The MP from Durham City, Mary Foy raised this question in written format which got answered by Nick Gibb on Friday. The first few words are here and no one would disagree with them but they don’t answer the question either. Unfortunately there are only three sentences (all of which are in bold) which do seem to provide something of a useful response to this question and they appear to be buried in the rest of the words. The first sentence which is below helps to explain the nature of the question because it relates to the return on 1st June. The second makes it clear that many of these pupils will need more assistance than can be supplied from the website or the TV provision. The final one refers to “a range of partners” and it seems meaningful for Nick Gibb to explain who these are and how their work is progressing. However there is a further issue which is just as important which is explained below the following text of his response to Ms Foy.
Pupils in Reception, year 1 and year 6 have been returning to school in smaller class sizes, alongside the children of critical workers and vulnerable children of all ages, who continue to be able to attend. From 15 June, secondary schools and colleges have been providing some face-to-face support for years 10 and 12 and students aged in the first year of a two-year study programme, who are due to take key exams next year.
School leaders have explained that the level of challenge and nature of provision of remote education will vary across schools, and that schools need the flexibility to plan and provide remote education that is suitable for their circumstances. This includes considering the age of pupils. Remote education for younger children will typically need more involvement from parents, and parents are facing a range of pressures at this time. The Department has worked with teachers and school leaders to develop guidance on planning a curriculum and on remote education practice during COVID-19, which is at this website.
The Government has committed over £100 million to boost remote education. This includes: providing devices and internet access for those who need it most, ensuring every school that wants it has access to free, expert technical support to get set up on Google for Education or Microsoft’s Office 365 Education, and offering peer support from schools and colleges leading the way with the use of education technology.
To support the hard work of schools in delivering remote education, the new Oak National Academy, launched at the start of the summer term provides at least 180 video lessons for free each week, across a broad range of subjects, for every year group from Reception through to year 10. By 14 June, 3.4 million unique users had accessed the Oak National Academy website and 11.9 million lessons had been viewed.
For pupils who may not have access to technology, offline education resources are also available through the many hard copy resources offered by publishers across the country and from the BBC, which is broadcasting lessons on television. Its Bitesize Daily TV shows were watched by over 2 million households on iPlayer in the first two weeks of transmission.
We are working with a range of partners to explore how schools can best help their pupils to make up for time spent out of school.
So the issue which I have referred to as being part of the challenge came from a chap called Ross Morrison McGill who runs a website called the Teacher Toolkit and one of his recent posts was on the Schools that Nick Gibb had visited in the year before COVID-19 started. Clearly Nick’s recent grasp of schools is important as he seeks to help resolve matters that have arisen in recent weeks and this is as important as our need to find out who the partners are that his department is working with. So this is the list of Schools he visited over the last year.
- Nadcot Wood Junior School, 6th June 2019
- Watford Girls Grammar School, 6th June 2019
- Cardinal Vaughan School, 12th June 2019
- Angel Oak Academy, 7th November 2019
- Ashwood Academy, 19th September 2019
- The Costello School, 19th September 2019
- Sheringham Nursery School, 7th October 2019
- Myland Community School, 8th October 2019
- River Beach Primary School, 11th October 2019
- Torquay Boys’ Grammar School, 16th January 2020
- Torquay Girls’ Grammar School, 16th January 2020
- Nelson Primary School, Newham, 23rd January 2020
- Childminder visit, Bristol, 23rd January 2020
- Busy Bee’s, Bristol, 6th February 2020
- West London Free School, 27th February 2020
- Michaela Community School, 16th March 2020.
The point is not only are there very few Schools that Nick has visited in this period in total but the type of Schools seems to be rather disproportionate with 3 Grammar Schools and 3 early year non Schools in the total of 16 Schools which together represent nearly 40% of the places he has visited. The remaining 10 conventional Schools are seven Secondary and three Primary all of which mean Nick has had very little exposure to such settings in the last year. Also in terms of the Schools that are needing support from the Government being very low in numbers as outlined by Ross:
- Number of Outstanding schools visited = 5 schools
- Number of Good schools visited = 4 schools
- Number of schools with no Ofsted rating visited = 5 schools
- Number of Requires Improvement schools visited = 1 school
- Number of Inadequate schools visited = 0 schools
- Number of Special Measures schools visited = 0 schools
It would appear that Nick will not be able to answer Mary Foy’s question without disclosing who the partners are and admitting he has very little knowledge of how such Schools will be working under normal conditions, let alone under the current very challenging conditions.