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Extra Government funding for schools will not reverse budget cuts made over the last 10 years, the National Education Union (NEU) has said.
The Government has announced the detail of the second of a three-year funding settlement for schools. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the increase will still leave schools with less in real terms than they had a decade ago.
Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Even the claim that every child will see a funding rise is not true when you take account of inflation; we estimate a third of pupils will see funding in their school fall. A million children are in classes of over 30 and we have the biggest primary classes in Europe, the highest in this country for over 15 years. Class sizes will continue to rise and school buildings will continue to crumble until the Government takes decisive action.”
The National Education Union has criticised the Government for failing to support children’s remote learning with access to IT and other equipment. Responding to a report by the National Foundation for Educational Research into differences in the cost of lost learning during the Covid-19 pandemic, Kevin Courtney, NEU Joint General Secretary said: “Heads and teachers are all too aware of the disparity in home learning and the lack of engagement that remote learning can foster. For some families this is exacerbated by the impact of poverty and unsuitable home environments such as lack of space and IT equipment. The Government’s effort to meet IT need has been sluggish and inconsistent.
“The NEU has spoken up for disadvantaged children throughout this crisis. According to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), there will be 200,000 more children living in poverty by Christmas, and the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers was prevalent before Covid-19. It is now time for the Government to ensure no child is left behind, by ending the scourge of child poverty.
“Keeping a broad and balanced curriculum will be essential from September. It is proven to be the case that a wide range of experiences at school is key to motivating and engaging disadvantaged pupils. We must build back better for the sake of all young people.”
A charity representing parents and carers is calling for the Government to scrap fines for families choosing not to send their children back to school next term. A survey by Parentkind found three-quarters believe they should have the right to decide as a parent whether their child attends school in the autumn.
More than a quarter of respondents said they did not yet know if they would send their children back to school at the start of the academic year in September. And 70% of parents and carers said they thought the Government had handled children’s education during the pandemic “not at all well” or “not very well”.
CEO of Parentkind, John Jolly, said: “It’s clear from our results that more work needs to be done by Government and schools to reassure parents and carers that it is safe for children to return to school.”
A charity is calling for the Government to provide a permanent school breakfast programme, after a survey revealed more than half of teachers fear a rise in hunger among children returning to school in September.
The Magic Breakfast charity’s YouGov poll highlights the impact of hunger on children’s learning during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in schools with high levels of disadvantage. It found that 64% of teachers surveyed think hunger will harm efforts to support children’s learning upon their return to the classroom. This rises to 79% of teachers in schools with above average levels of disadvantage.
Teachers said they overwhelmingly want firm action taken to ensure children at risk of hunger have access to a free school breakfast. Now, Magic Breakfast’s CEO, Alex Cunningham, has written to Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, calling for a change in the law to guarantee sustained support for schools with high levels of disadvantage to provide free school breakfasts to children at risk of hunger.
The campaign has won backing from Conservative MP Robert Halfon, who chairs the Education Select Committee, among others.
The House of Commons Education Committee report, ‘Getting the grades they’ve earned’, examines the fairness, transparency and accessibility of this year’s exam arrangements.
Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the NEU, said: “GCSE and A level qualifications are over reliant on exams. If these cannot be taken, because of a pandemic, then exam boards need to use other evidence on which to base pupils’ grades. Any sensible qualification system would draw from a range of evidence, including teacher assessment and extended pupil projects. If this had been in place this year, there would be less concern on the part of the Education Select Committee, and parents and pupils, about the awarding of grades this year.”
Commenting, Nansi Ellis, Assistant General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The NEU is seriously concerned about the minimal suggestions made in Ofqual’s proposals for exams in summer 2021. In the majority of subjects the expectation that the full specification can be covered by next summer, after many months of lost teaching time, still remains.
“This expectation is unrealistic – delaying exams by 2 or 3 weeks next summer can’t make up for the months already lost, never mind any further potential time that may be lost due to subsequent waves of the virus or local spikes and lockdowns. The Department for Education and Ofqual need to go further with changes to exam content otherwise they risk driving inequality in the system and undermining the results awarded next summer.”
The charity Parentkind is asking parents and carers to tell them their experiences of supporting their child’s schooling over the last few months and the plans for schools reopening.
The more responses received, the louder parents’ voices will be heard.
General Secretary Kevin Courtney said: “We all want to see a full return for all pupils from September, but this must be safe, well-planned and in pupils’ short-term and long-term interests.
“We are concerned that the Government does not have a plan B if these guidelines do not work or if cases are higher by the time we get to September.”
