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Former Ofsted head claims teachers will volunteer free time to help children catch up

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Appearing on BBC Newsnight yesterday, Sir Wilshaw said that it would take more than summer school programmes to help children get back up to speed this year.

Schools, colleges and nurseries in the UK shut to the majority of pupils on March 23 as the country entered a state of lockdown in response to Covid-19.

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Sir Michael Wilshaw, former head of Ofsted, on BBC Newsnight yesterday. (Image: BBC / Twitter)

On June 1, the government said that primary schools should begin taking back children in nursery, reception, and years one and six.

From yesterday, schools were reopened even further. Secondary schools, sixth form, and further education colleges were allowed to begin giving face-to-face support to pupils in years 10 and 12 – but only as a supplement to remote education.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously said that the aim was to get all primary school children in England back to school a month before the summer holidays.

But last week, education secretary Gavin Williamson admitted that this would probably not be possible.

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Sir Wilshaw said some teachers may voluntarily dedicate extra time to help kids catch up. (Image: Peter Cade / Getty)

Asked on BBC Newsnight whether he thought kids would be able to “catch up” following this extended period of interruption to their education, Sir Wilshaw said: “I doubt it.”

He continued: “They’ve lost 12 weeks. They’ll lose even more, because not all examination candidates … will be going back in September so there will be more time lost.

“It’ll need more than a summer school programme to make up the lost ground. I would imagine good schools will be saying to the staff ‘we want you to come in on the weekend, we want you to do twilight programmes, we want you to come in over half term breaks as well.

“The unions might count against that, but I think a lot of teachers who will want to do well by their children will do that voluntarily.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson looks to reopen schools by September

gavin williamson

Education secretary Gavin Williamson admitted not all kids would be back in school before the summer holidays. (Image: Peter Summers / Getty)

“And the government, if there is money, should be incentivising the school budgets to help … pay them in those times.”

Wilshaw’s suggestion that teachers might be willing to voluntarily give up more of their time to commit to students was met with consternation by some viewers.

On Twitter, one response to the comments read: “To say that heads and teachers he knows are queuing up to run voluntary summer schools is deluded. Unless of course we want schools to close come September due to burnout and walkout!”

Last week, ahead of education secretary Gavin Williamson’s statement, the national teachers’ union NASUWT released statement claiming it was “abundantly clear” that the government’s goals to reopen schools more widely was “unworkable”.

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school walk

On June 1, the government said that primary schools could open to kids in nursery, reception, and years one and six. (Image: Betsie Van Der Meer / Getty)

The statement, written by NASUWT General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach, also expressed concerns about hygiene standards in classrooms.

It read: “The overwhelming majority of teachers remain extremely worried that with schools opening to more children whilst safe social distancing and PPE continue to be major concerns, wider school reopening is simply not safe.

“In the absence of definitive guidance from the Government, many schools have struggled to understand what they need to do in order to meet appropriate health and safety standards when they do open.”

However, current Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman said last week in a House of Lords Public Services Committee meeting that she was “disappointed” by the government’s admission that not all children will be able to return to school before the summer is over.

She described schools as “crucial gateways for identifying vulnerability” in children, and added: “So many people have been looking at this from the point of view of what they can’t do, rather than what they can.”

Meanwhile, the Guardian has reported that four in 10 pupils in England are not in regular contact with their teachers during lockdown.



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