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Head Lines
Wednesday, 22nd April 2020
An early morning summary of news for education professionals within the UK




Less than 1% of children attending school during lockdown

According to figures from the Department for Education, less than 1% of children have attended school every day during the COVID-19 lockdown, despite initial estimations that the figure would be up to 20%. Last Friday, the figure stood at 0.9%, down from 3.7% at the beginning of the lockdown. Some have speculated that this could be due to children of key workers refusing to go to school while their friends stay home. Rob Campbell, of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "If I am a 13-year-old boy and have been told I have to go to school and all my mates are playing whatever online game, I would want to be doing that too”. He added that children may find it more stimulating to learn at home as online resources improve and schools provide mainly childcare to children of key workers and vulnerable children, rather than traditional education. Kevin Courtney, of the National Education Union, said: We think it's clear that some parents aren't sending their children to school because they think it is unsafe. The figure has also highlighted concerns over the attendance of vulnerable children, as only 5% of those classed as vulnerable attended schools in England on Friday. This has driven calls for more support for vulnerable children and families. Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Layla Moran said: "Government has a responsibility to keep kids safe, and we just don't know if they are."

The Daily Telegraph, Page: 8 The Times, Page: 10 The Guardian, Page: 10 Daily Mail, Page: 14 The Sun, Page: 2


ASCL calls for older pupils to return to schools first

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has called for older pupils to be among the first to return to schools as they begin reopening gradually. The union argues that pupils halfway through their two-year GCSE and A-level courses, along with those about to move to secondary school, have the most to gain from returning to education. This comes as former Ofsted head, Sir Michael Wilshaw, warned that some students preparing for exams may have to repeat the entire year. Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the ASCL, said that the June half-term is the earliest that schools could realistically reopen, adding that this would need to be done in phases and with social distancing in place. Meanwhile, other teaching unions have expressed concerns that schools may reopen too quickly to be safe. Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the school leaders' union NAHT, said: "Schools should only reopen when the scientific evidence is clear that it is safe to do so. Safe for pupils, safe for staff, safe for parents."

The Guardian, Page: 10


Scotland's schools ‘will not reopen before summer’

Scottish Education Minister and Deputy First Minister John Swinney has said schools in the country will remain closed until "at least" the start of the summer holidays, arguing that the Scottish Government "can't afford" to risk reopening them. The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) has said even an August deadline was an "ambition", with it looking increasingly likely that students will have been away from school for at least five months by the time they return.

The Daily Telegraph The Press and Journal, Page: 4 The Scotsman, Page: 7


Think tank director: Teachers should “show courage” and return to schools

In the Telegraph, director of the Freedom, Democracy and Victimhood Project at think tank Civitas, Joanna Williams, writes that teachers should “show some courage” and return to schools, arguing that one UCL study suggests school closures have little impact on the spread of COVID-19. She writes: “Asking teachers to stand before a class of children is in no way comparable to demanding nurses tend to patients in an intensive care unit. But the time is now right for teachers to show courage and re-enter the classroom.”

The Daily Telegraph


LSE Prof: return to schools is a “matter of debate”

In a letter to The Times, Paul Dolan, professor of behavioural science at LSE, responds to a comment made by Paul Whiteman, of the National Association of Head Teachers, that "a return to school is not a matter for debate - it is a question of science". Professor Dolan argues that how the mortality risks of the virus are weighed is “entirely a matter of debate”. He argues: “The judgment about whose welfare should be given priority in policy decisions is exactly that, a judgment, and cannot be settled by the evidence on virus transmission.”

The Times, Page: 28


Natasha Devon urges teens to find positives in lockdown

Former government children’s mental health tsar, Natasha Devon, encourages teenagers to find the silver linings amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and suggests that it could lead to positive systematic changes. She says: "What I'm hearing from teachers is that because they have had to step in and give students grades based on their performance throughout the academic year, and a lot of them think that is a fairer way of doing things, it might make policymakers rethink the emphasis on exams.”

