This evening, the Prime Minister set out new plans from the government to close primary schools, secondary schools and colleges for the majority of pupils until February, while also confirming that not all exams will go ahead as planned in the summer.
Commenting on the new plans for schools and exams, Natalie Perera, Chief Executive of the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said:
“While closing schools is always difficult and undesirable, the government has rightly acted on the best available health advice by closing schools for a prolonged period.
“Given the amount of school time that pupils will have lost last year and this year, the apparent decision to cancel GCSE and A level exams this summer is sensible. It will also allow pupils more time in the summer term to catch up on lost learning rather than being on study leave. There may also be wellbeing benefits for young people.
“The government must now focus on how it will support pupils to continue with their learning and catch up on the content they have missed. The government must ensure that online learning is comprehensively available to all pupils, including providing digital devices and connectivity to those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The government also needs to make additional funding available for targeted catch up support this year and next year to support pupils who have already fallen behind.”
David Laws, Executive Chairman of the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said:
“The government has finally acted decisively to close schools, and under these extreme circumstances this is necessary. It would be irresponsible not to act in this way, and risk tens of thousands of lives when the vaccine will soon be available to vulnerable groups.
“The prolonged additional school closure also made the scrapping of this year’s exams necessary, as they could not truly have been fair given the very large learning losses which are not spread evenly across the country.
“It will not be easy to design a new system to award GCSE and A level grades this year, and the government needs to act swiftly but carefully to put a robust grading model in place. Many difficult issues will arise, and the Department for Education should consult widely before acting.”