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10 point plan to help save education of disadvantaged pupils

The National Education Union has proposed a national education recovery plan to the government following an announcement earlier this week that all pupils would not be returning to school for a month before the summer break.

Schools closed on 23 March in response to combating the spread of the corona virus, only remaining open for the children of key workers and vulnerable children.

However, alarmingly, in April, figures from the Department for Education showed that just 5% of vulnerable children were attending school. This statistic did however rise to 15% of vulnerable children in May.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson revealed earlier this week that all pupils will not be going back to school for a month before the summer break. In response, the NEU has devised a 10 point recovery plan for education.

“The NEU's 10-point plan for education addresses the needs of all children and young people. Many will be feeling isolated in their homes, so the NEU proposes a summer holiday offer and a focus on children from disadvantaged backgrounds,” said a statement from the union.

The plan includes:

1) Disadvantaged children and young people and their families must be a key priority. They must not become casualties of COVID.

2) Free school meals must continue to be provided over the summer holidays so that disadvantaged children do not go hungry. Holiday hunger was real pre COVID – it will be worse this summer.

3) Local authorities must be funded to make a summer holiday local offer to children and young people.

4) Public buildings, such as libraries and sports halls, civic centres and religious buildings should be used to expand the space available to schools so that social distancing can be adhered to.

5) Qualified teachers who have left the profession should be encouraged to return to teaching in a bid to support disadvantaged children who will benefit greatly from lower pupil/teacher ratios.

6) GCSE and A levels must be changed to provide a fair assessment of young people’s attainment.

7) Plans must be made for blended learning – pupils learning at school and at home – from September and into the next academic year, with all pupils having both face-to-face contact and remote learning when this is safe in case of a second spike or a rise in a local R rate.

8) Children and young people living in poverty and low- income homes must be given the resources they need to learn at home, including access to books and creative resources, as well as technology.

9) We know childhood poverty and inequality limits life chances and is a significant factor in school achievement. We must not lose a generation because the pandemic makes even more children poor. This requires a ‘can do’ mentality – around unemployment, training and benefits as well as direct support to schools.

10) A national plan for children’s wellbeing should be resourced and launched to support children who suffered trauma in the pandemic and students’ well-being must be placed at the centre of how we adapt education to meet the needs of children and young people.

Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the National Education Union, said: “Schools and pupils have had to adapt quickly to extraordinary circumstances. They have done this remarkably well, often with little or unclear guidance from government. This cannot happen again.

“We need a clear national plan. The government must demonstrate leadership and the capacity to work with local authorities and education unions so that plans are implemented in all the regions. The NEUs 10-point plan addresses significant issues that have to be considered. These issues will need funding and planning.

“We look forward to speaking to government alongside other education unions and education professionals about how we get this right, and in good time, for both the summer holidays and September. Government cannot let schools struggle through this on their own,” the joint secretaries concluded.

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