Covid UK: Ofsted warns pupils' education cannot be 'furloughed'

The head of England's schools watchdog today warned that education cannot be 'furloughed' as Left-wing councils joined the revolt against Government plans to keep schools open.

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said school closures should be kept to the 'absolute minimum', revealing that the first lockdown disrupted children's learning and wider development.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, she said Ofsted had found some younger children had 'forgotten how to hold a pencil or use a knife and fork, and had regressed in basic language numbers'.

In older children, Ms Spielman said the schools watchdog had noted 'increases in eating disorders and self-harm, and anti-social behaviour at some schools' during the coronavirus crisis. 

Most primaries in England are expected to open their doors tomorrow, while secondary schools will reopen on a staggered basis later this month with plans to test every student weekly.

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But yesterday the UK's largest teaching union advised members it was not safe to return to the classroom and called for a move to online teaching. 

Ms Spielman wrote: 'There is a real consensus that schools should be the last places to close and the first to re-open, and having argued for this since last spring, I welcome it.  

'Because it is increasingly clear that children's lives can't just be put on hold while we wait for vaccination programmes to take effect, and for waves of infection to subside. 

'We cannot furlough young people's learning or their wider development.' 

The Government is keen to get children back to schools, but Left-wing councils have joined a revolt against plans as UK's largest teaching union advised members it was not safe to return

The Government is keen to get children back to schools, but Left-wing councils have joined a revolt against plans as UK's largest teaching union advised members it was not safe to return

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said school closures should be kept to the 'absolute minimum' as Education Secretary Gavin Williamson urges teachers and parents to 'move heaven and earth', adding the young must not 'bear the heaviest cost' of the pandemic

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said school closures should be kept to the 'absolute minimum' as Education Secretary Gavin Williamson urges teachers and parents to 'move heaven and earth', adding the young must not 'bear the heaviest cost' of the pandemic

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said school closures should be kept to the 'absolute minimum' as Education Secretary Gavin Williamson urges teachers and parents to 'move heaven and earth', adding the young must not 'bear the heaviest cost' of the pandemic

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Another 57,725 had positive test results in the last 24 hours, meaning 2,599,789 have had the disease in the UK since the pandemic began. The country also saw an additional 445 deaths

Another 57,725 had positive test results in the last 24 hours, meaning 2,599,789 have had the disease in the UK since the pandemic began. The country also saw an additional 445 deaths

Her intervention comes as Brighton and Hove City Council followed eight authorities in London in demanding primaries teach remotely amid rising Covid cases. 

The National Education Union, which has 450,000 members, said the Government was 'failing to protect children, their families and our communities', adding that their members had a legal right to refuse to work.

The move has put them on a collision course with Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, who said it was imperative that the nation's children were back in class to stop them falling behind. 

Writing in The Mail on Sunday, the father-of-two has urged teachers and parents to 'move heaven and earth', adding the young must not 'bear the heaviest cost' of the pandemic.

He said: 'Both of my daughters, one of whom is in an exam year, have had to self-isolate. I know how difficult the last year has been, because I have seen them miss being in the classroom, where they want to be. 

'So I want my children, and all children, to be able to get back to school and stay in class – we will continue to prioritise making this happen where we can.'

The start of the new academic term has been mired in confusion as Covid rates continue to rise, driven by the new variant.

Recent notes from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) revealed scientists have warned that schools may need to be closed to bring down transmission.

But Children's Minister Vicky Ford yesterday told MPs there was no evidence that the new strain caused more serious illness in either adults or children.

Senior Government sources said that Mr Williamson had tried to keep schools open but has been overruled by Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Michael Gove.

The pair have pushed for tighter measures until more people have been vaccinated, but critics accused them of 'natural authoritarianism'.

The National Education Union tweeted earlier today: 'Our Executive is meeting this morning and we will announce new guidance shortly afterwards'

The National Education Union tweeted earlier today: 'Our Executive is meeting this morning and we will announce new guidance shortly afterwards'

A tweet from the National Education Union today, saying: 'We have thousands of reps from all the country on our briefing right now. We must #MakeSchoolsSafe to #ProtectCommunities'

A tweet from the National Education Union today, saying: 'We have thousands of reps from all the country on our briefing right now. We must #MakeSchoolsSafe to #ProtectCommunities'

Children’s Minister Vicky Ford yesterday told MPs there was no evidence that the new strain caused more serious illness in either adults or children

Children's Minister Vicky Ford yesterday told MPs there was no evidence that the new strain caused more serious illness in either adults or children 

Last week, Mr Williamson announced all primaries would return on Monday. Ten London boroughs were told to open their schools but after a revolt by eight Labour-led councils, Mr Williamson was forced into a U-turn. Now all schools in the capital will operate remote learning for the first two weeks.

The rebellion was led initially by Haringey, once dubbed the first 'Corbyn council' because of its large number of Left-wing Momentum councillors. 

Council leader Joseph Ejiofor said he would back head teachers who wanted to defy the Government and he was later followed by Harrow Council.

Brighton and Hove has now advised all primary schools to teach remotely until January 18.

Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, has accused the Left of politicising the issue saying: 'This is about knocking the Tories. Keeping schools open should be non-negotiable.' 

More than one million four to 11-year-olds will now start the academic term with lessons online.

In advising members to work from home, Dr Mary Bousted, the NEU's joint general secretary, said: 'If Government does not act to follow the science, we must.' Her views were echoed by the NASUWT union.

Ministers are considering proposals to make teachers a higher priority in the vaccine roll-out as a way to keep physical classrooms open.

Plans for schools reopening differ across the four nations of the UK.In Scotland, most pupils will have online learning for the week of January 11. In Wales, schools are expected to provide face-to-face learning for the majority of their pupils by January 11.

And in Northern Ireland, secondary school years eight to 11 will be taught via remote learning throughout January while primary pupils will return to the classroom on January 11. 

Social distancing signs displayed at Coldfall Primary School in Muswell Hill, London, today as Covid cases across the capital city have been putting rising pressure on the NHS

Social distancing signs displayed at Coldfall Primary School in Muswell Hill, London, today as Covid cases across the capital city have been putting rising pressure on the NHS

GAVIN WILLIAMSON: We must all move heaven and earth to get children back into the classroom

By Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education

I remain optimistic that with the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine, 2021 will be the year we overcome coronavirus. At the same time, as a dad, it is clear to me that while this takes place, I want my children to be at school.

Keeping our kids out of classrooms is damaging. We know that as parents and we know it from the data. It is for this reason that keeping schools open has been a national priority.

Naturally, as parents would expect, this includes taking a proportionate response and considering the clear damage that we know is caused to young people's education and wellbeing by closing education.

With the new variant, the goal posts have shifted as we fight this horrible virus, but I want to assure parents that we have been working throughout the holidays to make the return as safe as possible.

This means pushing back the staggered start date for all secondary schools by one week.

Writing in The Mail on Sunday, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, said it was imperative that the nation’s children were back in class to stop them falling behind. He urged teachers and parents to ‘move heaven and earth’, adding the young must not ‘bear the heaviest cost’ of the pandemic

Writing in The Mail on Sunday, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, said it was imperative that the nation's children were back in class to stop them falling behind. He urged teachers and parents to 'move heaven and earth', adding the young must not 'bear the heaviest cost' of the pandemic

It also means triggering our contingency plans, so that in some areas where there are high transmission rates of the virus or those rates are rising quickly, schools should offer face-to-face education to exam year groups, vulnerable and critical-worker

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