This week’s government announcement revealed the gradual easing of restrictions over the coming months, bringing with the new roadmap a number of implications for the education sector. Headlines include the £700 million education recovery package, teacher assessed grades and reopening schools in England within the next fortnight.
March 8th school reopening guidance – the key points
At the start of the week, it was announced that school pupils in England will return to the classroom from March 8th. Whilst some teaching unions called the move ‘reckless’ in the run up to the announcement, the government has confirmed that the return of students in secondary schools and colleges can be staggered due to the logistics of mass testing. The DfE published updated guidance for schools which includes the following:
- All school attendance will be ‘mandatory for all pupils from March 8th
- Secondary pupils will be tested three times on site, followed by once at home in the first two weeks after reopening
- Face coverings in secondary schools will be recommended for indoor environments ‘including classrooms’ for a limited period until Easter
- School should consider staggering the daily schedule, either at the beginning or towards the end of the day so that groups are kept apart on arrival and as they leave
- Schools must send home anyone who has been in close proximity to someone that’s tested positive, with a ten-day instruction to self-isolate
- Schools with two or more confirmed cases within 14 days should they declare an “outbreak” and call the dedicated advice service via the DfE’s support line
Pupils in England will be expected to return to the classroom on the condition that their first test result is negative. Meanwhile, schools in Wales face a phased return, schools in Scotland have seen their youngest pupils returning, whilst Northern Ireland schools are not expected to go back until after Easter. With each UK nation following varying plans to get pupils back in the classroom, it will be interesting to see which strategy proves most effective.
Teacher assessed grades for students
Yesterday it was revealed that teachers will determine the grades rewarded to their students this academic year. Teachers will be able to assess their students’ grades and draw on a range of evidence when it comes to awarding them, such as using questions provided by exam boards, coursework, mock exams and additional work completed as part of a subject course. The news comes following last year’s criticism surrounding the predicted grades algorithm, where final results were nearly 40% lower than teachers’ assessments for A-Level grades in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland was also criticised last year, as pupils from the most deprived backgrounds saw their Higher grades being reduced by 15.2 percentage points, compared with only 6.9 percentage points for the wealthiest pupils.
New education recovery package for children and young people
Monday’s roadmap announcement also revealed further elements of a recovery support package for young people, to support the catchup process caused by lost learning as a result of the pandemic. A £700 million package will focus on an expansion of one-to-one and small group tutoring programmes, as well as supporting the development of disadvantaged children in early years settings. The full package includes:
- One-off £302m "recovery premium" for state primary and secondary schools to boost summer schooling, clubs and activities
- £200m to fund face-to-face secondary summer schools, with teachers in charge of deciding which pupils benefit
- An expanded primary and secondary national tutoring programme and extended tuition fund for 16 to 19-year-olds, also worth £200m
- £18m of funding to support early-years language development