Anger as parents told to report schools to Ofsted if remote learning not good enough – Manchester Evening News

Parents have been told they can report schools to Ofsted if the remote learning they are being offered is not good enough.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson made the comment in the House of Commons yesterday, where he said schools are expected ‘to provide between three and five hours teaching a day, depending on the child’s age’.

While some have welcomed the move – including families who felt they were let down by a lack of support from schools during the last lockdown – it has caused anger among teachers and headteachers, with many saying they still haven’t received the technology for pupils that the government promised.

In his speech on Wednesday, Mr Williamson said that schools in England are ‘much better prepared than last March’ to implement home-learning and that by the end of next week, the government ‘will have delivered three-quarters-of-a-million devices’.

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 hours teaching a day, depending on the 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.”



Education Secretary Gavin Williamson answers questions in the House of Commons

Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s school closure announcement on Monday, the Department for Education sent out updated guidance to schools setting out its latest expectations for remote learning.

This includes providing frequent, clear explanations of new content, delivered by a teacher or through high-quality curriculum resources or videos.

And schools are also expected to have systems for checking, at least weekly, whether pupils are engaging with their work, and to inform parents immediately where engagement is a concern.

But teachers and unions have accused the government of ‘threatening schools’ and described Williamson’s announcement over Ofsted enforcement as ‘nothing short of disgraceful’.

Davyhulme Primary teacher Lee Parkinson told the Manchester Evening News: “I just think after giving schools an evening to completely change the way in which schools will work for the foreseeable future, with no really guidance from the government, they’d have a little more respect and appreciation for what this entails.



Teacher Lee Parkinson

“Schools have been under enormous pressure of working out which children will need to be in school if they’re vulnerable or key worker children, alongside setting up remote teaching provision after being promised extra technology for those pupils who can’t access that.

“To stand up and announce that parents can report schools and teachers to Ofsted shows his complete and utter lack of understanding, trust and respect for the teaching profession.”

What do you think about the Education Secretary telling parents to report schools? What’s been your experience of remote learning? Are you a teacher who’s angered by the government’s response? Let us know in the comments here, or share your views on our Manchester Family Facebook page.

Lee, whose Facebook page ICT with Mr P, on which he shares light-hearted posts about school life, has become a massive hit with teachers and parents, added: “If anything, the whole pandemic has shown how Ofsted offer nothing to improve teaching. What have they done in this whole situation that has helped teachers and schools and not added more pressure and scrutiny?

“This is creating unrealistic expectations as schools are believing they are having to replicate the school day which is unachievable, parents will feel under more pressure to complete this work when trying to juggle everything else their own work.

“This whole situation is going to be tough for everyone – teachers, parents and the children – but the comments he made yesterday, rather than helping, is making the situation so much harder.”



Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT Union for Head Teachers

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT Union for Head Teachers, says schools were given little more than 12 hours’ notice about the switch to remote learning in a new national lockdown, and many were still struggling to obtain the devices they need from the DfE.

He said: “Schools were told at 8pm on Monday night that they would to switch to remote learning by 9am the next day and to organise provision for vulnerable and key worker pupils. They have spent the last 48 hours working tirelessly to put plans in place, despite the fact that on Sunday the PM was saying that schools would remain open.

“Meanwhile pupils up and down the country are still awaiting the internet devices that were promised last summer. We’re into the ninth month of the pandemic and many schools and pupils are still waiting for their allocation to come through. And devices are only being made available for older primary pupils, not those in key stage 1 at all. The government really has let young people down miserably on this one.

“It is therefore nothing short of disgraceful that the government should choose to start threatening schools about the quality of their remote learning offer. Schools are keeping going in the most extreme circumstances right now – support is needed to overcome the challenges they face, not threat or sanction.

“The profession has predicted all the difficulties the government has failed to navigate schools through. I therefore appeal again to government to work alongside the profession constructively in place of threats and empty words. The announcements do nothing to redress the damage the government has caused to children’s education.”

Yesterday we reported on fears over the number of children who could fall behind during the pandemic, as 100,000 youngsters in our region are still without digital access.

Mayor Andy Burnham said it’s a gap that ‘urgently needs plugging’ and urged businesses in Manchester to get behind the Greater Manchester Tech Fund – set up to help vulnerable families.



Home learning is back for most pupils

Glyn Potts, head of Blessed John Henry Newman RC College in Oldham, highlighted a lack of laptops at this school last term when their allocation was cut from 173 to 35.

He says it’s time the government stopped blaming schools and unions and worked together to support the future of young people.

“We need less rhetoric and more collaboration with school leaders to navigate this period,” said Mr Potts.

“I would ask that government seeks the efforts of those in education rather than attacking the comments of one or two unions. Surely there is a common good to find here, this is about the future of young people.

“Threats of legal action, mixed messages and U-turns may be a consequence of the fast nature of this pandemic, but we must be mindful not to seek to blame people, particularly not those in schools.

“School staff and teachers can only react to the direction set by government, perhaps now is the time to listen to the profession more, rather than enforcing a position on us. After all, our goal is the wellbeing, success and future of each young person in their own right, surely that trumps any policy.”

The DfE says it has already delivered more than 560,000 laptops and tablets to schools and local authorities, with an extra 100,000 being distributed this week.

Mr Williamson said: “We are far better placed to cope with it than we were last March.

“We are now better prepared to deliver online learning, this is an important step forward in supporting children to make the progress with their education that they so desperately need, and we’ll also do what we can to help their parents.”

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.”