Coronavirus crisis is change to overhaul school curriculum, say education campaigners

School leaders and campaigners have urged the Government not to miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reform the nation’s education system in wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

As Ministers face criticism for a deluge of ‘meaningless advice’, educational professionals in Yorkshire have now offered their own blueprint for change, which includes an overhaul of the primary curriculum and a temporary increase in the money given to schools to support the most vulnerable children.

The move comes after the Government’s plans to reopen primary schools to all pupils in England before the summer were abandoned and a separate catch-up programme designed to run throughout July and August for youngsters who have fallen behind academically has also been deemed unworkable.

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Former teacher Sue McMahon, who now runs the campaign group, Calderdale Against Cuts, said: “While schools have never closed, many of our most vulnerable children have missed months of direct contact with teachers and it seems unthinkable that children will be forced to sit SATs next year.

The coronavirus crisis has presented an opportunity to overhaul the school system, campaigners have said

“We should take this opportunity to rewrite the curriculum for all pupils so that it is once again child-centred and focused on play and a love of learning.

“This shouldn’t be a curriculum imposed by the Government, but one which is designed by clusters of schools who can create something bespoke for pupils.”

According to a recent poll, only 19 per cent of pupils from state primaries and 22 per cent from state secondaries have taken part in daily online lessons.

The Education Endowment Foundation, a charity set up to improve attainment in schools, has backed calls for a new approach to teaching in September.

The foundation’s deputy chief executive officer, Stephen Fraser, said: “There are huge opportunities to do things differently in the future and we must now look at how we balance pupil’s academic needs with caring for their social and emotional well-being.”

Since schools shut to all but the children of key workers and the most vulnerable pupils, teachers have been juggling online timetables with virtual pastoral care.

However, as they prepare to reopen schools to more pupils in September, many have become frustrated with official advice.

In just a week, Chris Dyson, of Parklands Primary School in Leeds, received 45 documents from the Department for Education but as yet none of the laptops promised for disadvantaged children have materialised.

He said: “Instead of Mickey Mouse bureaucrats issuing a stream of meaningless guidance, it’s time to put the decision-making back into the hands of schools. If the Education Secretary really wants to make a difference, he could immediately increase pupil premium funding by at least 25 per cent.

“This money is for the most disadvantaged pupils and by increasing the standard annual rate from £1,320, it would give schools a vital pot of money.”

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