The National Education Union has responded to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s announcement that parents and carers will face fines if their children miss school in September. It comes after the Government said it expected all pupils to return after the summer.
The union says the Government must support head teachers to ensure parents have maximum confidence in whatever the safe return in September looks like, including what would happen in the case of regional or national spikes in Covid-19 cases.
NEU Joint General Secretary, Kevin Courtney, said: “Schools will be working with parents and carers to ensure information about the wider reopening of schools in September is clearly conveyed. Working with families in a constructive and supportive way, using scientific information to address concerns, is a far better route than fining parents. This can often alienate the very individuals schools most need to reach out to and would always be a last resort.”
On 25 June, this year’s RSE Day will celebrate the role everyone has in Relationships and Sex Education. As part of this, a series of ideas for parents and carers has been published, to support families learning about positive relationships. The ideas in the packs have been carefully selected to be enjoyable and safe, and responsive to the Covid-19 context. There are also activities for schools aimed at primary and secondary.
Parents and young people are also invited to share a photo of themselves holding a ‘book I love about love’ and post on Twitter / Instagram with the hashtag #RSEday and a post explaining why RSE is important to them.
For resources and more information about RSE Day visit www.sexeducationforum.org.uk/RSEday or follow @RSE_day
The National Education Union has proposals for a Summer Holiday Local Offer, calling on Government to fund councils to coordinate summer schemes for children and young people in their local area.
As a minimum, we think these schemes should be offered to those who are eligible for Free School Meals, who have been identified as vulnerable and those with SEND who have carers in need of respite. But we think that, where possible, councils should open these schemes up to all families.
Campaigners have begun legal action against the Government over its failure to confirm that free school meals will be available over the summer holidays.
A group led by food charity Sustain and the Good Law Project has started judicial review proceedings after seeking urgent clarification on what the Government will do to address holiday hunger during the summer months.
More than 1.3 million children in England receive free school meals in term-time: this has been replaced by vouchers during the period when most children have not been in school. But the Government has refused to say whether it will provide vouchers over the summer. The group is crowdfunding to pay for the action.
The NEU has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson with the proposals, which include a summer holiday offer and a focus on children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The union is urging the Government to work with educators and parents to ensure proper plans are put in place to support schools and families in good time for both the summer holidays and September.
The analysis, by the Institute for Public Policy Research, shows 200,000 more children could be in poverty by the end of the year, unless urgent action is taken to support families. This is in addition to the 4.2 million children living in poverty in the UK in 2018-19: equivalent to nine children in every class of 30.
An NEU survey into wider reopening of schools in England has revealed the pragmatic approach being taken by head teachers.
The survey of members found more than two in five schools (44%) did not open more widely on 1 June to any of the year groups suggested by the Prime Minister.
It also showed strong regional correlation between the levels of coronavirus and wider school opening. Just 12% of schools in the North East and 8% in the North West – where levels of coronavirus are higher – opened fully to all eligible year groups in their school. And a report by The Guardian showed that in large parts of the North East not a single primary school opened to more pupils on Monday.
A survey has revealed parents’ biggest concerns about their children and Covid-19, as some schools open to more children this week. More than 250,000 parents responded to the poll by parenting and education charity Parentkind, with the main fears raised being a lack of socialisation, missing out on learning, and impact on mental health.
The results reveal that a quarter of parents worry about how their children will cope going back to school, while nearly half (48%) are concerned about their children not seeing their friends and socialising. More than 1 in 3 (35%) are worried about their child’s mental health as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown restrictions.
Parentkind is urging the Government to listen to parents during these unsettling times and to address their concerns, especially about children’s wellbeing.
- 41% of schools do not have sufficient sinks for children to regularly wash their hands.
- In a quarter of cases, hand sanitiser is not available in all classrooms or at entrance/exit points.
- More than half of schools (53%) do not have lidded bins in each classroom.
- One third of school staff believe the arrangements for cleaning their classroom are inadequate.
The NEU is calling on the Government to ensure that school staff are kept as safe as possible through the wider reopening of schools. The union believes wider reopening should be based on meeting conditions to ensure safety, rather than aiming for an arbitrary date.
There has been much talk about Denmark, its reopening of schools and how this compares to England. The reality is that circumstances were and remain very different in Denmark, where there has been a lower Covid-19 death rate and children have to be taught in smaller groups than is being recommended in England.
To find out more, watch this video of NEU Joint General Secretary Mary Bousted talking to Dorte from the Danish Union of Teachers (DFL). They discuss the Danish reaction to COVID-19 and the role the DFL played in the successful reopening of schools.
