After abruptly ending for most kids in March, schools return in full next week. Of course they never really went away. Our valiant teachers literally went above and beyond – including covering Easter and half terms tor keyworker and vulnerable students at the height of coronavirus. To call this past 6 months challenging would be a gross understatement.
Biggest of all headaches was the great examinations swindle. I warned in Parliament of potential dangers of awarding pupils grades to pupils in the absence of exams in March. The release of A-level results in August proved me right. Heartbreaking stories of students with results downgraded by the inhumane “algorithm” emerged with dreams and aspirations shattered because the computer said no.
This government is supposed to be all about “levelling up” yet this had the opposite effect striking kids down. The whole sector was furious at feeding a culture of distrust towards education – even Eton was to appeal. Ealing heads made their voices heard including Dame Alice Hudson of comprehensive Twyford on Channel 4 News and Sarah Raffray from private convent school St Augustines on BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire. I wrote to Education Secretary Gavin Willliamson. Ealing sixth former Curtis Parfitt-Ford started mounting a legal challenge based on a lack of transparency for breach of GDPR legislation. Luckily however that this was not necessary.
With worse looming for GCSEs taken by much bigger numbers due a week later the umpteenth u-turn occurred as England came into line with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to trust teacher predictions. Relief all round ensued,
It is right that children’s education resumes. School is the best place for kids – to allow mixing/ socialisation with others and for their mental health. Teachers need supporting rather than constant knocking though difficult times. Reopening schools is not as easy as flicking a switch, One I visited last week is knocking down walls to accommodate social distancing and erecting some new ones to make more offices for teachers.
A government performing so many u-turns has no clear direction so Johnson must get a grip rather than lurch from covid disaster to disaster. As for Gavin Williamson if he wants to make way for someone competent at least he has a future as a Frank Spencer impersonator.
I wish all pupils, parents and teachers the best for September.