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Covid-19 and schools - what needs to happen next

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Throughout the covid-19 pandemic, NAHT has represented the views of our members to the government. 

Following the announcement that attendance at schools would once again be restricted at the start of January 2021, we further refined these key policy positions. We have published eight key conditions to ensure a safe and fair recovery from the covid-19 pandemic for all school communities. A summary of some of our policy positions and campaigning priorities can also be found below. 

You can also read a summary of key conditions for schools in Wales and further detail on our policy positions for Wales can be read here and a translated version here

We have also outlined our key conditions for schools in Northern Ireland. 

Our eight conditions to ensure a safe and fair recovery

NAHT is calling on the government to 

1.     Work with the profession to plan a safe and sustainable return to school. Current safety measures should be fully updated, and all school staff should be prioritised for vaccination.

2.     Suspend routine inspections for at least the rest of the academic year.

3.     Stop issuing top-down directives for remote learning provision. Give schools the freedom to implement an approach that works for their communities.

4.     Confirm there will be no primary performance data and school or college-level educational performance tables published for 2020 to 2021. Urgently provide clarity to schools and colleges about the precise form secondary assessment will take in 2021.

5.     Fully reimburse schools for all covid-related costs and lost income. Ensure nurseries receive the full funding they are entitled to.

6.       Revisit its critical worker list so that schools can manage demand for places. The government should also amend the guidance for special schools, alternative provision, and nurseries so that leaders have the discretion to manage the number of pupils on site in line with risk assessments.

7.       Urgently provide vital additional resources to support the mental health of both pupils and staff.  

8.       Act now to address the recruitment and retention crisis among teachers and leaders - covid-19 must not be used as a reason to impose a real-terms pay cut.


A summary of our key policy positions 

A short summary of some of the short-term, ‘key asks’ we are making of the government at the current time can be found below or you can download this as a pdf here.

The government should work with the profession to plan a safe return to school. Specifically, the government should:

  • Set out the criteria and evidence that it is using to determine when schools will be asked to begin to increase the number of pupils attending and/or return to ‘full onsite education’.
  • Establish how the return can best be managed and implemented, including allowing schools operational flexibility to respond to their local circumstances and context.
  • Publish updated guidance on school safety measures, to increase protection for all members of the community as the number of pupils attending starts to increase.
  • Prioritise all education staff for vaccination, ensuring early vaccination for vulnerable staff and those working with the highest proportion of pupils, eg special schools, alternative provision, and nurseries.
  • Outline a clear plan to prevent a resurgence in infection rates when pupil numbers increase.
  • Review how track and tracing for pupils and staff is carried out and deliver alternative arrangements for contact tracing during school holidays. 
  • All routine inspections should be suspended at least for the rest of the academic year.
  • In England, Ofsted should ensure that policy and procedures for investigating complaints about remote learning adhere strictly to the limits of their statutory powers.

  • Schools should be fully reimbursed for the additional costs of maintaining ‘covid-secure’ safety measures and for any supply costs they have incurred as a result of covid-19.
  • The government should also reimburse losses to school income streams (such as rental and lettings income) resulting from covid-19.
  • Nurseries should receive the full funding they are entitled to for all pupils on roll, even if those pupils were absent on census day.
  • The government must ensure that no pupil loses out on crucial financial support as a result of changes to how pupil premium funding is calculated.
  • So that schools can provide pupils the support they need, the government must address the unprecedented 13-year real-terms freeze in school funding.  

Primary assessment and performance data:

  • There should be no primary performance data in 2021.
  • In England, NAHT does not support multiplication tables check (MTC) being made available optionally for primary schools in 2021, and NAHT will not support an additional phonics check for Year 2 in the autumn term, should this be proposed.
  • There must be a review of plans for primary statutory assessment in 2021/2022 to take account of the impact of the last 12 months.

Secondary assessment and performance data:

  • The government and Ofqual need to quickly provide clarity to schools and colleges about the precise form secondary assessment will take in 2021, ensuring the system fairly recognises the achievements of all students.
  • There should be no school or college level educational performance tables published for the 2020 to 2021 academic year. Any such data should not be used by others, such as Ofsted and local authorities, to hold schools or colleges to account.
  • The government must recognise that current year 10 and 12 students have suffered disruption to their courses which will impact exams and assessments in 2022.

  • The current guidance for special schools and AP remains inadequate and unclear. The guidance should be changed so that leaders in special schools have greater flexibility to manage the number of pupils on site. Pupils with education, health and care plans are not all automatically vulnerable; some may have a specific learning difficulty that could be supported remotely.
  • A sustainable funding arrangement is required for alternative provision to mitigate against the impact of reduced referrals and protect against reduced provision going forward.
  • NAHT opposed the English government’s introduction of temporary continuity direction powers to place an obligation on schools to provide immediate access to remote education for pupils. NAHT believes schools should be given the freedom to put in place a remote provision offer that meets the needs of pupils and families in their communities.
  • The government should ensure that all children, including younger children, have devices and connectivity they need to access remote learning.

 

  • NAHT recognises that for many pupils, lockdown will have brought experiences that may have had a positive impact on their mental well-being. However, the pandemic will have affected mental well-being in various negative ways and for some groups of children and young people, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic will have created more serious levels of concern.
  • The pandemic places even greater urgency on the calls NAHT has been making for additional resources to support the mental health and well-being of pupils and staff, including increasing the capacity of social care, health, and other services to meet the growing demand and to reduce waiting times.
  • The government must recognise the impact the current crisis will have on the recruitment and retention of school leaders. They must act now to address this. Covid-19 must not be used as a reason to impose an unfair and harmful real-terms pay cut on teachers and leaders. 
If you would like to get more involved in this campaign as one of our officials then please click here. 


First published 09 February 2021