Help 'dedicated and desperate' teachers, ministers told

'Stressed and exhausted' school staff and leaders need more support during pandemic, education secretary is warned

Tes Reporter

Coronavirus: Education secretary Gavin Williamson has been called upon to give more support to teachers

The government needs to better support "dedicated and desperate" teachers during the coronavirus pandemic, the education secretary was told today.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Kate Green, shadow education secretary, said: "School leaders and staff are stressed and exhausted."

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She added: "I support [education secretary Gavin Williamson] in wanting pupils to be safely in school, but please will he tell our dedicated and desperate teachers, parents and support staff what he's going to do to support them and keep children learning?"

Promised laptops had not arrived, she added.

Ms Green also pressed Mr Williamson about exactly how many pupils had been sent home for Covid-related reasons. 

“Can the secretary of state say how many pupils have been sent home from school for Covid-related reasons, and of those how many have been sent home on more than one occasion?” she asked.

Coronavirus: 'Disastrous' impact on learning

Mr Williamson replied: “We keep a close monitor of those children who are being sent home and we’re working with the sector so we can provide her with those details and we’ll send it on to her.”

Ms Green said she was “disappointed” that Mr Williamson “doesn’t know those figures”, adding: “Parents, pupils and teachers have told me of students having being sent home three, four, even five times, some have missed up to one third of their time in school.

“I’m sure the secretary of state agrees that will have a disastrous impact on their learning.”

Later in the debate, asked by Labour MP Lucy Powell about how "any form of traditional exams can be done on a level playing field", both schools minister Nick Gibb and Mr Williamson said exams would go ahead next year but that other contingency measures would be announced shortly.

Mr Gibb said: "This is the number one priority for us, that we do help young people to catch up on their lost education."

"That's why we've allocated a billion pounds to schools – the catch-up premium, and of that, £350 million is allocated to disadvantaged pupils.

"We have delayed this summer's exams of GCSEs and A levels by three weeks to free up teaching time. Ofqual have consulted in the summer on changes to assessment on issues such as science practicals, field trips, spoken language and optionality in history and English literature to help further reduce pressure on teaching times.

"And we'll be shortly announcing other measures to help ensure the exams are fair, including the approach to grading to ensure the 2021 cohort is treated fairly to previous years' cohorts of students."

Mr Gibb added: "There's a broad consensus that exams are the fairest way to judge a student's assessment and we want to make sure that fairness is spread right across the country, regardless of the experience any individual will have had as a result of the virus."

"That's why we're working with Ofqual and the exam boards on further mitigations and contingencies to ensure that every student is treated fairly, and we'll have more to say about those issues shortly."

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