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The Meaning of Tests

On Thursday we were advised that the five tests had been met and that the phased wider opening of schools could commence from 1st June. Detailed risk assessments are being finalised, with headteachers and Governing Boards in all schools being put to the test in making significant local decisions. Where local authorities and schools feel unable to meet the government’s ambition for an extended reopening these difficult decisions are being made in the best interests of children and the staff who work with them.

ADCS is an organisation with regional structures, reflecting both shared approaches as well as difference. As Chair of the Educational Achievement Committee, I have been alongside Edwina Grant, Chair of the Health, Care and Additional Needs Committee in multiple meetings with DfE officials, unions and on occasion ministers over recent weeks discussing guidance to early years settings and schools, representing our regional variations as well as common issues.

As we all know, the coronavirus pandemic began around London and spread across the country, the R rate is currently lower in London than in other regions. Under these circumstances it is understood that there will be regional differences in the planning for the wider opening of schools over the next few weeks from 1st June. There are however also significant similarities.

Firstly, I would like to thank the education leads in each local authority (sometimes called Directors or Assistant Directors) who with significantly reduced teams and services are working collaboratively across regions and with schools and unions in individual local authorities to provide system leadership. They are advising and supporting school leaders and even in some instances loading PPE into school minibuses! I was privileged to hear from the regional representatives in our Educational Achievement Committee meeting earlier today about the pragmatic but principled approaches being taken to enable the progressive wider opening of schools across the next few weeks.

Secondly, I would like to acknowledge the key role of our colleague Directors of Public Health where their advice on testing capacity and ‘track and trace’ systems in local areas has been influential.

Thirdly, there is unwavering focus on the learning needs of all of our children and young people whose educational experience, including of tests and examinations, has been disrupted in both obvious and as yet unseen ways.

The Educational Achievement Committee is currently meeting on a monthly basis. In July we will be covering the impact of Covid-19 on early years settings, and also our links with FE colleges. This year’s Y11 students, particularly those more vulnerable to being NEET, have missed daily contact and support for their applications to colleges and apprenticeships. Another DCS commented to me earlier this week that these students lost their education over the past 10 weeks to protect us more than them, so we have an enhanced moral as well as educational imperative to provide them with a coherent offer in the Autumn giving them renewed purpose and wellbeing – their life chances quite literally depend on it.

The meaning of tests has been expanded over recent weeks. Educations leaders are rising to these new challenges and collectively passing them.

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