Cabinet Member for Children, Families & Education gives her observation of the experiences of schools and all members of the school community.
For three decades schools have been judged, measured, compared and ranked. They have been pitched against each other in a competition of who can do best in times of depleting resources and inequalities in their respective communities. Detailed OFSTED reports on them are circulated to parents, and the wider community for anyone to judge.
Well, it would be an interesting OFSTED report to read if the government were to be judged today. A few things that have jumped out...
- Not one announcement made with any plans in place or any forewarning to local authorities or schools
- Announcement of a food voucher scheme so complicated that some schools and charities had to deliver food to families for weeks and weeks
- Announcement of free laptops for disadvantaged families with absolutely no thought to the logistics so that nearly a month later the majority of eligible children haven't received one
But probably the most bizarre is the apparent inability to do the basic Maths on its own policies. All teachers (and probably most primary children) stated that social distancing +class/ bubble sizes + number of staff = not everyone back in school. That's why most schools had started planning for a rota system the minute the 'widening re-opening of schools' announcement was made, and why they were shocked when a few days later there was an announcement that rotas were not allowed.
I really tried at the start of this pandemic to cut some slack for the government when it came to education. My incredulity increased with every ill-thought-out decision and my respect dived when they fuelled the teacher-bashing just because the Unions dared to raise serious questions about safety.
My respect for teachers, wider school staff & education council officers couldn't be higher. They effectively re-organised the entire schooling experience of every child within days. They have been thrown into digital teaching, have kept in contact with almost all families whilst keeping the school open for vulnerable children and key worker children they are now planning for a revolutionised way of teaching for the foreseeable future.
I am hoping that the other issues that seem obvious to schools can be addressed with more thought by the government. For example:-
Given that, in many schools, space and staff only permit children of key workers to return, how do schools plan for the learning gap of those who would have missed nearly half a year's learning?
What can be done about the digital inequalities between families, given that schools are required to use 'blended' (a mixture of classroom and home-based) learning?
What will happen in September if any social distancing rules are still in place?
Perhaps, like schools in Special Measures, we could see a report so we can judge that the government is moving in the right direction and meeting the needs of every child.
Councillor Suzy Horton
Cabinet Member for Children, Families & Education
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