Commenting on today’s appearance by the Secretary of State in front of the Commons Education Select Committee, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:
"We were relieved to hear confirmation from the Education Secretary that schools and colleges will not be returning during the summer holidays. Lockdown is not a holiday. All education staff are working extremely intensively for long days during lockdown and so the summer holiday dates must stay in place. During August, children and teenagers who have been inside for months are going to need activities like summer schemes and holiday clubs, if these can be safely re-opened by Local Authorities.
"When the scientific evidence allows for a return to school, a great deal of preparation will be needed. Issues such as how social distancing can be achieved and which year groups might be first during the phased return are extremely complex for heads to timetable and will require negotiation with union groups. We must 'build back better' rather than rush back to normal. Learning will need to be relevant to students and their experiences and our focus must be on transition, not catch-up. For lots of different reasons the phased return is going to be very challenging for lots of children, and students are going to need time to talk and time for a healthy transition, not 'catch up' or booster classes. Children with SEN, or starting year 7 in September or in reception, for example, will need lots of emotional support during any phased return.
“When it is safe to talk about phased return, schools will then be planning for phased return but also for the ongoing support to students at home. Schools will not have all staff back on site for many months and not until testing and tracing is fully up and running. All staff with underlying health conditions or who are vulnerable will need to be at home so timetables will be tricky and the full curriculum simply impossible. We will need an extended, flexible recovery plan, and no one should be under any illusion that there is some 'catch up' magic bullet.
"What is obvious is that we need a plan for a phased return that does not make the effect of lockdown for disadvantaged children even worse. This means we need a flexible interim curriculum, lots of focus on social and emotional health and much greater social security for the millions of families struggling to feed their families. Access to laptops is urgent and many schools are making their own plans, rather than wait for the national scheme."