More than 1.3 million children rely on free school meals, but the Government previously said it would not provide them during next week’s half term as the scheme was term-time only. A petition set up by 16-year-old Christina, urging the Government to change its mind, attracted 104,000 signatures.
The position on free school meals over the summer holidays has yet to be announced.
Top scientists from the respected Independent SAGE group have released a report saying it is not safe for schools to open more widely on June 1.
The report concludes that delaying by two weeks – to June 15 – would halve the risks to children, while waiting until September would be even less risky. The scientists are clear that 1 June is not safe.
The report, which quotes the National Education Union’s Five Tests, says:
- Test, track and isolate programmes must be in place before schools reopen more widely: this been crucial in school reopening in other countries.
- The issue of schools reopening does not just have implications for pupils, but also for adult staff, parents and their communities.
- Wider school opening in other countries, such as Denmark, has only been done after large investment in measures such as additional washing facilities.
- Each school needs to consult widely with staff, unions, parents, local authorities and others and carry out risk assessments before proceeding.
- Local infection and death rates should be considered before making decisions on wider opening.
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Join 16-year-old Christina, who is calling on Boris Johnson to “Save Our Lunches”. Her petition has already attracted more than 80,000 signatures: please add yours.
More than 1.3 million children rely on free school meals, but the Government has decided not to provide them during next week’s half term. Sign the petition to change their minds and stop children going hungry next week.
Parents, teachers, academics, medics, other unions and even Piers Morgan agree: Schools should open more widely only when it’s safe.
Have you got an amazing teacher? We want to see how many teachers & support staff we can thank for this year’s National #ThankATeacher Day – May 20
Follow Suzie and Leone’s lead as they say a big thank you to their teachers at St Luke’s Primary School in Brighton.
Campaigning organisation Send My Friend To School is offering families a home learning pack exploring the impact climate change is having on children’s education around the world.
In recent years, the climate crisis has become a reason for children missing out on education. The progress that’s been made around the world to build classrooms, train teachers and provide resources is being rolled back by the impacts of climate change, especially in developing countries which are more vulnerable to extreme weather.
More than 90% of the world’s school-aged children have had their education disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but most will return to class once the emergency is over. However 260 million children around the world do not go to school at all. The learning pack, which is suitable for children aged 10-15, invites young people to think critically about one of the biggest reasons why this is so, and work out the best solutions to ensure every child has the right climate to learn.
Many questions about the Government’s plan for wider opening of schools remain unanswered. On Friday, the NEU’s Joint General Secretary Kevin Courtney met the Government’s scientific advisers to press again for the evidence ministers are using.
We all want children and young people to be back in school as soon as possible. But when this happens, it is vital that it is safe. We need to know how much children transmit to one another and to adults and what the risk is for society as a whole.
Children and young people are invited to enter a “homeschool” competition to explore Black British History and multicultural Britain.
Open to all age groups, the competition, which is sponsored by the National Education Union, is part of the launch of the 100 Great Black Britons campaign created by Patrick Vernon OBE, to celebrate the continued legacy and achievements of Black people in Britain.
Children and young people are asked to create a fun and unique project celebrating Black Britons and their legacy. To find out more and enter, visit www.100greatblackbritons.co.uk
A National Education Union poll of more than 1,000 parents has found a third do not immediately plan to send their children back to school once lockdown is relaxed.
The survey shows strong support for lockdown measures and for the Government to meet certain criteria for schools to be safe before they reopen. Parents say they support the general closure of schools (86%), keeping schools open to disadvantaged children (81%), suspending Ofsted inspections (80%) and cancelling of GCSE and A-level exams (65%).
Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: “With an aspiration to open schools more widely in less than three weeks from now, the Prime Minister is squandering a great deal of parental goodwill. He needs to act fast to reassure unions, school staff and parents that when schools do open it will only be when our shared and widespread concerns for personal safety are fully met.”
Sunday’s announcement by the Government that primary schools “may” reopen from June 1 with reception and years 1 and 6 fails to meet the union’s Five Tests to ensure safety.
Within one hour on Sunday evening, 49,000 members of the NEU responded to a survey about the Government’s announcement, giving a resounding “no” to the Prime Minister’s roadmap for wider school reopening.
A survey of 250,000 parents has revealed 90% do not want to see their children return to school immediately after the Government ends lockdown.
In the poll by parenting and education charity Parentkind, 10% said they would be happy to wait until staff and pupils have been vaccinated, even if this takes up to 18 months. Parentkind is calling on the Government to ensure parents’ voices are heard along with educators’, and shape Government decisions about reopening schools.
