Rebuilding the future for schooling beyond Covid-19
Working together for the common good
Duty to cooperate
Tackle child poverty
Education as a local area priority
A national curriculum for all
Health education and support
Ensuring safer schools
Reduce class size and raise standards
Maintaining high standards through effective continuity of learning
Assessment, qualifications and accountability
Access to higher education
Teaching and learning without walls
Securing more teachers
Investing in teacher development
Putting teachers at the heart of Covid-resilient pedagogy
Supporting the workforce to meet the needs of children and young people
Supporting leaders to support the workforce
Investing in educational research
The NASUWT believes that now is the time to adopt a progressive agenda which could transform education, level up opportunity for the poorest and provide greater resilience in the face of any similar crises to come.
This is a framework for ensuring that we maintain world class education for all children and young people during and beyond the current crisis.
This crisis has demonstrated the importance of working together. All publicly funded schools have a role to play in helping to meet the needs of children in their local areas, by working together. Given the constraints that will exist for many schools to provide an offer to all those children on roll who may be attending school or staying at home, schools will need to pool resources and recognise that by working together we can achieve more for all our children and young people.
Government must take a lead and, at the local level, enable local authorities to co-ordinate provision in the interests of every child and to ensure that no children are left behind. A statutory duty to cooperate with local education, health and care planning for children and young people, would ensure that children do not fall through the gap and that they and their families have access to the help and support they need.
Securing high quality education for all must be allied to a concerted national effort to end child poverty. The free school meals vouchers for children should be ramped up to a national programme administered by local authorities and other local strategic partners.
We know that money can make a world of difference. With greater investment in areas of disadvantage, children from the poorest households would benefit from improved facilities within schools as well as more opportunities to continue learning, including personal and social development, outside the school gates with dedicated funding for play schemes, recreational and youth and community facilities. It is becoming clear that the outbreak creates risks to community cohesion and the promotion of equality. Schools have a distinctive and powerful contribution to make in tackling these risks. This contribution must be recognised and supported in the development of policy in this area.
With children attending school without a decent breakfast, or missing out on support at the end of the school day and during the holidays, the provision of extra facilities through extended schools could make a significant difference to children’s lives. With government funding for free access to provision for children, especially for those who are deemed vulnerable or eligible for free school meals, this could make a significant contribution to improving outcomes for disadvantaged children.
To level up opportunity for all, a clear national framework of entitlement for every child is needed which provided access to a broad, balanced and relevant curriculum which recognises the centrality of the cognitive, emotional, cultural, creative, ethical and social dimensions of children’s learning. Schools, too, will need help to secure effective curriculum leadership. Governments and other official bodies have a critical role to play in the respect through resourcing Covid-tailored curriculum resources, facilitating professional dialogue within and between schools and disseminating effective practice.
PSHE and mental health awareness will need to play an important role in supporting children and staff who will have been affected as a result of the current crisis. Ready access to child and adolescent mental health support and other health and social care practitioners within/available to schools could enable the transition back into formal learning for many children who have been affected during this crisis.
This crisis has highlighted the fundamental need to ensure that our schools are safe for staff and for pupils. Winning the confidence and trust of teachers and parents demands coordinated action, area by area, to demonstrate that schools are and remain Covid-secure in line with national expectations and local circumstances and contexts.
The benefits of lower class sizes have been shown to contribute to improved outcomes for children, especially the most disadvantaged. With class sizes of 15-20 children would be better placed to receive the individual attention they need. It would also help to support quality support for learners when children are not in school.
Teachers and school leaders have always had high expectations of themselves and of the pupils for whom they are responsible. The impact of the Covid-19 outbreak has not undermined this core professional principle. However, the circumstances that the outbreak has created means that these high standards must, for the time being, be pursued in the face of entirely unprecedented challenges, both for those who are served by the education system and those who work within it.
A national platform to support teachers and schools to provide support for learners will need to ensure continuity in curriculum programmes delivered in the home and in the school environment. Teachers will need to be equipped with the skills and resources needed to meet the challenges of new pedagogic approaches.
Whilst schooling will be disrupted, Government, schools and local authorities need to work with employers to secure access to high quality, work-based learning entitlements for today’s 16-19 year olds.
