Schools have provided lots of work for pupils during lockdown but actual teaching provision varies, with many thousands of students being disadvantaged by a total lack of online teaching. Since March, I have taught my entire normal timetable to post 16 engineering apprentices via Microsoft Teams. My children, however, have not had a single remote lesson. By 'lesson', I mean live audio or video with a teacher, not just work being set.
The situation is far more challenging for schools since they have to cater for the children of keyworkers and those at home, as well as complex safeguarding and welfare issues (for staff and students). It's also not easy to convert your resources to suit remote learning with such little notice. I would not expect schools to teach every lesson over the internet but even two or three lessons for each pupil per week would provide vital education as well as social interaction - the latter being the priority of early years children.
The Yorkshire Party would like to see schools teach at least one lesson for each pupil next week (beginning 11th May) and, once staff have become more familiar with remote teaching, to increase provision gradually. Many schools are already doing this and much more, including some private schools who are delivering their full timetables.
My fear is that we are seeing the worst inequality in education provision in modern times. Parents are trying their best but would benefit from more guidance with teaching techniques. Where work is set without internet lessons, it has been reported the rate of completion is related to socioeconomic status. That's simply not good enough. It has to become mandatory for all schools to provide proper online lessons, with at least live audio and preferably visual content too.
Funding for IT equipment and broadband for any pupil or teacher without these must be made available urgently. Smartphones are insufficient and some have no internet access at all. My son's school has delivered online lessons for some classes and they're doing their best in difficult circumstances. But a lack of equipment, such as laptops and microphones, is hampering their efforts. Fair funding is urgently required.
Not only is our proposal crucial for education but for social contact. This is a key element of maturing and wellbeing, especially for younger children. Even a small amount of remote teaching, which can easily include Q&A and class discussions, would ease the difficulties experienced by children and their families during the lockdown. It can be hard work to teach a class without being able to go around the room monitoring progress but I always feel better for the interaction. The same will be true for our schoolchildren.
Deputy Chair of the Yorkshire Party