roads.

To find out more, including which routes are part of the trial, visit the news page of our website.

Check your inbox for free school meal holiday vouchers

If your child receives benefit-related free school meals, you should have been sent supermarket vouchers to help you buy food for them during the holidays.

Please check your inbox and get in touch with us as soon as possible if you were expecting to receive them but didn’t. Email or call our education helpline on 0345 155 1019

The vouchers cover both the Christmas and February 2023 half-term holidays at the same time, to give families more flexibility to prioritise and budget their winter food expenditure themselves. They can be used at Aldi, Iceland, Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Asda, Waitrose and M&S Food. 

If your income has recently reduced or stopped, please apply for free school meals support via our website. It’s the quickest and easiest way for your eligibility to be assessed and you will get an instant decision.

Stay up to date with our work to improve our SEND support

We want Devon to be a place where all children and young people are safe, healthy, ambitious, and can fulfil their potential.

As part of that, we are working hard to improve our support for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) in Devon.

You can keep up to date on how this work is progressing by subscribing to our email updates.

Sign up for SEND email updates

The secret that could help parents save on childcare costs

Childcare providers, relied on by thousands of working parents across Devon, are struggling to such an extent that some are at risk of closing.

Rising energy prices and increased staff costs are taking their toll and now many childcare providers are faced with having to raise fees. That’s likely to hit parents hard, with household bills rising and money to buy the basics, like food and heating, already stretched.

It’s feared that the situation could potentially lead to a downward spiral – if parents reduce the hours of childcare that they use, or stop using childcare altogether, the fewer childcare providers are needed, leading perhaps to some providers becoming unviable and closing through lack of demand.

But there is possibly a solution, or at least something that can help parents and childcare providers alike.

The Government’s Tax-Free Childcare scheme helps parents pay for childcare, such as nursery, childminders, pre-schools, breakfast clubs, after school clubs, holiday schemes and wraparound care, so that they can work.

Families receive a top-up on childcare costs, so for every £8 paid into their childcare account by a parent, the Government tops it up by an additional £2. But despite the savings available, the take up of Tax-Free Childcare is low and thousands of families are missing out. Parents can find childcare on Pinpoint Devon and check at the same time whether providers are registered for Tax Free Childcare.

Happy families, happy futures

Most of us have disagreements about things in our relationships – putting dirty clothes on the floor instead of in the laundry basket, spending too much time on the phone, or what to watch on TV – occasional conflict is part of normal family life. 

Not all conflict is damaging, however if those disagreements are frequent, prolonged, not resolved or dealt with and lead to continual arguing, it can all have a negative impact on children.

Research shows that children who witness adults shouting, arguing, ignoring each other frequently or for long periods of time, can negatively impact on their self-esteem, mental and physical health, behaviour, academic achievements and relationships with others.

That’s why we offer free support to help you build positive parenting relationships, whether you’re together, separated, divorced, biological parents, step parents, foster and adoptive parents or grandparents.

Visit the Devon Children and Families Partnership website to find out more.

A big thank you to Devon teachers, teaching assistants and school staff

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, our Cabinet Member responsible for Schools, wished all Devon teachers and teaching assistants season’s greetings this week, thanking them for their continued hard work and effort throughout 2022.

“As we reach the end of the term I would like to thank everyone of our amazing teachers, teaching assistants and staff for their hard work and dedication,” he said.

“This year has been another difficult one, post-coronavirus to a large extent and yet the virus is still ever-present.

“We’re now also seeing some of the common and less common winter illnesses impacting on pupils and staff alike.

“I know how hard all of our schools are working to keep pupils in the classroom and learning, despite staff being absent due to illness.

“So, thank you. I very much look forward to the new year and working alongside and in support of our schools to meet new challenges of 2023.”

Remember to order your repeat prescriptions before Christmas

The NHS in Devon is reminding people not to leave it too late to order repeat prescriptions ahead of the Christmas break.

GP practices and pharmacies will have limited opening hours over the Christmas period, and many will be closed from Friday 23 December to Wednesday 28 December, and again over the New Year period, making it more challenging for patients to access medicines at short notice.

You will need to check with your GP practice how much notice they need to issue a prescription. Most GP practices need a minimum of 48 hours’ notice to issue a repeat prescription. Community pharmacies also generally need between 24  – 48 hours from when they receive a repeat prescription to prepare medicines. 

If you feel unwell over the bank holiday weekend, you can check your symptoms and get access to advice using online or by calling 111.

Vaccines are the best protection this winter

Winter vaccines will top up the immunity for those most at risk this winter – helping to prevent serious illness and hospitalisations.

With COVID-19, flu and other respiratory illnesses in circulation, and infection rates on the rise and expected to continue increasing as we move further into winter, the NHS is urging those eligible to get their jabs when offered.

It’s important because, while illnesses like flu and COVID-19 are unpleasant for most people, they can be dangerous and even life threatening for some, particularly if they have certain health conditions, and especially if they catch flu and COVID-19 at the same time.

Uptake of the free flu vaccine is particularly low in children aged 2 and 3 years old, which is a concern because flu can be serious for young children and they can also spread it to vulnerable family or friends.

If you’re eligible for the free flu vaccine, it’s likely you can get the COVID-19 seasonal booster. Find out more about who is eligible for the free flu and COVID-19 booster vaccines and how to get them on the NHS website.

Don’t forget that, alongside vaccines, good hygiene is vital to helping prevent the spread of germs. Remember to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze, and dispose of the tissue as soon as possible. You should also wash your hands properly and regularly with hot soapy water.