Lessons need to be learned from the process for examinations and national assessments in 2020 for the future, recognising that the next academic year is likely to be subject to some disruption to a greater or lesser extent than has been evident to date. National assessments and qualifications will still need to play a key role in the system, but the reliance on examination and test data to assess schools should be discontinued in order to enable teachers to focus on delivering a broad and balanced offer which is capable of recognising and meeting the needs of learners, whilst avoiding inappropriate teaching to the test
Inspectorates should play a central role in supporting the development of effective national and school-level policy and practice, particularly in respect of vulnerable pupils and those with protected characteristics.
Recognising the potential knock-on impact of disruption to the exams system, it is time to move to a post-qualification system of university admissions. This will also provide a means of addressing the disparities in university admissions previously acknowledged in relation to race/ethnic background and household income/socio-economic group.
Computers and tablets are powerful and essential tools to support teaching and learning in complementing, not substituting for, the work of teachers and school leaders. By equipping all pupils and teachers with the tools to learn and teach within virtual and online environments, not only will educational provision be more able to overcome temporary disruptions to provision but can also expand learning beyond the classroom, support and extend pedagogic practice and give children and young people alternative avenues to extend and deepen their learning. Its role is particularly clear in respect of those pupils who will continue to face barriers to attending school as result of underlying health conditions. A national competition should be issued by the Government to invite leading technology companies and suppliers to invest in the future through a programme to deliver technology and support to assist children’s learning in schools and at home. This might be incentivised through the tax system.
Prior to this crisis, we knew well the causes of the crisis in teacher recruitment and retention. With 2/3 teachers in some parts of the UK seriously considering quitting before the crisis and with significant numbers unable to return to the workplace while it has persisted (e.g. shielding), schools will need access to more teachers. Local authorities or other comparable bodies should be invited to play a leading role in guaranteeing the provision of a cadre of highly skilled supply teachers ready to meet continuing challenge fluctuating demands for teachers across local areas.
During the Coronavirus emergency, teachers have demonstrated their capacity and creativity to cope in a crisis. We know that the workforce is fundamental to maintaining high quality education provision. However, investment in teacher preparation and continuing professional development needs to be a renewed priority to equip teachers with skills and resilience needed to adapt to changing teaching and learning contexts. Teachers will need to be given the time to engage in professional learning and support for forms of professional collaboration that have been disrupted by the Covid-19 outbreak. These forms of teacher development should focus on approaches with proven track records of success, including linking development and training to classroom practice, allowing teachers to experiment and test new ideas and sharing experiences and reflections with colleagues beyond their own workplaces.
Government and those with decision-making power and authority across the education system will need to develop new ways of organising provision in a way that supports the work of teachers and other members of the school workforce who will be operating in very different circumstances. It has become increasingly clear during the course of the Covid-19 outbreak that trusting the professional judgement and expertise of teachers to test and develop approaches to teaching and learning are those that have proved the most enduring and impactful. Putting teachers at the heart of the development of Covid-resilient pedagogy, within a setting-level and national policy context that supports the appropriate use of professional autonomy will ensure that children and young people can continue to benefit from the high-quality learning experiences to which they are entitled.
Now more than ever, working arrangements in schools need to ensure that teachers and school leaders are able to concentrate on their core responsibilities for teaching and leading teaching and learning. If it is to be resilient in the face of Covid-related disruption and dislocation, the education system cannot afford to encumber its teaching workforce with tasks and responsibilities that do not make effective use of their skills and talents as qualified teachers, that create excessive workload burdens or undermine their wellbeing. This will require every school to remove or remodel requirements on teachers that threaten to distract them from focusing on the needs and interests of pupils.
The adaptations to existing practices in schools that will be required to ensure that children and young people continue to benefit from world-class provision will make significant demands on those with leadership roles across the education system. Models of leadership and management focused on securing workforce compliance with rigid protocols and expectations can have no place in the agile, responsive school system required to serve learners during the Covid-19 outbreak. Leaders must be helped to establish and sustain collaborative working practices, and approaches to managing the performance of teachers that respect the professional judgement of teachers.
The unprecedented nature of the Covid-19 outbreak has generated many novel challenges for the provision of education. There is an urgent need for Governments and others to support research into ways in which pupil progress and achievement can best be secured in the face of these challenges. Recent work undertaken by the OECD confirms that across the industrialised world, investment in health-related research is 17 times greater than that directed towards education. Such underinvestment will undermine efforts to secure the continuity of education and must be addressed as a matter of urgency by Governments and policy makers.