Commenting on Ofsted’s second report into the impact of the pandemic across education settings, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“We welcome the Chief Inspector’s acknowledgement that school leaders are working tirelessly to ensure a continuity of learning in schools and colleges this term, in extremely testing circumstances.
“It is difficult, however, for anyone in education to take seriously the notion that an Ofsted visit is ‘non judgemental’. That is why the announcement of this programme of visits was held in such suspicion. Our members have told us the visits were highly disruptive and added pressure in an already highly-pressured period, where schools and colleges were establishing new ways of delivering learning. ‘Nothing else could be done that day,’ said one.
“Leaders must be allowed to focus on the difficult business of running a Covid-secure school or college. With many partially closed, and increasingly so, leaders are already fully aware of the impacts on learning and are doing everything they can to maintain a continuity for the young people in their care. This is hampered by government. The resources and support children and young people need during these stressful times cannot be magicked out of thin air. School budgets as we know were already stretched to breaking point before the pandemic, with Covid the final straw. We are pleased that Amanda Spielman has heard those complaints, although it surely did not require 900 visits to reach that conclusion.
“The disproportionate effects on SEND pupils and students are clear. A lack of access to external support services, such as speech & language therapies and delays to assessment processes and EHC plans, is having a harmful effect on young people. This again is not the fault of schools, but of a Government which is consistently underfunding SEND support. Ensuring every child gets the education they deserve and need cannot be done on the cheap.
“It is right that the Chief Inspector is standing up for schools, but she could go much further. Inspections should be suspended, certainly those planned for January, and she must align herself with schools in calling on Government for more teachers, smaller bubbles, extra buildings and curriculum flexibility. That is how best she and her colleagues in Ofsted can support schools, colleges and nurseries, and stop Covid disrupting education.”
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