Commenting on the publication of the OECD’s annual Education-at-a-Glance report, Nansi Ellis, Assistant General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
"The report is a reminder that just a few months ago issues of funding, pay and class size dominated the education debate in the UK. They will do so again, as pupils fully return this month and the challenges of adapting to Covid-secure environments puts an additional strain on resources in our schools and colleges.
"As we are already seeing schools and colleges will continue to face disruption due to local, national or regional spikes of Covid. Tackling issues of child poverty, addressing the digital divide and ensuring we have enough teachers and space to cope with this are essential to ensure children's learning is as uninterrupted as possible and every child can gain access to the education they need.
"School budgets were already stretched to the limit. Ensuring schools are Covid-secure will push many over the edge, yet Nick Gibb had the gall to say in the House of Commons this week that schools have sufficient money. The minister still expects schools to dig into their own reserves to bear the costs of adapting to Covid, but this is not just any old rainy day. These are massive challenges which will leave schools poorer than ever before. The NEU continues to campaign for £12.6bn to return schools to 2015/16 per pupil funding levels, but schools need immediate financial support to meet the unique challenges of 2020.
"Teachers in England and Wales have seen the real value of their pay cut significantly since 2010 due to pay freezes and below inflation pay increases. Many teachers have been denied pay increases and pay progression due to the imposition of unfair performance-related pay alongside cuts to school and college funding. The national pay structure for school teachers has been dismantled. These attacks on pay have contributed to a developing recruitment and retention crisis. The NEU is campaigning for urgent restoration of the pay cuts, alongside a national pay structure which provides the pay levels and career pathway to attract and retain the teachers we need.
"Education-at-a-Glance takes us back to a time before Covid, when much of its data was compiled. The profound impact of the pandemic will have since had a significant impact on education around the globe, exposing weaknesses and exacerbating inequality as recession rips through societies.
"Our Government needs to ensure teachers, school staff and students have the facilities and funding to get through this period. Yet again, the NEU calls for Government to ensure that track trace and test is fully operational and effective across the country to keep schools and surrounding communities safe and to provide the education every child needs."
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