Parents are urged to report their child’s school to Ofsted if online lessons aren’t up to par during lockdown
- Gavin Williamson said teachers had a legal obligation to give remote education
- Teaching leaders said they were not told to prepare for online lessons in advance
- Paul Whiteman of the NAHT said Government threats were disgraceful
Schools were warned yesterday they risk facing inspections if their online lessons are not up to scratch.
Gavin Williamson said they had a legal obligation to give ‘high-quality remote education’ to pupils stuck at home. And he advised parents to complain about poor provision and go to Ofsted if still unsatisfied.
However, teaching leaders pointed out that the Education Secretary had told them to prepare for in-school Covid testing and exams – not online lessons.
Gavin Williamson said teachers had a legal obligation to give ‘high-quality remote education’ to pupils stuck at home. Pictured, Sophie Symes, a year 7 pupil at Knutsford Academy in Cheshire, studies at home
Paul Whiteman of the NAHT said it was disgraceful that the Government should so quickly start threatening schools about the quality of their remote learning.
He added: ‘Schools are keeping going in the most extreme circumstances right now – support is needed to overcome the challenges they face, not threat or sanction.’
Dr Mary Bousted of the National Education Union said ‘the last thing teachers and heads need right now is the spectre of Ofsted’. She added: ‘The best thing inspectors can do right now is offer their services, either as additional teachers or to supervise daily testing of those who will still be attending their school or college during this period of lockdown.’
Paul Whiteman of the NAHT said it was disgraceful that the Government should so quickly start threatening schools about the quality of their remote learning. Pictured, students returned to Perry Court Academy in Bristol on January 4
Mr Williamson laid down the number of hours of teaching he expected pupils to receive and said this requirement would be monitored. He added: ‘We have set out clear, legally binding requirements for schools to provide high-quality remote education.
‘This is mandatory for all state-funded schools and will be enforced by Ofsted. We expect schools to provide between three and five teaching hours a day, depending on a child’s age.
‘If parents feel their child’s school is not providing suitable remote education they should first raise their concerns with the teacher or headteacher and, failing that, report the matter to Ofsted.
‘Ofsted will inspect schools – of any grade – where it has serious concerns about the quality of remote education being provided.’
Year 9 student Isla Stanton, 14, begins her home learning in Ashford, Kent, following Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordering a new national lockdown
There are also concerns over the reach of the Government’s free laptop scheme, as well as the cost of data packages to get children online. Mr Williamson said his officials were working with mobile providers to reduce costs and that the free laptop scheme should provide another 100,000 devices this week.
Educational experts have pointed out there are other potential shortcomings of home learning, especially for families with little space. Pupils without laptop access can still attend school as ‘vulnerable children’, according to Department for Education guidance from September.
It says that those ‘who may have difficulty engaging with remote education at home (for example due to a lack of devices or quiet space to study)’ are included in the vulnerable category.
Euan Stanton, a year 7 pupil at a secondary school in Ashford, Kent, studies at home as many schools switch to online learning
Lee Elliot Major, professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter, has called for significant extra resources to help the most disadvantaged pupils during lockdown.
‘Unless action is taken, reduced hours of learning, persistent absence from school and weakening economic conditions at home equate to bleak prospects for the young’, he said.
Dr Jo Blanden, reader in economics at the University of Surrey, said that private school pupils enjoyed ‘a qualitatively different experience’ of remote learning than their state peers.
‘There is no doubt that for some children, especially those who find learning more challenging, online learning is not an effective substitute to the classroom.’
Ofsted was approached for comment.