The survey also reveals parents’ top 5 biggest concerns about COVID-19 as:
- Children not seeing friends or socialising (48% of respondents)
- Children missing out on learning (38%)
- One or more family members contracting COVID-19 (35%)
- Their children’s mental health (35%)
- Their ability to juggle working and supporting their child’s learning (31%).
The NEU has joined more than 100 organisations in calling for the Government to take care of carers during the Coronavirus crisis.
The union has signed an open letter, coordinated by charity Oxfam, urging the Government to protect carers – paid and unpaid – from poverty, now and in the future.
The letter asks the Government to better value and reward carers, and pushes for greater recognition of the undervaluing of care as a global issue.
A survey of NEU members has revealed significant concerns among school staff about how prepared schools are to reopen to a significant number of pupils. Almost two-thirds of the 2,560 respondents said they were ‘concerned’ or ‘very concerned’ about the social distancing measures in their school for pupils, while around a quarter of the 2,560 respondents said their school did not have sufficient supplied of soap and/or hand sanitiser. The same proportion said there was no routine of hand washing at their school.
The charity Parentkind is supporting the NEU on the safe reopening of schools. The organisation – which represents parent teacher associations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – is backing the NEU’s petition to only open schools when it is safe to do so and is supporting the Five Tests set by the union as a framework for making this decision.
Parentkind is opposed to the reopening of schools without clarity about the validity of the evidence base underpinning this decision. The charity says that only when school leaders, the Government, and parents are in agreement that it is time for schools to reopen, should that happen. Many parents may, for valid reasons, take the view that, despite a decision to re-open schools, they do not regard it as safe for their children to return to school. Parentkind is calling on Government to pledge that parents not returning their children to school due to safety concerns will not have their absences labelled as unauthorised and will face no financial penalty.
The UK Cost of the School Day project wants to hear from parents/carers and children about life since schools closed. Lots of support has been put in place around things like learning at home and help with costs and the project wants to hear what you think is working well and what could be improved. There are two surveys, one for parents and carers, and one for primary and secondary-aged children and young people which can be filled out with help from a grown up if needed. Parents, carers and children can also talk to the project on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger instead (find out how in the survey).
Join campaign group More Than A Score in calling for the Government to halt testing for 4-year-olds. The Baseline test for Reception children is due to be rolled out next academic year, but teachers, experts and parents agree – it’s the last thing children need at the moment. Please use social media to send a virtual postcard to the Government, urging them to scrap the test. You can retweet out tweet below or write your own post.
“Have fun, laugh and make sure your children enjoy themselves: you’ll never get this time again”: Essex head teacher John Bryant gives his top tips to families on the importance of supporting children’s wellbeing during lockdown.
The NEU is encouraging schools to make free ‘Create Boxes’ for families.
The idea is for staff to put together packs of learning resources such as pens, paper, stamps, Sellotape and other items to help pupils express themselves creatively at home and stay in touch with school. Find out more on the NEU website and speak to your head about whether your school community can make and provide Create Boxes.
We’ve produced these lovely window posters for you to make public your support for the doctors, nurses, carers, educators and others doing vital work at this time.
The charity Parentkind wants to know how parents and carers are coping with the lockdown. They are running a survey to capture experiences of parents and carers working at home with children learning from home. Please take the survey which should only take five minutes.
Take a look at our free fun education packs specially developed by teacher Debra Kidd for parents, carers and children currently learning at home. Called Adventures in Learning, they’re designed to support you and your children to enjoy reading together and to explore the world through stories. You can select whichever pack or activities suit you and your children and dip in and out as you choose.
A massive 2,500 teachers, heads, parents, experts and politicians have called on the Government must drop Baseline testing for 4 year olds. The More Than A Score campaign coordinated an open letter to schools minister Nick Gibb saying the test – which is due to be introduced in September – should be scrapped. NEU general secretaries, Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, and shadow education secretary Rebecca Long Bailey were among the signatories. A petition opposing the test now has 80,000 signatures.
The NEU petition about schools reopening has gathered an incredible 175,000 signatures. The union believes schools should not reopen until it is safe to do so – and tens of thousands of teachers, heads, TAs and parents agree. Please sign our petition if you haven’t already and please share with everyone you know.
NEU is offering reassurance to parents, pupils and teachers on learning outside school. In response to the Education Endowment Foundation’s review of remote learning, the union has reiterated that there are many constraints that make distance learning, and distance teaching, difficult and no pressure should be put on teachers and parents to engage with children’s learning in unsustainable ways. Take a look at our resources to support your child’s learning.
