ASCL comment on Week 43 school attendance statistics

27/10/2020
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on the Week 43 school attendance statistics published by the Department for Education today.
 
Commenting on the Week 43 school attendance statistics published by the Department for Education today, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:
 
“This analysis paints a grim picture of the increasingly challenging situation facing schools with attendance falling amidst rising Covid infection rates. With the majority of schools in England on half term this week, there is now a short pause while school leaders and staff brace themselves for what is clearly going to be an even more difficult half term ahead.
 
“In this turbulent context, it is crucial that schools are able to provide disadvantaged pupils with laptops so they can work from home if they have to self-isolate and do not have access to these devices. However, it is very clear that the government has completely underestimated the number of laptops that are needed.
 
“This is evident from the fact that at the end of last week, just as most schools broke up for half term, the government informed many schools that their allocation of laptops was being drastically reduced in order to prioritise devices for the areas of highest need. It is clearly the case that demand is outstripping supply at an alarming rate.
 
“Our impression is that the government has never fully grasped the scale of the challenge both in terms of the numbers of devices that are needed and over ensuring that families have the connectivity they require. It is very frustrating that progress has been so slow on this front despite the fact that it has been discussed for many months.
 
“We do recognise that officials have worked hard to source and distribute laptops, but the failing has been the lack of a clear understanding of what is needed together with a target and timescale that would at least have given confidence that the government is on top of the issue.”