Covid: DfE support for schools 'shameful', say leaders

Two in five heads have mostly 'survived' during the pandemic, while 23 per cent have been sometimes or mostly 'sinking'

Claudia Civinini

Covid: DfE support for schools hasn't been good enough, say headteachers

Headteachers have lambasted the Department for Education's guidance during the Covid pandemic in a survey that has prompted calls for better support for schools.

In a poll carried out by the universities of Nottingham and Oxford, nine out of 10 school leaders disagreed that the DfE’s advice and guidance during the pandemic had been timely and straightforward.

Meanwhile 65 per cent felt unable to trust the guidance, according to the survey, which was carried out in partnership with school leaders’ unions the NAHT and the Association of School and College Leaders.

NAHT deputy general secretary Nick Brook said: "This is a shameful review of the government’s support for schools during the worst crisis they have experienced."

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The survey also reveals the extent of the impact of the pandemic on school leaders. Asked which description best matched their experience of leading a school during the Covid crisis, the majority – 41.9 per cent – chose "mostly surviving".

Covid: DfE 'has made life difficult for school leaders'

About one in three respondents chose mostly or sometimes "thriving", but more than a fifth said they were mostly or sometimes "sinking".

Commenting on this point, Mr Brook said: “It has been a stressful and difficult year for school leaders, as the responses to this survey show clearly.

"‘Mostly surviving’ and ‘sometimes sinking’ isn’t what you want to hear from people trying to do their best to help children to thrive."

The survey also shows that a lack of timely resources from the DfE was the top factor making life difficult for school leaders during the pandemic.

Mr Brook added: “It is very clear that the government has been the main source of stress for school leaders during the pandemic.

"Obviously, uncertainty and frequent changes couldn’t be entirely avoided during such an unprecedented situation, but the lack of timely and straightforward advice from the Department for Education tops the list of reasons for school leaders’ stress.

"This isn’t acceptable. School leaders and their teams have worked all hours and have moved heaven and earth for the children in their care – they could expect the government to do the same for them.

“As the conclusion to this report says, this offers a wake-up call for government. There are clear steps they could take to improve the situation for schools, school leaders and children, and to help them to thrive. We can only hope they will listen.”

The survey was distributed to members of the NAHT and ASCL, attracting 1,491 responses.

The DfE was contacted for comment.

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Claudia Civinini

Claudia Civinini

Find me on Twitter @claudiacivinini

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