Commenting on the interim report from Government: School Recovery Strategies, Year 1 findings, Kevin Courtney, Joint General, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:

"This interim report on the impact of COVID on schools shows there is no room for complacency from Government. Education recovery must be a top priority, to address the wellbeing of all students and the needs of disadvantaged students who suffered the most. 

'In order to achieve this, the half-hearted funding and support that schools are currently receiving is simply not good enough. This was a problem identified long ago by the Government's own education catch-up tsar, Sir Kevan Collins, who resigned following the rejection of his £15 billion recovery plan. Rishi Sunak's substitute offer of just £50 per pupil per year made the Government's claim to be prioritising young people ring very hollow indeed. Government needs to own this mistake and give schools the funding they need to make a difference. 

'The report highlights the lack of support for the National Tutoring Programme imposed on schools, when leaders would much prefer direct funding to enable them to prioritise support in a much more tailored way. Schools know the needs of pupils far better than Government, and they quickly rose to the challenge just as they have done with education recovery. By contrast Boris Johnson's response has been routinely tardy and inadequate. Heads, teachers, support staff and parents will not easily forget the painfully slow roll-out of laptops that were so essential for disadvantaged pupils, nor the Prime Minister's pointless battles over free school meals.

'As schools still navigate their way through the impact of COVID it is no surprise that top priorities for 2022 include flexibility in the curriculum and changes to assessment and examinations. Teachers in secondary schools have consistently called for clear, straightforward and early information on the content to be covered in this summer's exams in order to be able to best prepare pupils who have missed different parts of their courses, and yet this is still not available. Primary teachers have called for a suspension of pointless tests including SATs, baseline assessment, phonics and times tables checks, in order to properly focus on children's recovery.

'The report also gives a clear message to Government that listening to the profession is of vital importance. Failure to do so is resulting in measures that frustrate the education recovery that is needed for all our children and young people. 

'Staff and pupil absences are listed in this report as key challenges for both secondary and primary schools. Government should seek to work closely with school leaders and the wider profession to ensure mitigations are effective in ensuring that the spread of the virus and the disruption to pupils’ education are minimised.  In particular, it should be rolling out air filters to every school and college classroom that needs them."


Editor's notes: