Covid-19 virus and the education sector
At the time of writing, schools, colleges, and universities in the UK have been advised by the UK Government to stay open, whilst they close across much of Europe. Nevertheless, many UK schools have reported that they are preparing for extended closures in the future, following reports that closures, when they do come, could last as long as 16 weeks.
It’s highly likely that if schools close, teachers will actually have more time to dedicate to emails as they search for the learning at home tools and edtech they need to continue delivering lessons and revision practice papers ahead of the upcoming exam season. TES however, has warned that an estimated 40% of schools don’t have the infrastructure to deal with mass closures. Teachers have also raised concerns regarding students with limited or no access to technology at home. Therefore, teachers and students are faced with the possibility of cancelled exams.
With news on Coronavirus changing all the time, TES has created a live Coronavirus and schools news feed collating all the latest stories, news, and announcements relating to Covid-19 and its impact on the education sector.
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The end of funding for 5,000 qualifications
A long list of over 5,000 qualifications that have been identified as having low and no enrolments will lose funding as part of an overhaul of post-16 qualifications at level 3 and below. The Government announcement is intended to streamline the offer in a bid to make qualifications easier to navigate and understand. Concerns regarding the inclusion of popular AGQ qualifications, niche qualifications that serve specific needs, and qualifications that serve those with special educational needs have been raised by the Sixth Form Colleges Association and the Federation of Awarding Bodies. Access the full list of qualifications in question here.
Primary Schools hold holiday revision classes for SATs
The news that some Primary Schools in England held revision classes for pupils to prepare for SATs tests during half-term, and had (pre-Covid-19) been planning to hold them during the Easter holidays too, has been condemned by the Department for Education and major teaching unions.
Teaching unions have pointed out that KS1 SATs are not reported to the Government and are only used to help teachers assess standards. In contrast, KS2 SATs are reported to the Government and feed into Primary School league tables. The Government has said they are working towards scrapping KS1 SATs, and they aim to do this by 2023. Read the handy TES guide to all things Primary School.
A campaign aiming to challenge the status quo of school accountability was launched at the Headteachers’ Roundtable annual conference in February. The Headteachers’ Roundtable is appealing to practising teachers who also work for Ofsted to stop as they believe that Ofsted inspections, overall, do more harm than good. 70% of Ofsted inspectors are current teachers and Stephen Tierney, the Chair of the Headteachers’ Roundtable, launched the campaign in a Schools Week op-ed.
Renewables hardly feature in Government’s building programme
The Government’s £4.3bn Priority School Building Programme, created in 2014 to rebuild or refurbish schools most in need of urgent repair, has been the subject of criticism in an article by the Guardian. The article has highlighted the fact that only a handful of the 500 schools involved in the programme have included green energy innovations including solar panels and heat pumps.
As the programme is managed by the Department for Education, who recommended designs and contractors, schools are finding they have little input into the design and build, and some schools involved in the programme have raised their disappointment that energy efficiency hasn’t been a top priority.
Youth-led climate crisis campaign demand education reform
Teach the Future, formed in autumn 2019, took over Parliament’s Terrace Pavilion to host a reception for MPs at the start of March. The reception was to persuade MPs to back their campaign which aims to put the climate emergency and ecological crisis at the heart of the entire education system. The youth-led group, which is run with the UK Student Climate Network and SOS-UK, already has the backing of major education unions and environmental organisations and hope the reception will secure the support of several MPs to kick start their campaign. Read more about their aims here.
Strikes affecting university students
Both academic and support staff at 74 universities across the UK began 14 days of strike action on 20 February over changes to pensions, insecure contracts, equality, low pay, and the casualisation of work. Although the strike action was expected to affect roughly 1.2 million students, many joined the action in support of staff. However, many students have also been campaigning for compensation from universities for lost lectures and tutorials.
Access to education
A photo of a student at Hull university went viral in February. The photo of Sarah-Marie Da Silva, taken by her lecturer, showed the student sitting at the back of the lecture theatre at the top of the stairs and unable to access desk space or see the lecture screen.
“I’m in the disabled community, I watch and play wheelchair basketball matches at the weekend and feel empowered, then I go to university and feel so incredibly small. I have no power or strength there, they strip me of it.”
Sarah-Marie Da Silva
The photo highlighted the widespread access issues facing disabled students, even in relatively new education buildings.