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Education: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Education

UIN 78548, tabled on 22 July 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent assessment he has made of the quality of education that pupils received (a) online and (b) on paper while schools have been closed during the covid-19 outbreak.

Answered on

15 September 2020

As part of national social distancing measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, we had to limit the numbers of children and young people attending schools, colleges, and nurseries. That is why, between 20 March and 1 June, education and childcare settings were open only to priority groups.

During the period of partial school closures, schools did a huge amount to deliver remote education to pupils remaining at home. The Department has supported sector-led initiatives such as Oak National Academy, a new organisation created by 40 teachers from schools across England. The Department has made £4.84 million available for Oak National Academy both for the summer term of the academic year 2019-20, and then for the 2020-21 academic year to provide video lessons for reception up to year 11. This will include specialist content for pupils with special educational needs and disability. The Oak National Academy will remain a free optional resource for 2020-21, as remote education may need to be an essential component in the delivery of the school curriculum for some pupils alongside classroom teaching, or in the case of a local lockdown. The Department is currently considering approaches to evaluating the Oak National Academy's effectiveness.

The Department published a comprehensive range of advice and guidance to support schools, including a list of high-quality online resources, which was assessed with support from some of the country’s leading educational experts. The guidance also included examples of how schools can support pupils without internet access by, for example, providing physical work packs, which can be seen here:, and here:

In addition to the departmental guidance and the work ofthe Oak National Academy, the BBC developed resources for families as part of a comprehensive new education package. This service was available during the period of partial school closures on television, BBC iPlayer and online at BBC Bitesize. Pupils without internet access were able to access the BBC’s education content via the red button.

In June, the Government announced a £1 billon support package to ensure that schools can help all children and young people make up for the lost teaching time. The package consists of two elements: a universal catch up premium for schools of £650 million to help make up for lost teaching time, and a new £350 million National Tutoring Programme for disadvantaged pupils and students.

The Department has already invested over £100 million to support remote education, including the delivery of over 220,000 laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children who would not otherwise have access. We are now supplementing this support by making available additional devices in the event face-to-face schooling is disrupted as a result of COVID-19 outbreaks or local lockdowns, and children become reliant on remote education.