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.”

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  1. Raquel Roberts

    This article would benefit more from further clarity and examples of the “myths” are being referred to in terms of causing parental anxiety to the point of deregistering children…?

  2. I think perhaps before concluding that children have had a reduction in exercise and learning she should educate herself and gather information before making that assumption. I know lots of people who have been far more active during this pandemic and our children have certainly done and achieved far more than they would have at school!

  3. There is no fake news about the first outbreak in my youngest’s school or the second outbreak in my eldest child’s school, a girl she sat in the same English class with over 3 days before she tested positive. Hard fact. I have the Dojos and emails to prove it. Well over 50 schools in Notts have multiple cases- again not fake news, fact. Aerosol transmission – as advised by the CMO as a major route of disease transmission. Fact. Children are being infected in classrooms with no social distancing and poor ventilation. Fact. Stop with the gaslighting you are not fooling anyone. Families have vulnerable adults and children and if they chose to homeschool because the government is choosing not to protect them then they should be commended and supported not pilloried . What a dreadful woman.

  4. This is just so false it’s unbelievable. I do not think parents are listening to fake news / buying into myths. They are just trying to keep their families safe. It’s a global pandemic of a new virus we are still learning about. So …

    The rates are going up – supported by data
    Hospital rates are creeping up – supported by data
    Deaths are creeping up – supported by data The rates in schools are going up – supported by data
    The outbreaks in schools (so where there’s more than one case) are going up and in some cases there is now evidence of in school transmission – supported by data
    Children as well as adults can get long Covid – supported by data
    Children can get Covid and even if mild they CAN transmit it – supported by data

    Other countries have put in better safety measures than U.K. and also given parents a choice about how their children learn in this current situation – they can choose face to face, remote learning or both and in Italy, for example, if you have vulnerable family members in household then child can learn remotely.

    We have some of the most cramped classes in Europe with the biggest class sizes. The government has not invested in safety measures in schools so despite the constant reminder everywhere for social distancing this doesn’t happen in schools. Even though research shows a child of 10+ can transmit in same way as adult. Parents haven’t been given any choice … no flexibility … and it’s a one size fits all regardless of risks to child and members of the household.

    Given this why wouldn’t some parents choose to home educate? Sounds like these parents might actually have bothered to look at the data.

    I do not want schools closed per se before I get a backlash of hate comments. But I do think schools could be made safer and more sustainable. If a business place was using same measures as a school it could be reported to the health & safety executive just br virtue of the fact there’s no social distancing.