School closures: 11 questions that still need answering

After the announcement that schools are switching to online learning, Tes looks at the key questions that need answers
5th January 2021, 3:48pm
Grainne Hallahan

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School closures: 11 questions that still need answering

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/school-closures-11-questions-still-need-answering
Coronavirus: The Bizarre Life Of A School Middle Leader During The Pandemic

Yesterday's announcement that schools in England would move to remote learning has left teachers, students and parents all asking questions about what exactly the next seven weeks will look like.

Here are the most pressing questions that the education sector still needs the answers to.

Coronavirus: What about exams?

1. What will happen with exams this summer?

What exactly did Boris Johnson mean when he said that "not all" exams will go ahead "as normal"? Will some exams still go ahead? If so, which ones? Is there going to be a reduced number of exams or a move to centre-assessed grades (CAGs)?

2. How can we be sure there won't be another algorithm disaster?

If we do move to CAGs, how will Ofqual and the Department for Education ensure that we don't have a repeat of last summer's results chaos? What kind of moderation and quality control will they put in place?

3. Will key stage 2 tests go ahead?

What will this lockdown mean for primary school pupils? They've already had some of their tests cancelled. Are we now waiting for an announcement to confirm that the rest won't be taking place?

4. What will be put in place for BTEC students sitting exams this month?

Students who are taking BTEC exams this week face a tough decision: whether to sit their exams and risk contracting Covid and bringing it home. What extra safety steps will be put in place for these students and the staff invigilating and supervising the exams?

Running a school in lockdown

5. How will schools be judged on their online provision?

We know that Ofsted will still be playing a role during this lockdown, but what will that role be? We've had the expectations of lockdown learning made clear. But how will Ofsted be enforcing its expectations of what schools should deliver in their online provision? 

6. What do schools need to do for the pupils attending in person?

What are the safety levels for the number of children in school? How many children with parents who are critical workers and vulnerable children can safely attend school?

7. How is the digital divide going to be tackled?

Last lockdown, many students were unable to access online work, as a result of their home situation. Although this has been tackled in part, when will the rest of the promised laptops and data cards arrive for those students who don't have devices or wi-fi at home?

8. How will schools deliver lunches to those pupils on free school meals?

Currently, the government is advising schools to send out food parcels to its free school meals students. Is this sustainable? Or will free school meals return to a voucher scheme - and, if they do, will it still go through Edenred? If we return to that system, what will be done to ensure that we don't have a repeat of the problems experienced last time?

How will lockdown end?

9. Will exam years return to school before lockdown ends?

If exams do go ahead in some form, will we see exam year groups return before February half-term? 

10. Will we see rotas being used to ease the return to school?

Rotas featured in early plans to control the virus in schools but were never put in place. Having learned lessons from the last return of schools, will we see rotas being used to phase students and staff back to school this time? 

11. Will we ever use the lateral flow Covid tests (LFTs) sent to schools?

When students returned to school in September, it followed a busy period in the summer holidays when rules were relaxed and students spent a lot of time mixing households. This time, will the lack of mixing, combined with the access to LFTs, mean we can control the reintroduction of students to the classroom without increasing coronavirus transmission? 

And of course, Tes will be pushing hard to get answers to all these questions and more in the days ahead.

Tes Coronavirus Hub

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