Less than ten days ago, I was debating the challenges around the new Ofsted framework with one of our Head teachers who is an inspector and here we are dealing with a school’s community response to the coronavirus pandemic. I have been overwhelmed by the exceptional lengths that heads and their staff are going to in order to provide the resilience required in their schools at the moment. The anecdotes that I hear are inspiring, ranging from staff delivering food packages to family homes, heads giving their technology over to a young person who is FSM, to the numerous staff volunteering to go over and beyond to cover for their unwell colleagues.

Last week, Camden Learning shared some useful resources for learning online, as well as guidance around mental health and COVID19 itself. I have been so impressed with the range of initiatives, learning platforms and links to the likes of Joe Wicks, helping to support the virtual school timetable. However, what if the children in our schools don’t have access to WIFI or the technology required? I have heard that some schools are providing books inside the food packages, staff have been delivering printed home learning bundles for those who don’t have access to online platforms. Teacher Tapp found that just 2% of respondents working in the poorest communities believe all their pupils can access the internet at home. The key point here is how do schools keep in touch with their general pupil population, not only keeping the most vulnerable visible, but regular contact to ensure they remain engaged.

It has finally emerged that FSM pupils are to get weekly supermarket vouchers totalling £15 to replace their free school meal entitlement. The announcement has been slow from the government and implementation will probably take a little while longer too. On our Skype call yesterday there were mixed views from Heads about the vouchers versus school packages, clearly the vouchers provide flexibility and accessibility to supermarkets, but what on earth pupils will buy with them concerns me greatly. Whereas the food packages, although basic do provide actual food necessities. We will of course keep you updated whilst the voucher scheme is being set up and thank Caterlink for their hard work in providing a local service.

I appreciate that while schools and our workforce are maintaining an important provision for critical workers and vulnerable children, they are putting themselves right at the front line. Without trying to be contentious, what our workforce do need is COVID19 testing, which provides reassurance and also reduces anxiety to a degree. The other point was, how do we get the tech assets on board to assist those school pupils who need help to learn from home, from what I read this has been done in New York where they have provided discounted tablets to lots of young people.

Lots to consider and digest. Once again, thank you and take care of yourselves.

Jon Abbey

Managing Director, Camden Learning

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