Prime Minister Boris Johnson didn’t reference the early years sector during his much-anticipated update on Sunday evening regarding his plans to ease the current coronavirus lockdown. He announced that some primary pupils (reception, Year 1 and Year 6) may be able to return to school by 1 June at the earliest, and that the government is planning for secondary pupils who are facing exams next year to get some time with their teachers before the holidays.

Chief Inspector of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman has stated that she believes there is a “great deal of logic” in the nation’s youngest children returning to school first, when the coronavirus lockdown is lifted. Speaking on Sky News’ Sunday programme last week, she also said that it is in the hands of the health experts to say what is safe and how education could be organised.

She went on to say; “we know that making normality for children is really important, the younger the children, the more they need that simple structured routine where they understand what’s happening. The youngest children are the ones who need the greatest care and oversight.  “It’s hard for them to go to school one day and then not for another two weeks. So I entirely recognise and see the logic of this. I also think there’s a logic from the point of view of parents. It’s hardest for parents to work and do all the other things they need to do if they’re also looking after perhaps several young children at the same time and trying to make sure they work through schoolwork remotely.

“If you look at the interests of children, it’s very clear that theirs are best served, in the vast majority of cases, by being back at school as soon as possible.”

Her comments come amid reports that discussions are under way on whether some children, such as the youngest age groups, could return to school in early June.

The Ofsted boss also said that questions over how far children could have fallen behind in their education due to being out of school are “really hard” to answer at this point.

She highlighted different groups, including pupils with special educational needs, those who struggle to access technology and equipment to take part in schooling from home, those living in “cramped” households and children who “just aren’t very motivated”, saying “we should be really clear that we don’t need to measure precisely which children are being disadvantaged, it’s just very clear that a lot are”.

Ms Spielman also said it is right that Ofsted is not inspecting the education schools are currently offering, saying the “vast majority” are putting in effort to provide online classes, resources and learning packs for their pupils to study at home and that it would be “wrong” to judge that “in the absence of any clear expectation”.


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