Coronavirus: DfE admits home-learners may suffer once some pupils return to school

Reopening primary schools to more pupils means the quality of home education offered to those who aren’t allowed back in yet is likely to suffer, the government has admitted.

New guidance on reopening schools, published tonight, states many schools have been able to offer “high-quality remote education opportunities or programmes over recent weeks”.

The government wants primary schools to open to pupils in reception, year 1 and year 6 from June 1, meaning more staff will be needed to provide face-to-face teaching.

According to the guidance, this means that it “may be more difficult to maintain the same level of remote education provision for pupils in the year groups who are not eligible to attend, or for those pupils in year groups who are eligible to attend but who themselves cannot.”

The government has also advised schools in this situation to consider using the online classes provided by the Oak National Academy or other platforms to provide additional support.

They also suggested looking at how learning delivered in school, “if manageable, could be made available to pupils learning remotely”.

The government had previously said it wanted schools to “use their best endeavours” to ensure pupils who don’t return before the summer are still able to access online learning.

The NAHT union has said this presents “very clear and obvious challenges”, adding the impact additional children has on the school’s ability to support home learning should be a “key consideration”.

A poll by Teacher Tapp, from earlier in lockdown at the end of March, found nearly half of primary teachers had set work for their pupils via an online learning platform. The second most popular method to set work in primary was via physical workbooks or worksheets.

The NAHT has advised leaders to be “very mindful of the feasibility and workload implications for staff when it comes to balancing school and home provision”.

They suggest using a “light-touch approach” to home activities for pupils in the attending year groups.

The government’s expectations are less likely to cause a headache for secondary schools and colleges, which have been told to offer year 10 and 12s some “face to face” support from next month.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has explained all children in those year group should have the opportunity to go into school to speak with their teachers so they can assess what learning and support they need over the following weeks.

For the other returning pupils, guidance states leaders are “best placed to make decisions about how to support and educate their pupils during this period”. It adds: “No school will be penalised if they are unable to offer a broad and balanced curriculum to their pupils during this period.”