As helpful as it is for ministers, journalists and TV presenters to offer their wisdom and opinions on education, I can’t help but think we need a plan.
This is what my national plan would look like for the entire education sector. If any of you knows anybody important, please tell them:
1.The current school year should be extended until the end of December. This should apply from pre-school to higher education.
2. In the autumn term, children should return to their current year groups. After a prolonged absence for many, children would be returning to familiar teachers, classmates and routines.
3. The autumn could be used to focus on well-being, to support children with their whole development. It should be used to consolidate prior learning and reignite children’s interest in learning. It shouldn’t be about ‘catching up’ with ‘missed’ phonics/times tables/spelling patterns.
4. At a local level, schools should be able to plan their provision in a way which is practically achievable (rooms, staff, distancing) and which keeps everyone safe. This could well be a blend of remote learning at home and part-time attendance at school. It should reflect the local context in relation to Covid19.
5. Transition should be delayed. This is not the right time for new children to start Nursery or Reception and the moves from KS1 to KS2 and primary to secondary will be harder than ever. Transition needs to be better than ever.
6. The next school year should begin in January 2021. It would be a shortened year. Statutory assessments would be abandoned. The absence of testing would create many more teaching weeks.
7. OFSTED inspections should be suspended indefinitely, other than those called in response to safeguarding concerns. Schools and leaders will need all their energy and expertise to meet children’s immediate needs. Those awaiting inspection will have to compromise their priorities in order to satisfy the current inspection framework.
8. Schools should be given permission to postpone or modify their school improvement plans. New and as yet unknown issues will emerge in the months ahead. These will shape and influence our priorities as schools.
9. We need bespoke services and infrastructures to support all of our children. Before the pandemic, one in three children were living in poverty and mental health was becoming a crisis of its own.
10. We don’t need attempts at quick fixes, such as summer catch up programmes. We need immediate and long term investments to make our schools the best places they can be. Our children deserve the best and they need it more than ever.