Spielman: People are 'perhaps more frightened than they actually need to be' about school returns

Ofsted’s chief inspector has  claimed people are “more frightened than they actually need to be” about a full return to school.

Amanda Spielman voiced her concerns while appearing before the Public Select Committee (PAC) earlier today to discuss ‘lessons from coronavirus’. 

She said the announcement schools would not be welcoming back all pupils until September at the earliest was “terrifically disappointing”.

“It’s really saddened me, perhaps that so many people have become perhaps more frightened than they actually need to be and that so many people have perhaps been looking at this from the point of view of what of they can’t do, rather than what they can”, she said. 

“I would love to see more people in local areas really stepping up and saying ‘I could make this happen’ and getting as much on the road as possible this side of the summer and real ambition for what happens in the autumn.”

“We have to accept that gaps are widening in a way we simply can’t tackle with online-only education”, she said.  

She added: “Given that some children’s education is likely to be disrupted by their own or their parents shielding for longer than that,  [there needs to be] real clarity about what it is children who aren’t physically in schools should be expecting to get.”

The demand for clarity comes as the government faces increasing pressure for its lack of planning over school closures. The government dropped its “ambition” to get all primary pupils back to school before summer this week.

Meg Hillier, chair of the public accounts committee, accusing education secretary Gavin Williamson of being “asleep on the job” after he failed to explain plans for how poorer pupils not in schools will catch up. 

Former education secretary Justine Greening has said it’s “untenable to still have no government plan to get schools reopened… It’s absolutely crucial that ministers now pull their finger out and bring forward a plan.”

Meanwhile Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the government’s current back-to-school plans “lie in tatters. Parents have lost confidence in the government’s approach, millions of children will miss six months of children, and inequality will now go up.

“It’s time he [prime minister Boris Johnson] took responsibility for his own failures this mess was completely avoidable.

Elsewhere, Spielman said the focus on healthcare has made it “very easy to defer the interests of children”. 

“Yet there is a really big and serious issue here that I would very much like people to be bringing to the forefront of their minds because children’s lives have been disrupted a lot for a long time already.”