NEU teaching Covid

New ways of working with technology in teaching developed over the past year and online parents’ evenings should be retained as we emerge from the pandemic, members of the country’s largest education union have said.

The genie is out of the bottle so there is no reason to stick by the dead wood of a bloated curriculum, excessive accountability and oversized classes

Ahead of its annual conference, which launches today, the National Education Union surveyed more than 10,000 of its members, including on which features of their working conditions since March 2020 they would like to see remain in place as the crisis subsides.

The poll revealed that members favour retaining “new ways of working with technology in teaching” (69 per cent) and online parents’ evenings (57 per cent) the most, while 46 per cent want smaller class sizes retained.

Almost half of respondents also said greater public recognition of the needs of disadvantaged pupils over the past year was a benefit, while 37 per cent appreciated “greater levels of communication” with families by telephone and video call.

Most pupils returned to school last month following a second nationwide lockdown of the country’s education system. The government’s focus is now on the need for so-called “education recovery”.

Ministers have pledged £200 million in funding for secondary summer schools, and have said they are considering longer-term proposals, such as lengthening the school day.

NEU members want curriculum ‘flexibility’

More than four in five NEU members said that to help address lost learning, schools needed “flexibility in the curriculum” to decide “what is important for learning and wellbeing”, while around seven in ten said pupils needed opportunities for sport and exercise.

Only one in ten said there should be a “strong focus” on delivering “all of the existing curriculum”, while only two per cent of respondents backed extending school days or term lengths.

The majority of respondents also said they wanted to see government maintain staff workloads at “acceptable levels”, and prioritise addressing the social and emotional wellbeing and mental health impacts of the pandemic on pupils.

NEU teaching covid

Dr Mary Bousted

Dr Mary Bousted, the union’s joint general secretary, said the government should take her members’ views on board if they are “serious about building back better”.

“Education professionals have been on the frontline, either virtual or physical, throughout the last twelve months and it is their insights on what has worked best that should be taken forward,” she said.

“The genie is out of the bottle so there is no reason to stick by the dead wood of a bloated curriculum, excessive accountability and oversized classes.”

The NEU’s virtual conference, beginning today, will consider motions calling for the abolition of Ofsted and league tables, the scrapping of GCSEs and a ballot for a boycott of statutory primary tests next year, and for better pay for school staff.