Education Reform

The journey through recovery must lead to reform 

education recovery Kevan collins

21 May 2021, 5:00

Covid has created new challenges, but it has also highlighted existing ones. Eventually, we must tackle them all, writes recovery tsar Kevan Colins’ chief adviser

Over the period of the pandemic, schools and teachers have acted with great skill and dedication to ensure pupils continued to access high-quality education. In spite of those efforts, the majority of pupils returned having missed 115 days of school, and emerging evidence indicates a learning gap of some four months in English, slightly more in maths, and greater still for disadvantaged pupils.

The full picture is still developing, and it will take the next 18 months to fully grasp the long-term impacts. As a result, any recovery plan will need to strike a difficult balance on a number of fronts.

For a start, it will need to be both highly focused and highly flexible in response to changing circumstances. To achieve that, and to maximise the contribution of local authorities, MATs and other agencies, the recovery must be school-led and convened in local areas.

Then, the recovery package must balance pupils’ academic progress and their wellbeing needs. One-to-one and small-group tuition is a promising way to deliver that, and the NTP has already done a great job in enrolling 200,000 pupils. But the programme’s expansion over the next few years will be critical, and schools will need far greater flexibility as to the way it is delivered.

But perhaps the toughest balance to strike is between the need for additional time for teaching and learning on one hand and care for teachers’ workloads and professional development on the other.

There is more to be done, but teachers’ time is already stretched

The evidence from education recovery after school closures (for example, after Hurricane Katrina and after Argentina’s year-long teacher strikes in the 1990s) indicates that additional time in school is a necessary factor in any plan’s effectiveness. It is unlikely that recovery could be successful in England without it.

In addition, there is more to be done to develop the workforce, particularly with regard to special educational needs and digital teaching and learning.

But teachers’ time is already stretched. So in the first instance, teachers who agree to additional time on catch-up programmes must be paid for it. Last week’s launch of a wellbeing charter creates an encouraging context for developing policy in the coming years, but an expansion of high-quality professional development will be crucial to support it.

And beyond these tensions, the pandemic has highlighted long-standing weaknesses in our education system, including assessment, accountability, curriculum, support for pupils’ wellbeing and pupil underachievement. So we must look beyond simple recovery and open a sector-wide discussion on reform.

For instance, could tutoring be systematically embedded? Could the flexible, focused and skilled intervention it promises be the resource teacher leaders need to support pupils across year groups, subject areas and wellbeing programmes? Could it solve some workload issues and maximise teachers’ classroom impact?

And what type of assessment model is needed for the next decade? The world of work and the world of learning are now reconfiguring at pace, so what skills, knowledge and aptitudes do our young people need to navigate it? These factors must determine the why, what, when and how of assessment.

What outcomes do we want curriculum to achieve? The sidelining of the national curriculum during the pandemic has led to much discussion about its purpose. It has also created an opportunity to reflect on the bizarre anomaly by which it does not apply to over 40 per cent of our schools and the majority of our pupils.

And what is the best way to hold schools accountable? Lockdowns revealed a wide range of innovative support for schools from parents and communities. Could local accountability be built on to promote that parental support and improve how policy is shared? Accountability should not be down to Ofsted alone. Already, constructive questions are being raised about how we can refocus accountability on improvement, the promotion of system learning and pedagogical excellence.

Recovery is a long-term goal. After all, the pandemic is still with us and we don’t yet know its full impact on education and young people.

But recovery offers a gateway to discuss reform, and that is an opportunity we should take.

Latest education roles from

Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA)

Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA)

Platanos College

Teacher of Boys’ PE

Teacher of Boys’ PE

Platanos College

Head of Girls’ PE

Head of Girls’ PE

Platanos College

Art Teacher

Art Teacher

Platanos College

EA to the CEO & Senior Directors

EA to the CEO & Senior Directors

Haberdashers’ Academies Trust South

Head of Faculty (History and RS)

Head of Faculty (History and RS)

Ark Greenwich Free School

Sponsored posts

Sponsored post

How can we prepare learners for their future in an ever-changing world?

By focusing their curriculums on transferable skills, digital skills, and sustainability, schools and colleges can be confident that learners...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

Inspiring Education Leaders for 10 Years

The 10th Inspiring Leadership Conference is to be held on 13 and 14 June 2024 at the ICC in...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

Inspire creativity in your classroom. Sky Arts’ Access All Arts week is back!

Now in its third year, Access All Arts week is a nationwide celebration of creativity for primary schools (17-21...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

Unleash the Power of Sport in your setting this summer! National School Sports Week is back!

Unleash the Power of Sport this summer with National School Sports Week powered by Monster Kickabout! From 17-23 June,...

SWAdvertorial

More from this theme

Education Reform

Speed read: ASCL’s blueprint to tackle education’s ‘entrenched injustice’

The school leaders’ union wants wide-ranging reforms, warning studies suggest rich-poor attainment gap ‘may never close’.

Tom Belger
Education Reform

Fair funding reforms won’t be fully rolled out for at least 3 years

Government reforms to make school funding fairer will now not be fully implemented for at least another three years....

Freddie Whittaker
Education Reform, ITT

ITT reform ‘hugely risky’ to teacher supply and quality, warns government’s own adviser

Proposed reforms to teacher training could be “hugely risky” to teacher supply and quality, an adviser on the government’s...

Freddie Whittaker

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *