Since the Prime Minister announced the closure of schools in March NSEAD has worked alongside our colleagues in the TUC affiliated unions to make joint representation to the Department for Education. We have worked with our fellow subject associations in the CFSA. We have joined discussions with a wide range of partners from across the cultural sector. We have written directly to the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, offering our support to get pupils and staff back into schools safely, as soon as possible, to work together on a ‘recovery curriculum’ to support all our children and young people.
Finally, at the end of May, the DFE invited the 9 TUC affiliated unions representing those working in education to join a high-level Schools’ Stakeholder Advisory Group. This group has been tasked with providing feedback and advice to ensure that Government guidance for schools is fit for purpose, and NSEAD have taken care not to comment on draft guidance or other documentation that has not been shared in the public domain.
It has been disappointing therefore that the DFE’s proposals have been leaked to the press on several occasions, creating a huge amount of anxiety for our members.
Ahead of the publication of the Guidance for Schools for the full re-opening of schools in the Autumn term, our members are concerned at reports in the press and statements from Gavin Williamson that suggest a reduced curriculum offer that excludes many ‘non-core’ subjects, including Art, craft and design. We utterly reject the Secretary of State’s stated desire for a return to Victorian classrooms with children sat in rows ‘focusing on their teacher not each other’. This is a regressive vision that is quite simply horrifying.
In our feedback to the DFE’s draft guidance last week, we made several comments and feedback on issues of school estates, workforce, health and safety, transport, remote learning, parent/carer and pupil confidence, inspection, accountability, and assessment. As a specialist Trade Union, NSEAD also made the case for practical and creative learning and to support pupil, staff, and community well-being as a priority.
NSEAD has made a clear call for the following to be included in guidance for schools:
That schools must be required to provide a broad and ambitious curriculum provision, whilst having the flexibility to organise that provision to best meet the needs of their school community.
That opportunities for practical and creative learning should be encouraged at the earliest opportunity
That clear guidance be provided to support schools to make provision for practical and creative learning in all relevant subject areas - specifically: Art, craft and design, Dance, Design & technology, Drama, Music, PE, and Science.
That the DFE work with the relevant subject associations as well as CLEAPSS to produce this guidance.
That Ofsted inspection should not resume in the autumn term and that the publication of performance measures be suspended.
That schools do not resume use of tracking systems in the autumn term that place undue pressure on pupils and teachers.
That schools be supported with additional resources and an ambitious approach to community wellbeing.
That the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME staff and pupils, and disadvantaged communities be explicitly and directly addressed.
That there is more in-depth engagement with subject associations and learned societies to develop emerging online platforms for flexible delivery in a variety of social distant and remote contexts. These national resources and curriculum maps should be co-created by teams of specialists.
NSEAD believes strongly that well-being is an overarching, fundamental concern that must be central to policy thinking within any model for the full reopening of schools. Mental health was a major concern in our schools before Covid-19. This is an opportunity for ambitious, expansive thinking to address a public health timebomb – the pandemic can only have further compromised the mental health and well-being of the many children and young people who were already vulnerable.
Pupils have been subject to extremely restricted access to the spaces and equipment needed for essential practical learning. This is not just about knowledge gaps, it is about essential physical, emotional, and creative development that will not be easy to catch up. Our subject has a vital role to play in the recovery of schools. We hope that the DFE will recognise this and support school leaders to do what is right for our children and young people.
NSEAD General Secretary
30th June 2020