Commenting on a YouGov poll commissioned by the Department for Opportunities, a campaign arm of the Social Mobility Foundation, Rosamund McNeil, Assistant General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“The Social Mobility Foundation poll makes us confront just how unequal families' home learning environments are. There is just not the same access to internet access, tutors, gardens, spare room, books, bikes and musical instruments – and the opportunities for wellbeing that they provide.
“It is very helpful that Ofqual have just announced that teachers do not need to set new work in order to award grades this summer. The NEU has been making the case that the safest option available is to use only work already completed, and to utilise teacher judgement. There is no reliable and equitable way to use work produced after the school shutdown, because of the many factors affecting learning at home, out of students' control.
“The fact that keeping students at home is raising these questions has thrown into a stark light the inequalities arising from poverty and income inequality, which were there before children were sent home. We can't go back after Coronavirus to pretending that these inequalities in housing, heating, food, outdoor space and material security do not have an enormous impact on children's engagement at school, all of the time. We can't go back to holding schools accountable for the difference in children's home environments. Let's do better as we move forward.
“The NEU is working with the End Child Poverty Coalition and others to work out what practical support and advice the NEU can give about how to support students without internet access, books and other materials. We're going to share strategies which schools develop to try and counteract the very real issues faced by low income families and those pushed into poverty because of the economic shutdown.
“The Government should ensure Free School Meals are available over Easter.
We are worried about students who would be eligible for FSM but who might not be registered and about families who were managing but who won't be managing, to obtain and afford food, now.”
Note to editors:
- The National Education Union stands up for the future of education. It brings together the voices of more than 450,000 teachers, lecturers, support staff and leaders working in maintained and independent schools and colleges across the UK, to form the largest education union in Europe.
- It is an independent, registered trade union and professional association, representing its members in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
- The National Education Union is affiliated to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) and Education International (EI). It is not affiliated to any political party and seeks to work constructively with all the main political parties.