The I, Page: 33





GCSEs ‘should be abandoned’ – English teacher

The Telegraph features a column by teacher Mark Dutton, arguing for GCSE exams to be done away with permanently. It is argued that this year’s cancellation of the exams as a result of coronavirus will make little difference to students, and that “there is no evidence to suggest that the national exams at age 16 increases students’ motivation; on the contrary, focus on exams decreases the kind of motivation that actually pushes students to gain more knowledge and skills.” Mr Dutton concludes that “students from many countries that do not examine nationally at 16 show considerably higher degrees of skills and knowledge than students in the UK.”

The Daily Telegraph





SEND school closes amid pandemic

Special needs school Frederick Hugh House, in Kensington, London, has been permanently closed as a result of financial difficulties amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter to staff, Anne Marie Carrie, chair of trustees, wrote: "Due to the financial hardship incurred by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no other viable option available to the charitable trust other than initiate the immediate permanent closure of the school and seek voluntary insolvency. The board is therefore serving notice to terminate your employment with immediate effect”.

The Guardian, Page: 34





Reprimand for teacher who amended coursework

Steven Knox, the former head of English at St Machar Academy in Aberdeen, has been reprimanded by the General Teaching Council for Scotland for using Google Classroom to make “excessive amendments” to pupils’ coursework, which resulted in them failing their National 5 English exams. Mr Knox has been issued with a year-long reprimand for his misconduct, and he now works at Kemnay Academy.

The Press and Journal, Page: 19





A look at how teachers and parents are coping with home learning

In the Guardian, Mattha Busby looks at how parents and teachers are coping with teaching children at home during the COVID-19 lockdown. Secondary school English teacher Rosie Bircham, from Aberdeenshire, says that while younger students are more eager to learn, inspiring older pupils is her biggest challenge. She said: "Remote teaching is going great," adding: "Google Classroom allows you to look at their work as they go, as if you are looking over their shoulder in the classroom.”

The Guardian, Page: 11





Legal action to be taken against Williamson over access to education

The Good Law Project is expected to begin taking legal action against Education Secretary Gavin Williamson over claims that he failed to ensure that disadvantaged children have adequate access to education during the COVID-19 lockdown. A Department for Education spokesperson said: "The education secretary has been clear we will do everything possible to make sure no child, whatever their background, falls behind as a result of coronavirus."

The Independent, Page: 24





Parents dropping off children causing spike in pollution

According to a study by the University of Surrey, parents driving their children to school causes pollution levels in the surrounding area to treble, with levels of toxic particles in classrooms also rising. Researchers monitored pollution levels at St Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Primary School, in Guildford, and found that the levels of pollution around the school was three times higher while parents dropped off their children in vehicles than in the off-peak period. Classrooms also saw elevated levels of particles during drop-off and pick-up times."

The Times, Page: 14


Lockdown increasing danger to vulnerable children

The Times looks at how the COVID-19 lockdown is putting additional pressure on vulnerable children, with a rise in the number of children being removed from their homes under police protection orders. Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield said: "Vulnerable children are not likely to succumb to the virus but there is a huge secondary risk for them being locked up at home." Meanwhile, in a letter to The Telegraph, the Unicef UK Youth Advisory Board calls on the Government to “offer guidance on immediate plans” for the needs of young people who are in danger of being “forgotten” during the lockdown.

The Times, Page: 27 The Daily Telegraph, Page: 17


Headteachers urge government to fix UK free school meals website

The FT reports that headteachers are becomingly increasingly frustrated over the Government’s free school meal voucher scheme, which has been affected by IT glitches and other delays.

Financial Times, Page: 2





Oxford furloughs staff amid crisis

Oxford University has announced plans to furlough hundreds of academics and to freeze recruitment for a year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these measures, the university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, will maintain her £452,000 salary.

Daily Mail, Page: 14


Coronavirus: universities face a harsh lesson

The Financial Times considers whether the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to a broader upheaval, restructuring or even closures of universities across the world.

Financial Times, Page: 19




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