Safeguarding fears over DfE's list of online resources

The Department for Education has today released a list of free online resources to aid pupils’ learning as they work from home during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

However education suppliers have criticised the “lack of tender process” for the list – adding they are not aware of any “checks on resilience, safeguarding, data protection or other security and quality related performance standards”.

The government say the list of websites have been “identified by some of the country’s leading educational experts” and include subject-specific resources for English, Maths and SEND. 

There are also a number of resources focused on improving and maintaining pupils wellbeing, along with science and PE.  

The DfE states the resources “ cannot replace a school’s properly planned curriculum” but “may be useful for parents in considering how they could support their children’s education”.

And it warns “they should not be used in place of existing resources which schools may be using as part of their continued provision for pupils’ education at this time”.

While the DfE caveats the list by explaining it “is not exhaustive and there are many other resources available to schools”, it has been criticised for a lack of transparency and undermining schools existing curriculums. 

Last week upon hearing of the DfE’s plans to roll out the list, the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) wrote a letter to the education secretary Gavin Williamson and schools minister Nick Gibb outlining concerns for the process. 

BESA runs its own home learning resources programme, called LendEd, which features products of members who gone through “rigorous checks”.

BESA director general Caroline Wright, in an email to members seen by Schools Week, explained the organisation “frequently advised the DfE against this course of action” as it could “confuse and worry schools already using trusted and expert curriculum resources who may feel obliged to stop using these resources”.

It also warned identifying only a small number of products could lead “existing school users of these products to experience disruption to their service due to overwhelming demand”.

Wright added the small number of suppliers could struggle to meet additional demand while only recommending “a small number of products will exacerbate existing challenges faced by the education supplier industry in a time of national crisis”.

The director general said the lack of tender process or call to action for individual companies across the sector shows there was “no criteria or guidance on the process followed for selection”.

The DfE list states for each subject area the bodies that have suggested the learning resources.

But Wright added in her email: “There was no tender process or call to action for individual companies across the sector. We are not aware of any checks on resilience, safeguarding, data protection or other security and quality related performance standards.”

BESA did not respond to requests for comment about the email last week.

The DfE list published today does state there are “other resources available”, and links to BESA’s own home learning resources list.

However they add: “These have not been verified by DfE’s educational experts but we have included them on the list because they also cover other areas of the curriculum that are not covered above.”