Children have suffered from the impact of COVID 19. School buildings have been closed to all but a small number for months and many children are experiencing social isolation, overcrowded housing conditions and poverty. COVID 19 is exacerbating the inequalities in our society.
It is now the Government’s intention to fully open schools in September. If this is to happen there needs to be proper planning and guidance on how schools will open safely in consultation with trade unions.
Schools, which have opened for some pupils and year groups, have been very creative in delivering an education and keeping children safe at the same time. Cleaning resources, redesigning classrooms and staggering starts and finishes have all been part of the mix.
The SEA agrees with the NEU that ” A national plan for children’s wellbeing should be resourced and launched to support children who suffered trauma in the pandemic and students’ well-being must be placed at the centre of how we adapt education to meet the needs of children and young people.”
We need to adapt the system to meet the needs of pupils at this dangerous time. Schools and Local Authorities need to be able to direct the extra funding that the Government is making available to where it is needed. To concentrate this funding into a national tutoring program, delivered by private agencies, overseen by a private charity, and likely used to prepare pupils for the tests the government have put in place to hold schools to account, is not the best use of resources. Any such program needs to be personalised and adapted to the needs of each individual pupil.
It is important that learners are not held back because of the COVID 19 crisis and extra resources are welcome. However, those best placed to diagnose the needs of each individual child are qualified teachers. We need to looking at ways of reducing pressure on pupils and teachers rather than ratcheting it up. We could do this by re-establishing local authority supply pools to enable schools to safely procure extra suitably qualified supply staff, in order to reduce class sizes and safely deliver a more suitable personalised curriculum.
The Department for Education (DfE) should be making changes to the curriculum, examinations and tests to support learners as well as supporting them to catch up.
The SEA calls for:-
A properly planned, safe and staged return in September, which will include a proven track and trace system.
Suspension of all high stakes national assessments in primary schools to enable teachers to focus on establishing strong trusting relationships with pupils so that their individual needs can be assessed and acted upon.
Suspension of all routine OFSTED inspections for a year.
Adaptation of GCSEs and A levels to reduce pressure on pupils. Look at making examinations ‘open book’ to obviate the need for pointless rote learning and also reducing the reliance on end of course high stakes examinations.
Local authority regulation of any one to one tutor programme and freedom for schools to design and deliver ‘catch up’ interventions to meet the needs of their pupils including spending on mental health and pastoral support.
Learners in post 16 and early years provision to also receive extra funding