12 January, 2021
Last week, the education secretary Gavin Williamson stated that schools in England must continue to provide children with high-quality teaching despite the recent lockdown and school closures. The bulk of this education provision will need to be delivered by a mixture of remote teaching and in-person teaching for those pupils eligible to attend. Of course, schools are not 'closed'; they remain fully functioning but with the majority of pupils being at home rather than in the classroom.
Whilst schools have worked hard to implement remote and blended learning with software to enable full-curriculum teaching to pupils who are absent due to covid-19 or who are self-isolating, the short notice announcement of school closures, left many SLTs and teachers with insufficient time to properly adjust.
The challenge for schools is managing both pupils still in attendance (as children of key-workers or vulnerable children) as well as those learning remotely at home, ensuring attendance is maintained, managing technical hindrances with use of software - especially with pupils and parents at home and ensuring that as many pupils as need it have access to laptops and tablets to enable remote learning to take place.
Despite the significant challenges schools now face, perhaps the most concerning aspect of the education secretary's comments to parliament revolve around encouraging parents to complain to Ofsted if they feel that schools are not providing enough work. Gavin Williamson said:
"If parents feel their child's school is not providing suitable remote education they should first raise their concerns with the teacher or headteacher and, failing that, report the matter to Ofsted. Ofsted will inspect schools - of any grade - where it has serious concerns about the quality of remote education being provided."
These comments, made only a matter of days after the lockdown announcement itself, have understandably provoked significant concern and dismay amongst SLTs as well as some anxiety amongst teaching staff who are working hard to adjust to working from home or blended learning from school. There will also be a concern that parents now having to juggle work and home-schooling will become frustrated by blurring the line between education and childcare.
But should schools be concerned? We don't think so.
Schools should be confident that they remain well equipped to continue to maintain a high standard of education and should not be unduly concerned by the education secretary's comments for the following reasons:
Our message is that providing that schools are continuing to do their best by taking all reasonable steps to adjust to remote learning, it is unlikely Ofsted will raise any concerns with them.