Coronavirus: Committee of MPs to probe DfE's response to disease

The response of the Department for Education to the coronavirus outbreak and the impact of the disease on schools will be investigated by an influential committee of MPs.

The parliamentary education committee has launched an inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on education and children’s services.

It follows criticism of the government’s support for schools during the pandemic, which heads say has been inadequate and materialised too slowly.

The committee will explore the impact on “all aspects of the education sector and children’s social care system and will scrutinise how the Department for Education is dealing with the situation”.

MPs will also look specifically at the implementation of the critical workers policy, including “how consistently the definition of ‘critical’ work is being applied across the country and how schools are supported to remain open for children of critical workers”.

The effect of cancelling formal exams, including the “fairness of qualifications awarded and pupils’ progression to the next stage of education or employment”, will also be investigated, along with the support for pupils and families during closures, particularly disadvantaged groups.

Robert Halfon, the committee’s chair, said: “The education committee recognises that the closure of schools has been a massive decision with huge implications and would like to put on record its thanks to the education secretary and ministers who are having to make tough decisions in very difficult circumstances.”

Halfon added he would “particularly also like to thank all the education professionals – the staff, the teachers, the ancillary staff – who are doing everything possible to continue to educate our children. We recognise that this is in incredibly worrying time for all”.