NGA is working on several issues raised by our members – school governors and trustees – in response to the partial closure of schools and the move to remote education. NGA is sharing these concerns with ministers and civil servants in the Department for Education and working with other education organisations to bring about solutions that will improve the education and welfare of pupils.
The primary concerns we are hearing from our members are:
- The higher number of children in school (compared to the first lockdown) due to the list of eligible children being expanded, particularly the broad definition of critical worker and the requirement for only one parent to be a critical worker, and more families taking up their places. Hear our chief executive Emma Knights talk about this on BBC Radio 4 World at One (from 15.19).
- That teachers, school and childcare staff should be prioritised for a COVID-19 vaccination. NGA, alongside other education organisations, is calling on the government to prioritise this – you can add your support by signing the petition on the Parliament Petitions website.
- The lack of provision of devices and internet connection for some children at home, and frustrations in obtaining these for disadvantaged children and the need to ensure a good quality of remote education.
- The different circumstances being faced by different provisions in particular nurseries remaining open and special schools having all pupils eligible to attend as those with EHCPs are on the eligibility list.
- The need for clarity on ‘teacher’ assessed grades and plans for summer 2021 qualifications.
- Staffing levels to enable both teaching to pupils in school and those learning remotely, as well as staff who are isolating or unwell with COVID-19.
- Around the expectation of, setting up of and viability of staffing mass lateral flow testing.
- The general lateness of government initiatives, U-turns and reluctance to work productively with the education sector.
Commenting on the higher number of children in schools compared to the first lockdown, NGA’s chief executive Emma Knights said on BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme (8 January):
“The real problem is we have got two different national narratives running here and it is incredibly confusing. We have the Prime Minister saying to us ‘this is so serious because of the new variant, we are in a national lockdown, please stay at home’ and then we have the Department for Education saying to schools ‘you can take as many children as are entitled to these places’.”