Teachers ‘sick and tired’ of the DfE’s Covid response

MP questions how DfE expects schools to be able to deliver remote education from tomorrow if pupils don't have laptops

John Roberts

Coronavirus: Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh asked ministers how the DfE can expect schools to be ready to provide remote education from tomorrow

Ministers have been warned that teachers are sick and tired of "information leaks before midnight, document updates and vague press releases" about Covid-19 from the Department for Education.

Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh also asked how schools could be expected to be ready to provide a remote education from tomorrow when she claimed the DfE was not ready itself.

The MP for Mitcham and Morden was speaking in a Westminster debate about the government's decision to create a new legal duty for schools to provide a remote education to students who cannot attend because of Covid-19.

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This legal direction comes into force tomorrow.

And the latest figures show that more than one in five schools and almost half of secondary schools have one or more pupils self-isolating as a result of potential contact with a Covid-19 case inside their school.

Coronavirus: The legal duty on schools to provide remote learning

Ms McDonagh said: "Teachers are sick and tired of information leaks before midnight, document updates and vague press releases. The message being conveyed to schools is that they are accountable from Thursday, and will face consequences if remote education is not in place.

"But how can the department expect schools to be ready to provide remote education if it is not ready itself?

"More [laptop] devices have finally been pledged, but the numbers still fall far short of the need. Where is the drive or the ambition?"

Speaking to Tes before the debate, Ms McDonagh warned that schools faced an impossible task in meeting the duty to provide a remote education as they could not ensure that pupils had access to a device to learn on or the internet at home.

In the House of Commons last night, she said that there were 540,000 children eligible under the government’s initial scheme to provide devices to disadvantaged learners, but only 200,000 devices and 50,000 routers to give away.

She added: "The whole system was chaotic and ad hoc, with some children receiving devices regardless of whether they already had one, and others not arriving until July, too late for term time and months into the world of remote education."

Responding in the debate, schools standards minister Nick Gibb said: "We have invested over £160 million to support remote education. As part of that, during the summer term, we delivered over 220,000 laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children who would not otherwise have access to the internet.

"It was one of the largest procurements of computers in the UK. 

"On one single day, 27,000 were being delivered. We are now supplementing that support by making available 250,000 additional laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children in Years 3 to 11 in the event that face-to-face schooling is disrupted this term as a result of the pandemic.

"By the end of this week, we will have delivered, since the beginning of term, 100,000 of those 250,000 computers to schools."

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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