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Spielman: Not ‘realistic’ to expect schools to provide ‘full’ online teaching

Freddie Whittaker
September 24, 2020

It is not “sensible or realistic” to expect schools to provide a “full on-screen taught programme” for all absent pupils, Amanda Spielman has said.

The chief inspector of schools told academy trust leaders this morning that interim visits due to start next week will look at how schools are “responding intelligently and doing what is within their capacity”, and warned against adopting models “that make life impossible for children or parents or staff in this context”.

The government has said that it expects schools to “immediately offer” access to remote education to pupils who aren’t in school because of self-isolation or partial closures.

During the lockdown between March and July, many schools were criticised for failing to offer live online teaching, despite the fact government guidance stated this was not required.

Speaking to the Trust Leaders online conference this morning, Spielman said there were “lots and lots of things that schools don’t control”.

“One of the things that’s very important for me is to make sure that people’s expectations are realistic. Aspirational, but also realistic.

“When I have seen some people saying in public that every school should be able to provide full on-screen taught programme for all children all the hours they would normally be in school, I have not supported that. I don’t see that as something that is necessarily sensible or realistic at either end.”

Routine Ofsted inspections were halted in March following the announcement of partial school closures. They are not due to resume until January, with interim visits taking place this term.

The watchdog has sought to reassure heads that the visits, which will not result in an official grading, will be lighter-touch and less burdensome than official inspections. But some heads have said the decision to publish letters based on the visits will still create stress.

Earlier today, Spielman acknowledged that “there is almost no school anywhere that hasn’t been significantly disrupted”.

“We know the kinds of difficulties under which schools are operating, and actually getting the whole perspective is much better for setting realistic expectations for everybody of what a system can achieve in imperfect circumstances than trying to slice down what is visible to a narrow window of people who have been able to squeeze out the very most, because that genuinely does set unrealistic expectations for everybody.”

“And that’s part of why it’s really important for me that these autumn visits encompass the full range so that we properly understand the limitations of what’s achievable.”