With the Prime Minister’s “road map” commencing with the full opening of schools and colleges on March 8th, attention has rightly turned to the question of how to recover the “lost learning” of children who have spent a substantial period of their lives out of school.
This is a challenge not simply to address lost learning, but to ensure we do not see a lost generation as a result of the unprecedented events of the past year.
Before the pandemic took hold, it would have been hard for anyone to picture the climate in which we currently find ourselves living and working. The effects on society have been deep and wide-reaching, and will undoubtedly have a long-lasting impact for many years to come, even as we move to a more hopeful place thanks to the mass vaccination programme that is underway.
It is undeniable that the impact of the pandemic in disrupting children’s education has been significant. Educational progress has been inhibited. Curriculum delivery methods have been recast. Examinations have been scrapped. The opportunities to meet, socialise and play daily with friends have been abruptly cut off. And, the cost of all of this and more for children’s emotional and mental wellbeing is likely to be propfound.
Teachers have demonstrated their unwavering commitment, dedication and professionalism during this challenging time, continuing to deliver high quality learning even in this unprecedented situation. And now is the time for the Government to step up and play their part, too – helping schools together with local communities to deliver a recovery strategy that has children and young people at its heart.
The recent announcement of £702 million of additional funding for tutoring, summer provision and online resources is a welcome start. But, while it is a first step it is likely to be a drop in the ocean of what is really needed. In the absence of a compelling strategy that is fully resourced – and the Chancellor’s 2021 Budget Statement gave no commitment to increase funding for vital services for children and families - there is a real danger that teachers and schools will be left to pick up the pieces. Frankly, there is a need for far greater ambition from Government.
Schools require ongoing and significant levels of support and investment to truly make an impact. But, schools alone cannot deliver the recovery that children need. The Government must also reverse the serious crisis in funding for local authority services for children and families which have been cut to the bone over the last decade.
It is not just questions over the level of funding that are concerning. The pandemic has already impacted on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people, and also on teachers and the wider school workforce. So, we need a sustainable programme of education recovery that recognises that teachers and support staff in schools are not an expendable resource, and that their wellbeing lies at the heart of any effective recovery programme for children and young people. And, we need to see a clear workforce strategy – we are yet to see one from the Government, that recognises the huge commitment already made by teachers and support staff, whilst building workforce capacity.
Harnessing the potential of the army of supply teachers should be a first commitment from the Government in securing the additional teaching capacity that will surely be needed. After all, teaching and learning must be at the heart of an education recovery. And, job security for the education workforce must also be a priority, too. It cannot be right that as we talk about recovery, we see the jobs of teachers and support staff in schools being cut.
Ensuring the statutory rights and entitlements of our members, including the ability to maintain work-life balance, is why the NASUWT is committed to working with the DfE to secure a recovery that works. We need assurances that all programmes will be designed and implemented in a way that ensures the full range of teachers’ and school leaders’ statutory and contractual employment rights are respected and, wherever possible, improved.
When announcing the Education Recovery package, the Government emphasised that they will be engaging with teachers, schools and college leaders, as well as educational charities and families to develop longer-term catch-up plans. We look forward to their serious engagement with us on what we can all agree is one of the most serious educational challenges for a generation.
Dr Patrick Roach