Responding to School attendance rates across the UK since full reopening, an analysis by the Education Policy Institute (EPI), Avis Gilmore, Deputy General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

“It is clear from this latest analysis that Gavin Williamson has much to do if he is to make good on his promise to support every child through lockdown and beyond, as well as vulnerable pupils and those with SEND.

“Recent weeks have seen high numbers of pupils and staff having to isolate as a result of Covid cases in their school. In spite of the National Education Union calling on Government for several weeks to prepare for this outcome, no substantial plan B for remote learning was forthcoming. What little advice there was finally appeared on the bank holiday weekend in late August, which points to Government incompetence at best and irresponsibility at worse.

“The EPI’s analysis shows, unsurprisingly, that higher income families are better positioned to make home learning work. The Government was keen to appear as heroes of disadvantaged pupils during the summer, but the evidence to the contrary has been mounting. Setting aside the disgraceful decision not to proceed with free school meals during autumn term, we also saw last week the rationing of laptops for those who need them while at the same time imposing a legal duty on schools to provide remote learning. This doubles the difficulties faced by disadvantaged children and young people when trying to access learning.

“This in turn raises further concerns about the viability of exams in 2021. It is clear from this report that the differing impacts of Covid on students across the country will mean that the current plan, of exams on the full content in most subjects, will not take place on a level playing field. With every announcement of worsening case counts around the country, not to mention each new case of an outbreak in a school, the chances of every student getting a fair grade fade ever further away. We need much more than a three-week delay, and that is why we are calling on Gavin Williamson to rethink his totally inadequate plan which right now is letting everyone down, staff and students alike.”


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