Teachers have written to the government with a recovery plan for schools after the Covid-19 crisis.
The NEU teaching union's plan calls for teachers who have left the profession to return to the classroom so that pupils can benefit from lower pupil-teacher ratios.
The 10-point National Education Recovery Plan has been sent by the to prime minister Boris Johnson and education secretary Gavin Williamson. Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the NEU, said that “schools and pupils have had to adapt quickly to extraordinary circumstances".
"They have done this remarkably well, often with little or unclear guidance from Government. This cannot happen again," they say.
The union's plan involves:
- Prioritising disadvantaged children and young people and their families. "They must not become casualties of Covid," the union said.
- Continuing provision of free school meals over the summer holidays so that disadvantaged children do not suffer from holiday hunger.
- Funding local authorities to make a summer holiday local offer to children and young people. Local authorities should coordinate planning of summer holiday clubs, especially in areas of deprivation, so that children and young people have a safe place to go and can engage in positive activities, as well as developing their confidence for a successful return to school in September. The government should fund places for children eligible for free school meals in full, the union said.
- Public buildings, such as libraries and sports halls, civic centres and religious buildings should be used to expand the space available to schools so that social distancing can be achieved, with greater numbers of pupils being educated in non-school settings, if not in schools.
- Encouraging qualified teachers who have left the profession to return to teaching, as they will be needed with smaller class sizes. This would help children who had experienced trauma during the crisis, while disadvantaged pupils would benefit from lower teacher-pupil ratios.
- Changing GCSE and A levels "to provide a fair assessment of young people’s attainment". The NEU said pupils cannot be expected to cover all the current syllabus because they have had less teaching time. Revised qualifications could involve a combination of teacher assessment and slimmed down exams, with more choice of questions. The union also said that primary SATs should not take place "because they are mainly a school accountability measure and will not be comparable to previous or subsequent years".
- Plans should be made for blended learning – pupils learning at school and at home – from September and into the next academic year, with all pupils having both face-to-face contact and remote learning when this is safe. "These plans will be needed in case of a second spike or a rise in a local R rate," said the union, adding they should be resourced by the government and teachers.
- Ensuring children and young people living in poverty and low- income homes are given the resources they need to learn at home, including access to books and creative resources, as well as technology. The NEU noted that 700,000 children live in homes without internet access and said the government must provide them with internet connections and laptops so they can access online learning.
- A ‘can do’ mentality around unemployment, training and benefits as well as direct support to schools. "We know childhood poverty and inequality limits life chances and is a significant factor in school achievement. We must not lose a generation because the pandemic makes even more children poor," the union said.
- A national plan for children’s wellbeing, resourced and launched to support children who suffered trauma in the pandemic
Dr Bousted and Mr Courtney added: “We need a clear national plan. The government must demonstrate leadership and the capacity to work with local authorities and education unions so that plans are implemented in all the regions.
"The NEU's 10-point plan addresses significant issues that have to be considered. These issues will need funding and planning.
“We look forward to speaking to government alongside other education unions and education professionals about how we get this right, and in good time, for both the summer holidays and September. The government cannot let schools struggle through this on their own.”