Williamson: We have learned lessons from Covid crisis

Education secretary tells MPs that the country is better prepared on exams and remote learning in new lockdown
6th January 2021, 1:38pm
John Roberts

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Williamson: We have learned lessons from Covid crisis

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/williamson-we-have-learned-lessons-covid-crisis
Coronavirus & Schools: Education Secretary Gavin Williamson Has Said That The Dfe Has Learned Lessons From The Previous Covid Lockdown

Gavin Williamson has said the Department for Education has learned lessons from the problems with exams, remote learning and free school meals during the previous coronavirus lockdown. 

The education secretary told MPs today that the Department for Education is better prepared for the new national lockdown.

He said: "I would like to reassure everyone that our schools have not suddenly become unsafe but limiting the number of people who attend them is essential when the number of Covid cases are escalating as they are now."


In full: The key announcements from Gavin Williamson's speech

Exams: Teacher grades but no algorithms for 2021

Ofsted: Watchdog will enforce legal duty on schools to deliver remote learning


Mr Williamson said he was setting out contingency plans that he had prepared but hoped to never have to implement.

"Unwelcome though this latest lockdown is, and I am very conscious of the real challenges parents are facing with their children at home, we are far better placed to cope with it than we were last March," he said.

Coronavirus: Schools 'are far better placed to cope with lockdown'

"We are now better prepared to deliver online learning. This is an important step forward in supporting children to make the progress with their education that they so desperately need."

Mr Williamson set out plans for Ofsted to enforce the government's statutory expectations for schools to provide remote learning.

He said the watchdog would inspect schools where it had serious concerns about the quality of the provision.

The education secretary thanked teachers, parents and carers for their work and also praised Oak National Academy for providing video lessons and highlighted the BBC's plan to broadcast 14 weeks of educational content during the lockdown.

Mr Williamson added: "Our delivery of laptops and tablets continues apace. We have purchased more than 1 million laptops and tablets and have already delivered over 560,000 of those to schools and local authorities with an extra 100,000 being distributed this week alone.

"By the end of next week we will have delivered more than three-quarter of a million devices."

And he told MPs that another area where "we have learned lessons" was on exams.

He added: "Last year all four nations of the United Kingdom found their arrangements for awarding grades did not deliver what they needed, with the impact felt painfully by students and their parents.

"Although exams are the fairest way we have of assessing what a student knows, the impact of this pandemic now means that it is not possible to have these exams this year."

Mr Williamson said that teacher-assessed grades will be used for the second year in a row, but without an algorithm in 2021.

And he announced extra funding to provide food parcels or meals to eligible pupils on free school meals and said that a national voucher scheme will be in place to ensure that pupils can access meals while schools remain closed.  

Mr Williamson was speaking after a dramatic government U-turn. Primary schools were open across much of the country on Monday before Boris Johnson announced that night that schools would close to most pupils as the country was to enter another national lockdown.

The prime minister also announced that exams would not be going ahead as normal.

 

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