Monday’s debate on School students learning took place in the House of Lords and Kenneth Baker stood up to challenge the Government over their provision. Although he is based in Surrey he referred to two Sussex locations and to Kent. One of the Sussex locations is Hastings which as he explained is very deprived and the other is Hove. Sadly the response from the Under Secretary of State for Education demonstrated that there needs to be a great deal more achieved. It is particularly disappointing as Elizabeth Berridge is someone I have worked with, albeit very superficially in the past when she was running the Conservative Christian Fellowship and I was working for Churches Together in Sussex and there were several Conservative Annual Conferences in Brighton at the time. Kenneth stated
When schools are disrupted or closed by Covid, the Government’s policy is that remote education will be provided immediately. That is impractical and virtually impossible. Last week in Hastings, the most deprived coastal town in the south of England, an academy had to close suddenly; 1,000 students and many others did not attend for 10 days. In Hove, 11 teachers could not turn up—education disrupted. In Kent, nine teachers could not turn up—education disrupted. How can disadvantaged children possibly catch up on four months of lost education and new stuff in the remaining 29 weeks before GCSEs next summer? I beg the department to have a plan B alongside the possibility of GCSEs, involving moderated teacher assessment and possibly assisted by internal mock exams which could measure student absence against learning. If it does not do this, hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged students will be treated unfairly.
The response from Elizabeth was
My Lords, the noble Lord will be aware that next year’s exams were the subject of a consultation by Ofqual; we will have an announcement on that shortly. On support for remote education, which includes online and offline, last week we opened a new central hub on remote education to assist teachers. Some 2,800 schools have accessed the new teacher resource on the Oak National Academy, which the department funded. Many schools—I pay tribute to them on World Teachers’ Day—are doing a great job on standing up remote education as soon as they can.
We clearly need the Government to pay attention to people like Kenneth Baker and indeed to learn from people in the educational system if we are going to improve matters. Please start to listen to people outside of the Government Elizabeth!