Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced earlier this week that all schools in England would close with effect from Friday 20 March. As the country battles coronavirus, the Government clarified that this was the next step in protecting those most at risk. Schools are expected to play a major role in doing this while ensuring children of key workers are supported.
The message from Boris Johnston clearly states that the overriding principle of this measure is to reduce social contact and that we must all play our part in supporting this. In the North East we are slightly behind London in terms of the rate of infections and deaths and if we all work to this guidance we can help protect those living in this region.
However, the announcement that schools would close came with a significant amount of uncertainty and mixed messages from the media. Gavin Williamson and Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised that they would remain staffed for vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers. The official advice clearly states that children will be safest at home and that whenever possible they should be looked after in their home environment thus reducing social contact. For the most vulnerable children, and the children of those key workers where this is not possible, alternative solutions are to be put in place around the region’s schools.
The announcement left a number of questions and uncertainty around how schools are to move forward. The question of who qualified as a ‘key worker’ and whether one or both parents must qualify was only just clarified earlier this morning when the DfE released – Guidance for schools, colleges and local authorities on maintaining educational provision.
Many school leaders have been concerned that smaller, more isolated schools would close due to staffing issues, but in guidance released for parents the DfE confirmed that they will bus vulnerable and key worker pupils to other schools if theirs can’t stay open.
As part of the announcement it was confirmed that exams would not be going ahead in May/June. Clarification on arrangements has just been release by the DfE: Further details on exams and grades announced
Throughout this crisis, Schools North East will continue to support schools and school staff, and encourage everybody to support the Government guidelines on social distancing. We will work to keep you informed and help to answer the questions you have at this difficult time. In place of our physical events we will be offering a programme of webinars to support school staff in all job roles and levels.
Finally, we will be offering support through our online community ConnectEd – a completely free online platform where you can connect with other school staff in the North East, whether school leaders, SBMs, Governors or teachers.
This is a place to share advice and resources, to ask questions and to collaborate. We also have ‘Subject Hubs’ which are areas for teachers to connect and discuss specific topics as they work to support students, either in school or remotely in the coming weeks.
ConnectEd is a place to connect with peers; contribute to discussion; add ideas; support and be supported in your role; share case studies, best practice and information; collaborate; engage in and debate research; and unite schools through networks. If you would like to be a part of this please join ConnectEd.