‘SUSPEND Ofsted inspections’ demanded Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) yesterday, responding to Ofsted’s second report into the impact of the pandemic across education settings.
Dr Bousted said: ‘Inspections should be suspended, certainly those planned for January.’
Outlining how government budget cuts to schools have affected their ability to deal with this crisis she added: ‘It is difficult, however, for anyone in education to take seriously the notion that an Ofsted visit is “non judgemental”.
‘That is why the announcement of this programme of visits was held in such suspicion. Our members have told us the visits were highly disruptive and added pressure in an already highly-pressured period, where schools and colleges were establishing new ways of delivering learning. “Nothing else could be done that day,” said one.
‘Leaders must be allowed to focus on the difficult business of running a Covid-secure school or college. With many partially closed, and increasingly so, leaders are already fully aware of the impacts on learning and are doing everything they can to maintain a continuity for the young people in their care.
‘This is hampered by government.
‘The disproportionate effects on Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) pupils and students are clear. A lack of access to external support services, such as speech & language therapies and delays to assessment processes and EHC plans, is having a harmful effect on young people.
‘This again is not the fault of schools, but of a government which is consistently underfunding SEND support. Ensuring every child gets the education they deserve and need cannot be done on the cheap.
‘It is right that the Chief Inspector is standing up for schools, but she could go much further.
‘She must align herself with schools in calling on government for more teachers, smaller bubbles, extra buildings and curriculum flexibility. That is how best she and her colleagues in Ofsted can support schools, colleges and nurseries, and stop Covid disrupting education.’
Meanwhile, Wales’ GCSE, AS and A-level exams in summer 2021 are to be cancelled, with grades based on classroom assessments.
Education Minister Kirsty Williams said it was impossible to guarantee a level playing field for exams due to the ongoing impact of the Covid pandemic.
Head teachers would work on a ‘national approach’ to ensure consistency, she said.
On this Bousted said: ‘Yet again England is lagging behind other nation states in their approach to education during a pandemic.
‘The Welsh Government has made clear decisions about next year’s GCSE, AS and A level examinations. The current position in England of a three-week delay to 2021 examinations is simply not good enough.
‘Education is not as normal. Months of classroom learning have already been lost and many young people will continue to have to spend varying degrees of time out of school.
‘All of this is glaringly obvious, apart, it would appear, to the Education Secretary for England.
‘We now need the Department for Education to alter their course and ensure England has a system in place that ensures every young person has a fair chance to achieve their potential. Its proposals to make GCSE and A levels viable and fairer are completely inadequate and it’s about time they started to discuss the issue with the profession.
‘Gavin Williamson must take note. Parents, schools, colleges and students have not forgotten last year’s examination debacle. They will certainly not forgive another one.’