30th December 2020

EPI responds to the government’s plan for the return of schools

This afternoon, the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, set out the government’s revised plans for the return of schools in England in January.

Commenting on the new plans for the return of schools, David Laws, Executive Chairman of the Education Policy Institute (EPI) said:

“It is of course very concerning that students across England are going to lose more learning time this term. But this is not surprising given the current prevalence of the virus, and the health advice which Ministers appear to be receiving.

“What the government has announced today is a relatively short schools lockdown, and it is to be hoped that Ministers’ judgement on this proves to be sound, and not based on wishful thinking. A more prolonged lockdown might oblige the government to rethink its plans for public examinations this year.

“In the immediate term, the government needs to issue advice urgently to those primary schools in Tier 4 areas that will not return straightaway. Likewise, schools will immediately need guidance and support on the provision of online learning in the first two weeks of January. We cannot repeat the mistakes of earlier this year.

“It is now clear that the disruption to children’s learning has proved much more long lived than might have been hoped when this school year started in September, and the government needs to produce a new plan to help support schools to deliver catch up support. An additional financial package is needed, targeting the most vulnerable children, and covering the next school year as well as this one.

“Finally, while the health situation is clearly fast evolving, it really isn’t acceptable or necessary for the government to be giving schools crucial information of this kind with just one working day’s notice. This in unfair to schools, pupils and parents. The government must do more to improve its speed of decision making and planning.”