Articles, Focus

‘Trauma and uncertainty’ … how the DfE is seeking to help children

VfJUK has it on good authority that, despite the chaos and challenge facing schools as they struggle to get children back into education and make up for time lost due to the pandemic, the DfE is nevertheless insisting as a priority on full implementation of the controversial and divisive RSE Regulations from the summer term, now only a couple of months away.

VfJUK asks, who will this benefit?  What’s the rush…?  And is this wise?

Putting in place a new curriculum at any time requires an enormous amount of work and preparation.  The teachers responsible for implementation have to be trained in delivery; resources have to examined and chosen; and decisions have to be taken over whether or not to use outside agencies.   And, in this case, parents have to be consulted.  But schools have been disrupted for the last year, and closed during lockdown, so can it really be said that there has been adequate time for such preparation and introduction?

Yes, some schools will be fully prepared and have all the details sorted – but many others won’t.  And they most certainly won’t have consulted with parents, as required under law.   For them, inevitably rushed implementation will be a nightmare.  So surely, in such a case, where children are already behind with their learning and struggling to cope with the emotional and mental upheaval of the last months, and where over-stretched teachers are battling to help them catch up (https://www.nfer.ac.uk/media/4119/schools_responses_to_covid_19_the_challenges_facing
_schools_and_pupils_in_september_2020.pdf
), it would make far better sense to give everyone a bit of breathing space and time for due reflection.   Surely, it would be wiser to postpone implementation till the autumn, by which time proper preparation can have been done, parents will have been consulted, and both overworked staff  and children will have had a chance to recover some sense of normality.

A report by the Mental Health Foundation, part of the national mental health response unit set up by government during the coronavirus outbreak
(https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/coronavirus/returning-school-after-lockdown/challenge-facing-schools-pupils), details the challenges pupils and schools will face as they return following the lockdown.  It makes grim reading.  Pointing out that some children will be coping with bereavement, while others will have experienced domestic violence, abuse, family conflict and the like, it highlights the need for sensitive pastoral care and support as children are eased back into the more formal structures of school.    And it’s not just the children, of course.  The report also contains a section on how teachers are being affected, and the need to care for their mental health too (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/coronavirus/returning-school-after-lockdown/looking-after-mental-health-for-teachers).  In fact, it’s absolutely clear that both children and teachers in the coming months are going to be faced with massive challenges, as they struggle to readjust and catch up.

This is not the time to impose a challenging new curriculum – and especially, let’s be honest, one that many parents already find of concern.  Far better, then, for schools to be allowed the time to consult with parents properly, so that they can agree an acceptable policy that works in the best interests of the children – and their overworked staff -and move forward together.

Please write to your MP today, expressing your support for the difficult task of getting children back into education that lies ahead and, in light of the challenges, asking to postpone implementation the new RSE Regulations, until such time as there will have been opportunity for proper and unrushed preparation, and over which parents will have been fully consulted, as required by law.

Please ask your MP to convey your concerns personally to the Secretary of State for Education, the Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP, and ask him or her to let you know the response.

Leave a Reply