Spielman: Better DfE advice needed to thwart Covid 'fake news' fuelling home education rise

Ofsted’s chief inspector wants a “simplification of government advice” on covid to help schools deal with “fake news” that is driving a home education rise.

The schools watchdog today released an initial report based on the findings of 121 pilot “visits” to schools across England last month. (See our speed read of the key findings here).

Ofsted found that while schools are working hard to help children catch-up following lockdown closures, the spread of misinformation and ‘fake news’ was causing “frustrations” among leaders.

They also found more than a third of schools visited had seen a rise in pupils being home-educated because of parental anxiety over the pandemic.

“Successfully rebutting these myths, which spread so easily, is hard,” Spielman said. “Like Japanese knotweed, myths have persistent roots – so a consolidation and simplification of government advice for schools would help bring clarity for teachers and parents alike as we head towards the winter.”

On the home education rise, Spielman added while some parents will have made a “positive choice, after enjoying their summer experience at home, many leaders believed parents were concerned about the safety of their children. We will watch this trend as our visits continue over the autumn.”

Ofsted’s report also found leaders said they had struggled to keep up with guidance from the government.

Schools Week analysis previously revealed school leaders received almost 100 updates from the government between mid-February and the start of June.

Elsewhere, remote learning created challenges “characterised as problems of access” to resources such as technology, broadband or space in the home.

Despite this – the government last week announced a new legal duty for schools to provide immediate remote education for pupils from October 22.

Another common issue seemed to be motivating children at home, as Spielman says, “to turn off the Xbox and pick up the textbook”.

While Spielman praised schools who are planning to have a full curriculum back in place by the summer term, she warned “we must not forget the physical toll on children of being largely inactive for a long time”.

“A decline in physical health among pupils was highlighted by many schools, and returning to PE is an important aspect of the return to school.”