As things start to increasingly return to some sort of 'normal', we restart our blog with something of a summary of where we currently find ourselves.
The government has announced a new £1billion catch-up fund, with £350m earmarked for a national tutoring programme for the “most disadvantaged” pupils, and a further £650million provided to both primary and secondary schools for catch-up education for pupils who have missed out on education due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed that more detail will be available soon.
The DfE will now provide families, with children who are eligible for free school meals, a food voucher that can be used for the entire six-week period. The DfE says that schools will be asked to submit orders for the support required with further guidance on this due to be released soon.
A six-month free wireless internet scheme will be made available to families without adequate internet access, through a joint scheme run by BT and the DfE. The scheme aims to ensure that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are able to continue their education remotely throughout the pandemic. It is reported that the programme could potentially benefit 10,000 families.
The recent government announcement follows a report released by UCL’s Institute of Education, which revealed that more than two million children have completed almost no schoolwork during school closures and one in five pupils have spent less than an hour a day studying.
Research by the Sutton Trust has also found that 15% of teachers working in deprived areas say more than a third of their pupils do not have complete access to a device for learning, putting them at risk of falling behind their peers.
As most secondary schools across the country have now opened more widely, the DfE has confirmed that they are not able to welcome back more children to class this term, beyond the current offer to Y10 and Y12 pupils, and provision for vulnerable children and children of critical workers. However the guidance has been amended to say that (as long as it happens in line with wider protective measures guidance, and guidance on the numbers of pupils permitted on-site at any one time), the DfE would encourage secondary schools that are keen to invite pupils in other year groups in for a face-to-face meeting before the end of this term to do so where it would be beneficial. This time can be used to check-in on pupils, and ensure they are supported before a return to school from September or moving into employment or the next stage of education.
Finally, Ofsted have announced that they will resume the publication of inspection reports for schools that were held back, as more schools begin to reopen to more pupils. Ofsted stated that “to delay publication would not be in the best public interest”. Ofsted have not released any information about a timeline for the possibility for future inspections and its chief inspector, Amanda Spielman has expressed that Ofsted do not have a standard to judge against for home learning. The chief inspector had continued to ask the government for clarity on the minimum expectations for schools and parents on home learning this time stating, once clarity is given, it will be possible to assess whether schools are doing what they should be doing.