There are now 230,000 pupils out of school for COVID reasons. This is a 13 % rise on a fortnight ago. Staff are also being affected with some schools struggling with only half their permanent staff in place.
We welcome Stephen Morgan’s (new shadow schools minister) recent press release.
“The Government should have had a proper plan in place to stop a third year of Covid chaos in schools but their last-minute approach is leaving children bearing the brunt of the pandemic once again. This cannot continue.”
Labour is calling on Ministers to deliver a Christmas vaccine guarantee to ensure all 12 – 15 year olds can get a jab during the holidays to keep kids learning next term. This must be delivered alongside practical ventilation measures in all schools, so teachers are not forced to open windows this winter.”Rt Hon. Stephen Morgan MP, Shadow Schools Minister,
The government though appears to be committing the same mistakes again whilst trying to pretend everything is normal in schools. Labour needs to call on the government to take two further steps as part of ‘the plan to stop Covid chaos’.
1. Inspections should be suspended immediately until the wave has subsided.
For schools to be graded during the current chaos is totally unfair and reports cannot possibly reflect what it is normally like to go to a school whilst it is trying to handle the COVID chaos. The government do not seem to understand the stress and pressure the pandemic puts on school staff. Ask any teacher or Head and they will say that OFSTED inspections are the most stressful part of their working lives. To impose them on teachers struggling with recovery, remote learning, arranging work for absent staff as well as communication with parents and public health authorities, is just inhuman.
2. A plan for assessments and examinations should be executed as soon as possible.
It is already clear that some pupils will be badly disadvantaged in public examinations because of missed learning if there is total reliance on final examinations. A flexible system of assessment with opportunities to demonstrate achievement in a variety of ways and at different times would allow much more accurate centre based grades.
Externally imposed primary school tests, whose main purpose is to hold schools to account, should be suspended altogether this year. The decision not to publish results in league table form is to be welcomed. However, results of these tests will still be released to the DFE, OFSTED, MATS and local authorities. The chaos, which shows no sign of abating for some time, will affect some schools far more than others, meaning that any attempt to hold schools to account for their results would be unjust. Children too, whose mental health is already under considerable strain, will be put under further pressure as they are entered for tests they may not be fully prepared for, through no fault of their own.
Schools are places where humane relationships, fairness to all and trust are essential to their effective operation. Labour should be pointing this out. The government appears to have forgotten.
SEA General Secretary