Government approach to education during coronavirus an "absolute tragedy"

10 June 2020, 09:08

The former Ofsted boss branded the Government&squot;s approach to education an "absolute tragedy".
The former Ofsted boss branded the Government's approach to education an "absolute tragedy". Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Former chief inspector of schools in England, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has said the Government's approach to education has been an "absolute tragedy" during the Covid-19 crisis.

The former senior education official was speaking to Good Morning Britain about the Government's response to the coronavirus crisis.

He said: "What's happened over the last few weeks and months has been an absolute tragedy.

"And it's been a tragedy for those youngsters who need school, need the structure of school, need the routine of school, need teachers who will be working with them, to support them when they get very little support at home."

He added: "I just don't know how we've made such a mess of it, because headteachers, and I know lots of headteachers, will have been saying to the Department for Education, you've got this wrong.

"If you're going to insist on social distancing and a maximum of 15 in a class we will need double the amount of space, we will need double the amount of teachers and we've got to make sure we have that."

Around half of primary schools in England reopened to more children last week, official Government figures show.

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The pupil attendance rate in nursery and primary schools was 11% on Thursday last week - the first week that schools in England began admitting children in nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

The Department for Education (DfE) figures show that 52% of education settings that normally accept at least one of these year groups were open to additional children on June 4.

The Government statistics are the first indication of pupil attendance since more children in England began returning to school and nursery last week.

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Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said the number of children in schools is rising.

Mr Williamson told MPs in the Commons: "We all know how important it is for children and young people to be in education and childcare and it is vital that we get them back there as soon as the scientific advice indicates that we can."

He added: "Last week we saw the number of primaries taking nursery, reception and year one or year six pupils steadily rise as part of a phased, cautious, wider reopening of schools.

"By the end of the week more than half of primary schools were taking pupils from these year groups and as of yesterday that had risen to over 70% of primaries that had responded."