92% of school staff lack trust in DfE on Covid

And four in five school staff say trust in their education department has dropped since pandemic hit, exclusive Tes survey shows

Amy Gibbons

Coronavirus: Teachers trust in the government on Covid-19 policy has dropped, a Tes poll shows

More than nine in 10 school staff in England have limited or no trust in the government's management of the coronavirus and schools, Tes can reveal.

And four in five say their trust in the Department for Education has dropped since the pandemic hit, according to a Tes survey of more than 8,500 teachers and other school workers across the UK.

Among school staff in England who responded to the question: "How would you describe the level of trust you have in your government's education department's decisions and policy on coronavirus and schools?", 32 per cent said they had "limited trust", while 60.1 per cent said they "don't trust it at all".


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Meanwhile, just 5.4 per cent of staff said they "generally" trusted the DfE, and 0.5 per cent said they had "complete" trust in its decisions and policy.

And the situation has worsened over the past two months.

Since Tes carried out a snap poll in July, the proportion of staff in England who say they have no trust in the department has increased by 10 percentage points.

Coronavirus: Teachers losing faith in government

This comes after a succession of government U-turns and policy decisions that have baffled and infuriated many teachers and heads, including during the exams grading crisis over the summer, the eleventh-hour decision to fund free school meals over the holidays, and the current testing shortages that have resulted in teachers and pupils being forced to stay home for longer than necessary.

A lack of trust in government departments responsible for coronavirus policy in relation to schools was seen across the whole of the UK. In England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland combined, 32.7 per cent of staff said they had limited trust in their government's education department, while 58.9 per cent said they had no trust at all.

One staff member said: "As a scientist, I find it very difficult to trust them when I see evidence from elsewhere and the information from the independent SAGE [Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies] reviews being ignored, the poor testing compared to countries who have methods in place (eg, some schools in Germany are testing all staff every two weeks). Other countries have track and trace that works via an app system and the capacity to fulfil their promises to staff and pupils.

"Plus, it changes so frequently, while still seeming to lag behind the information being issued from the WHO [World Health Organisation] and the scientists."

Another said: "The lack of transparency is incredible. They were so slow to divulge the evidence used in decision making and now the levels are rising again, we're in the same position.

"Whilst I appreciate that the children's mental and physical wellbeing is vitally important, so is the health and wellbeing of staff, yet this is being ignored completely."

But others were more sympathetic. One school worker said they "wouldn't like to be the one making decisions".

"Can't win either way," they said.

And another said: "I don't blame them, there is not a playbook for 2020. I just think [a] little more vision and maybe discussion with education professionals could and can avoid glaring errors."

The Tes survey also found that four in five staff in England (80.7 per cent) had lost trust in the DfE since the crisis hit.

Among those who answered the question: "How has the level of trust you have in your government's education department changed since the coronavirus outbreak began?", 15.7 per cent said their trust had dropped "a bit", while 65 per cent said it had dropped "significantly".

A further 11.9 per cent of staff said their level of trust in the department had not changed, while just 0.9 per cent and 0.7 per cent said it had "improved a bit" and "increased significantly", respectively.

Across the whole of the UK, 15.9 per cent of staff said their trust in their government's education department had dropped slightly, while 64.5 per cent said it had dropped significantly.

One teacher said: "At first I felt they were doing the right thing with a complete lockdown. Sending children back because of their education is no comfort for those of us who feel they might die.

"They are sending children back at the cost of our health. The city I live in is in lockdown; as a teacher I am not."

Another staff member said: "I didn't have much trust in them in the first place and now it's been absolutely destroyed."

And a third added: "[The] CAGs [centre-assessed grades] fiasco and constant 10pm Friday evening updates and policy shifts have eroded all trust."

But one school worker said simply: "To be honest I don't trust any of the politicians on either side!"

A DfE spokesperson said: "Since the unprecedented closure of schools to most pupils in March, every major decision we have taken has been guided by the best scientific and medical advice. We've engaged throughout with stakeholders from the sector, including teaching unions, and continue to do so.

"We made it a national priority to get all children back into their classrooms full-time, and published our plans for this in early July. We have kept the guidance under regular review to ensure it includes all the information schools need.

"Over seven million children have now returned to school, with over 99.9 per cent of schools open. This milestone is testament to the work of school staff across the country who have worked hard to put in place a range of protective measures to reduce the risk for children and staff."

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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