Williamson repeats ‘unhelpful myth’ live lessons claim, and 4 more edu Qs findings

Covid mobile phone Williamson behaviour bubbles isolation

Gavin Williamson and his ministers faced questions in Parliament about the government’s response to Covid-19, including issues relating to live lessons, free school meals and mass testing.

Here’s what we learned.


1. Williamson repeats live learning claim branded ‘unhelpful myth’ by Ofsted

Ministers were asked several questions about the provision of live teaching by schools for pupils learning at home.

Williamson said the government wanted to to encourage “as much live teaching as possible”, claiming it has been “shown to be the best way in terms of delivering teaching”.

This conflicts with Ofsted guidance published just last week which described the claim that live lessons were always the “best way” to deliver remote education as one of several “unhelpful myths” on the issue.

live lessons
Ofsted’s guidance

Williamson did add that “there’s a whole spectrum of resources that can be offered and it’s really important to work with schools, parents supporting those schools to make sure we get the best solutions for all of our children.”

Williamson also said he had been “clear” that parents should only complain to Ofsted about remote education as a “last resort” after having raised the issue with schools.


2. DfE has requested updated advice on testing

The government was heavily criticised last week for its mass testing programme in schools, after it emerged the use of rapid tests to keep pupils who had been in close contact with Covid cases in the classroom had not been authorised by the regulator.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is also advising that close contacts of positive Covid cases continue to follow government guidance and self-isolate.

Ford said today that the DfE had asked PHE and NHS Test and Trace to provide “rapid updated public health advice on daily contact Covid testing in schools”.

“This is in the context of the current prevalence of the virus and in the high transmission rates,” she added.

Ford said the department, Test and Trace and PHE “encourage the weekly testing of all staff, although this remains a voluntary matter for individual staff members and as I said early years staff will be prioritised through the community testing”.


3. Over 15k national FSM vouchers distributed

Ministers were questioned about free school meals provision following a fierce backlash last week after images of pitiful food parcels distributed by school catering firms were shared on social media.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said the food parcels seen last week were an “absolute scandal”, but one that was “entirely in line with the government’s own guidance”, and criticised the fact it took until the third week of term to relaunch the national free school meals voucher scheme.

Williamson said the food parcels “didn’t meet the expectations or the guidance that we have set out”, describing the examples shared as “unacceptable”.

He added that over 15,000 vouchers had already been dispatched through the national scheme. The DfE later said that more than 4,600 orders had been placed as of 1.15pm on Monday, but that some orders contained more than one code.


4. Only 7 food parcel complaints – so far

The government announced last Wednesday that parents with complaints about food parcels could contact the DfE’s helpline, but only after first trying to resolve the issue with their child’s school.

Children’s minister Vicky Ford said today that there had been very few complaints in the first three days, but as one school food campaigner pointed out, this is in the context of a change of approach by some firms.

“There are around 1.4 million children on free school meals,” said Ford. “By the end of last week, we had received a total of seven calls in relation to unacceptable lunch parcels. Each has been fully investigated. We expect high-quality lunch parcels for our children.”


5. Still no new exceptional costs funding

Ministers have been pressed several times since further partial school closures were announced to reopen their exceptional costs fund for settings to claim back money spend on responding to Covid-19.

Gibb said today that £102 million of funding for exceptional costs incurred by schools in the first lockdown had been distrubuted through the original fund, and pointed to the DfE’s Covid workforce fund, which covered the period from November to December last year, and £1 billion in catch-up funding.

However, when pressed on how schools should respond to costs that they could not claim through existing funding pots, Gibb pointed to the government’s existing three-year funding settlement.

“If there are schools that are genuinely in financial difficulties, they should talk to the local authority if they are a maintained school and to the Education and Skills Funding Agency if they are an academy.”

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  1. Mrs Natalie Holmes

    Hpmelearning is the worst going all Children should be BACK at school and we should be in NATIONAL LOCKDOWN…
    My child isn’t learning and doesn’t want to learn as school is different to home and he is more relaxed and chilled at home
    As for Gavin Williamson YES PLEASE get rid there have been so many mistakes on his side that as a parent I don’t know what I am doing from one day to the next what is right and what is wrong. what am allowed to do and what I’m not and my son is confused too.
    The school hasn’t a clue they say they are awaiting news /pupil premium.
    if the school hasn’t a clue then how do you expect the parents and children to know. Plus the only way the children are going to have some other form of communication with others is at school these children are missing out big time…

  2. Alison G

    Covid/ missing friends/ fear of getting ill, non of these are causing stress/distress in our family what is causing massive stress and impacting everyone’s mental health is the imposition of techno learning.
    NOBODY has asked the children/parents/carers what they would find the most helpful ways of doing home learning are.
    During 1st lockdown we were given a home learning pack ( yes actual paper/ worksheets and a folder to keep the work in, when it was done those who could and felt able to could “upload/ download or any other load it to the school via electronic means.
    Those who couldn’t simply sent the completed folder back in, all done, straight forward and understandable for all.

    This time, we have been bombarded by instructions/ expectations and ASSUMPTIONS to access 7 different things for the secondary school child teams/360/zoom/liveteach etc etc, it goes on and on, plus some internal school systems for e mails.
    Then 4 different things for the primary school child, and now they’ve decided to change all that and add google classroom. I despair.

    My home isn’t a technology utopia, we aren’t set up as a home office ( nor do we want to be) we don’t have great internet access/ unlimited data/ printers ink and photocopier and we don’t have multiple laptops for everyone to be using.

    For 1 lesson last week it required, my phone, my husbands phone our laptop and a complete Re figure of the dining room so child could see all 3 screen and teacher could see child.
    Whilst this was all going on child 2 who was supposed to be in his virtual classroom couldn’t be as all available devices were in use!!
    Best of it is connection was lost half way through lesson, this was all after I’d worked a 12 hour night shift as a nurse.

    PLEASE do not even mention school and keyworker places- we couldn’t get them as they were all taken by the plethora of apparently essential key workers who work in sweet shops and garden centres.

  3. Andrew Hartley

    My child loves online learning and doesn’t want to go back to school. Agreed many teachers are still learning how to teach online and the idea of mirroring the school timetable online demonstrates a total lack of understanding of how the process should be used but the benefits far outweigh the limitations. Far too much time in school is wasted by travel to and from school, by moving from class to class and by poor behaviour from a minority. A one hour lesson can quickly degenerate into 40 minutes or less of focused learning. The same can happen online due to teacher inexperience. Teachers taking 15 minutes to register students online when they should be using tech to register automatically. If teachers provided their full curriculum online so students could self study and included interactive tasks and gaming in the mix then the online lesson would become a drop in clinic allowing teachers to fill in gaps in knowledge and understanding rather than herding 25+ kids along at the same pace. It will take time but teachers can get there. It works well and engages students of all ability levels. I know because it is the way my classroom functioned towards the end of my 32 years of teaching. Parents of course need to be proactive in supporting and motivating their children as the kids often mirror parents attitudes and use this as an excuse not to engage.