ASCL responds to NAO report on support for education in pandemic

17/03/2021
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on the National Audit Office (NAO) report 'Support for children's education during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic'.
 

Commenting on the National Audit Office (NAO) report 'Support for children's education during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic', Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: 

“Any government would have struggled with a situation in which schools and colleges had to be abruptly closed to most pupils because of a global pandemic. But, even in the most charitable light, it has made far too many missteps - last summer's grading fiasco, a sluggish response to the need for laptops, and tone-deaf decisions over free school meals which then had to be reversed - to name a few. 

"The nadir came shortly before Christmas when the government threatened schools with legal action if they switched to remote learning a few days before the end of term to avoid families having to self-isolate over Christmas.

"Throughout the pandemic, schools, colleges and staff have done everything asked of them and more. They have taught vulnerable and key worker children face-to-face while teaching everyone else remotely, put in place and managed complex safety measures to enable full reopening, and provided on-site Covid tests even though this is a medical task. It has been a monumental effort - but it hasn't been supported well by the government, and schools and colleges deserved better.

"Nevertheless, we remain determined to work constructively with the government on an education recovery programme and we are looking to the future rather than what has happened in the past. We are encouraged by the fact that the government appears to recognise that education recovery needs to be about supporting schools and colleges to do the detailed work of providing tailored evidence-based support rather than about big eye-catching policy flourishes. 

"We are also encouraged by its acknowledgement that this will need to be backed up with extra investment across the course of this parliament. 

"While there is much work to do and detail to work out, we welcome the fact that the government appears to be listening more and dictating less.”