ASCL comments on Public Accounts Committee report

26/05/2021
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on the report of the Public Accounts Committee, which finds that despite being involved in a 2016 cross-government exercise on dealing with a pandemic, the Department for Education (DfE) had ‘no plan’ and was ‘unprepared’ for the challenges of Covid-19.
 
Commenting on the report of the Public Accounts Committee, which finds that despite being involved in a 2016 cross-government exercise on dealing with a pandemic, the Department for Education (DfE) had ‘no plan’ and was ‘unprepared’ for the challenges of Covid-19, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:
 
“School and college leaders have been at the coalface throughout the pandemic and know better than anyone else where the DfE’s failings lie.
 
“Leaders had to set up remote learning from scratch in an incredibly short timeframe, without any guidance from the DfE and without enough laptops for their pupils who didn’t have them. This was then compounded by the painfully slow rollout of the government’s laptop programme, which only reached its target of distributing 1.3 million devices in the last couple of weeks – two months after most children returned to school at the beginning of March.
 
“School and colleges worked very hard to encourage attendance by vulnerable students despite the obvious worries of their families around doing so during the pandemic, and the DfE was found wanting in having no joined-up plan to support them in this.
 
“It’s very worrying to hear the conclusion that the DfE ‘seems surprisingly resistant’ to conducting a full review of its response. This would obviously be a very useful and instructive exercise, and ensure that it is much better prepared to face such challenges in the future.
 
“The DfE’s focus must now be on working with schools and colleges to ensure its education recovery programme is as responsive and effective as possible, and it is really important that it does this in a clear and coordinated way.”