Global organisation UNESCO has released information cards giving parents, carers and teachers top tips on living and studying in the time of COVID-19. The 64 cards summarise expert views on learning at home, staying healthy and talking about coronavirus, and are aimed at families with children of all ages.
A poll of teachers by social mobility charity the Sutton Trust has found big gaps between disadvantaged children and their more advantaged peers when it comes to remote learning. The charity is calling for the Government to do more to close the digital learning divide and support pupils from poorer families.
Avoid strict timetables and steer clear of screen time: Chris, a head teacher from Leeds with his practical tips for parents/carers on how to make learning fun.
“Make sure you stay active, don’t try to do too much and try to enjoy yourselves”: John, a primary head teacher from Camden gives his advice to parents supporting children learning at home.
Turn your front room into a family fort! Join Winston’s Wish (a UK charity supporting bereaved children and their families) this Saturday 18th April to hear about how your family can create the perfect fort in your living room. This is a great way to keep your kids (and big kids at heart) busy and playing creatively in the run up to bedtime.
Sign up to their website to get access to a free ‘Fort Night’ pack. You can also find out how you can make a difference and support grieving children during this difficult time.
The National Education Union is concerned about increasing speculation in the media that schools will soon fully reopen. The union believes any reopening of schools must be based on robust scientific evidence.
We have launched a petition for parents, carers, teachers and school staff to support this call. We believe education staff, parents and carers deserve to be listened to before any decisions are made.
Please sign this petition and ask your friends and family to do so as well.
Responding to speculation about whether schools and colleges will reopen in the near future, the joint general secretaries of the National Education Union – Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney – have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking him to clarify how the Government will make the decision.
Early years teacher Steph Hancock, from Gateshead, offers reassurance to parents and carers supporting children’s learning at home.
Julia Neal, a secondary teacher of 38 years from Devon, offers her advice to parents about learning outside school.
My thoughts on home schooling.
Let’s turn this situation into an opportunity.
It’s not all about worksheets and complicated online working.
Use interesting topics, such as hobbies or themes from curriculum areas to explore and discuss.
Our pupils have spent far too much time preparing for SATs, with regimented tasks and with little freedom to have fun to talk about their learning.
Making links and articulating what has been learnt verbally are brilliant transferable skills.
Involve family and friends: a win-win situation.
Something for them to do. Rewarding.
A golden opportunity for children to negotiate tasks and take ownership of their learning. Make judgements about what can work.
Here is the topic: How shall we communicate it to Grandad? What is the best method?
Use video, write a play, create a storyboard. Use modern technology, or pen and paper, or just tell a story.
So important to be flexible. Not all children have access to the internet.
I am working with eight-year-old Amara. She has made a bed for her doll using her dad’s workshop. She has Spanish lessons from a family friend. She is researching advice on how to care for a Dachshund and is preparing ideas on notable Victorians and how their inventions/ideas contribute to today’s world.
I know now that she lacks confidence in explaining her understanding verbally, so that is what we work on when we Skype.
I do so hope that this experience will help to change our learning in schools in the long run.
Narrowly-measured learning should become redundant.
I hope that this pandemic is an important catalyst for change.
Jill Borcherds, a secondary maths teacher from Stevenage talks about how parents and carers can inspire their child’s love of maths and problem solving in everyday life.
The NEU is welcoming the Government’s announcement that free school meals will continue over the Easter holidays to support families at a tough time.
Are you a parent of a child with special educational needs or disabilities? Read our advice here.
NEU President Amanda Martin has filmed this message for students and parents/carers about the cancellation of exams.
The NEU has joined 80 leaders and academics writing to Chancellor Rishi Sunak pushing for urgent action to stop COVID-19 pushing families into debt.
The NEU has welcomed the Government’s voucher scheme to provide free school meals. But the union is urging the Government to reconsider its decision not to provide free school meals during the Easter holiday fortnight. This is not a normal holiday and these are not normal times.
Concerned about your child missing out because exams and Government assessments have been cancelled this year? Don’t panic. Find out more about how grades will be awarded on our advice page.
Are you trying to support young children to learn while their school is closed? Watch primary teacher Merike’s top tips:
The NEU is asking all parents and carers to keep their children at home if they possibly can, to prevent the spread of the virus.
You can find all the NEU guidance for schools and teachers about managing the lockdown on the NEU website.
Welcome to the National Education Union’s Coronavirus and Schools latest news page. Here we will post updates for parents and carers about how the crisis is affecting schools. We will post useful information and links for parents and carers to get more support when they need it. And we will also share NEU members’ hints and tips for parents and carers coping with the lockdown and supporting their children to learn outside of school. If you haven’t already, please sign up for updates here.
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