Most children in Lytham St. Anne’s are once again missing out on their classroom education and social development as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, to support home learning, all schools in Lytham St. Anne’s are expected to provide age and ability appropriate, high quality remote learning for their pupils. The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has explicitly laid down the number of hours of teaching he expected pupils to receive and has said this requirement would be monitored, stating, ‘We have set out clear, legally binding requirements for schools to provide high-quality remote education. This is mandatory for all state-funded schools and will be enforced by Ofsted. We expect schools to provide between three and five teaching hours a day, depending on a child’s age.’
In an explicit threat to schools who do not fulfil this on-line teaching and learning role, the Education Secretary added, ‘If parents feel their child’s school is not providing suitable remote education they should first raise their concerns with the teacher or headteacher and, failing that, report the matter to Ofsted. Ofsted will inspect schools – of any grade – where it has serious concerns about the quality of remote education being provided.’
In response, Paul Whiteman from the National Association of Headteachers said it was disgraceful that the Government should so quickly start threatening schools about the quality of their remote learning. He said, ‘Schools are keeping going in the most extreme circumstances right now – support is needed to overcome the challenges they face, not threat or sanction.’
There are also concerns over the reach of the Government’s free laptop scheme, as well as the cost of data packages to get children online. Mr Williamson said his officials were working with mobile providers to reduce costs and that the free laptop scheme should provide another 100,000 devices this week.
Parents and carers should note that new guidance from the Department of Education states that pupils without laptop access can still attend school as ‘vulnerable children’. This says that those ‘who may have difficulty engaging with remote education at home (for example due to a lack of devices or quiet space to study)’ are included in the vulnerable category.