6th January 2021

Requesting details on Government plans to minimise learning loss during lockdown and support for reopening of schools

The Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield has today (6th January) sent a letter to the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson, following the start of the new national lockdown, to request further details on the Government’s plans to minimise learning loss during the national lockdown and support schools to reopen as soon as possible.

The letter is below:

Dear Secretary of State

I am writing following recent announcements, to request further details on your plans to minimise learning loss during the national lockdown and support schools to reopen as soon as possible. In particular, I would like to see a clear forward plan for how education will be delivered over the next three months in order to give children, families and schools clarity, certainty and the ability to plan. Will the Department commit to the following as part of such a plan?

  • Ensuring that all children have access to technical equipment and broadband to support remote learning.
  • An action plan to drive up attendance of priority children who should be in school, and widening this list to include children with SEND needs who struggle to learn at home but who don’t have an EHCP. I understand that Oasis Community Learning managed to achieve a rate of 80% of vulnerable children in school during the last lockdown, and this should be the ambition nationally.
  • An urgent review of guidance for schools to ensure children receive a broad and balanced curriculum, whether at home or at school. As a minimum I would like to see daily contact with teachers.
  • Urgent confirmation of plans to replace GCSEs and A Levels and clarification on BTECs and SATs.
  • Updated safety guidance for those settings that do remain open.

It is important that there is continued commitment for schools to reopen ahead of other sectors of society and the economy, with primary schools being the highest priority to reopen as quickly as possible, ideally after February half term. In order to achieve this, could you set out what the Department is doing to deliver:

  • A strengthened mass testing system for all schools to drive down transmission, giving parents and teachers more confidence, and preventing children having to miss even more lessons.
  • A plan for teachers, (and other professionals working with children) to be prioritised for vaccinations, alongside health and social care staff within the existing priority list.
  • Updated guidance for schools on safety measures and infection control, based on the latest evidence on transmission, with any additional costs met by further funding from government.
  • A long-term and comprehensive plan for ambitious catch up support.
  • Support for children’s wellbeing, including speeding up the process of introducing mental health support and counselling in every school.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these matters with you further.

All best wishes,

Anne Longfield OBE