Local government

PM accepts some English primary schools may not return on 1 June | Education

Boris Johnson is pressing ahead with plans to reopen schools on 1 June but moved to appease councils and teaching unions by acknowledging for the first time that primary schools in England won’t have to reopen to more pupils until they are prepared. The acknowledgment by the prime minister came in his opening statement at the daily Covid-19 press conference on Sunday, in which Johnson said the government wanted primary schools to plan for allowing pupils in reception, year one…

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Poll reveals half of parents unconvinced that school is safe for their children’s return | Education

Parents are divided over the prospect of sending their children back to school, a new poll has revealed, as parent groups warned that mixed messages and poor communication had caused widespread anxiety about returning. With school leaders still grappling with the practicalities of reopening primary schools for some year groups in just a week’s time in England, an Opinium poll for the Observer found that 43 per cent of primary school parents and 54 per cent of secondary school parents…

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English schools reopening: which councils will meet 1 June deadline? | Education

No change: councils where no maintained schools are likely to meet the 1 June deadline • Sunderland city council said there was “no rush” to open up schools further on 1 June given the relatively local high rate of Covid-19 infections. The council leader, Graeme Millar, said: “Our stance is clear, we cannot expect teachers – or children – to be in a school environment in Sunderland unless they know that it is safe for them, and there are serious…

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Teachers can legally refuse to return over health risk, says union | Schools

Teachers can legally refuse to return when schools reopen unless they get the same protections against coronavirus as other frontline staff, one of the UK’s leading teaching unions has warned. In a letter to local authorities seen by the Guardian, the 300,000-strong NASUWT threatens to invoke legal action to defend teachers against being forced back into schools on 1 June because of the risk to their health. The union’s letter marks a significant hardening against the government’s push to reopen…

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Children could be recruited by gangs during lockdown, report says | Society

A “real risk” exists of criminal gangs recruiting young people out of school during the coronavirus lockdown, the children’s commissioner for England has warned in a report on deprivation in England. The report by Anne Longfield said hundreds of thousands of young people are off the radar of “early warning systems” such as schools, putting them at heightened risk. It calls for the government to ensure that councils and teachers stay in touch with those most vulnerable to exploitation, and…

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UK councils face lawsuits over access to education in lockdown | Education

The UK government must ensure pupils from poor backgrounds have computers and internet connections during the coronavirus lockdown or face legal action for depriving children of their education, according to a group of legal activists. The Good Law Project argues that the widespread reliance on online learning during the lockdown is illegally disadvantaging state school pupils who lack access to tablets, laptops or adequate broadband. It says it will sue local authorities to try to push the government into action.…

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Council leaders call for funding for free school meals over Easter | Education

City leaders have said some of England’s most vulnerable children could go hungry over the Easter holidays because the UK government is refusing to fund free meals. Councils have been told they can continue to provide free school meals during the break if they want to but will have to find the money themselves. The mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, and the leaders of Birmingham and Leeds city councils, Ian Ward and Judith Blake, have written to the education secretary,…

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Councillor’s ‘oven-ready’ scheme to force private schools to pay their bit | Education

When councillor Libby Lisgo visits one of the most deprived estates in Taunton, in her ward of Priorswood, she can see the fence of Taunton school, one of the area’s famous independent schools. “While we are struggling to raise funds to take local residents on rare day trips, I can see a fleet of minibuses on the other side of that fence, sitting idle,” she says. “And I can’t help thinking: ‘Gosh, if only we could access those from time…

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New budget rules for councils may hit special needs school spending | Education

Campaigners have raised fears that children with special needs, such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, could lose out from new government rules that will prevent councils from subsidising education spending from other parts of their budgets. The failure of government funding to match growing demand has led many councils to overspend on their education budgets and raid their reserves, with the situation particularly acute in special-needs education. From next month councils will no longer be able to reduce…

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Heads and councils press for extra £5.5bn for ‘struggling’ schools | Education

An alliance of headteachers, school governors, councils and unions are to lobby the chancellor for a further £5.5bn a year to help schools in England to avoid financial difficulties and cuts. The coalition, involving almost every significant organisation involved in state schools – including the National Governors Association and a bipartisan group representing both Conservative and Labour-led councils – is writing to Rishi Sunak before next week’s budget seeking additional funds, with a focus on “woefully underfunded” provision for pupils…

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London council launches free school meals pilot scheme | Education

A scheme to offer pupils free school breakfast and lunch irrespective of income has been launched in an attempt to tackle the growing food poverty crisis in parts of the UK. Hammersmith and Fulham council rolled out the scheme in west London on Wednesday. It said the national free school meals system was not working, leaving many children going to school hungry and remaining hungry throughout the day. Officials say the threshold for families to qualify for free school meals…

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Which party is tackling the injustice of grammar schools? None has the guts | Fiona Millar | Education

Whatever the outcome of the general election, one group of heads will have every reason to be content. The leaders of England’s 163 grammar schools have made it through another campaign with barely a word uttered about the bastions of privilege over which they preside. How different from 2017, when Theresa May’s retro idea to create new grammar schools ensured that the arguments for selection (slim) and against (substantial) were rehearsed frequently and loudly. In the end, the hung parliament…

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Some councils’ school transport costs nearly as high as child social care | Education

Councils in England have warned that home-to-school transport, on which many children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) depend, is under threat because of “unsustainable” costs and insufficient funding. A report commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA) and County Councils Network has revealed that councils are spending more on home-to-school transport than they spend on children’s centres, family support or youth services. In some areas where the costs of transport are disproportionately high, often because of long distances…

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Special needs children are being failed | Letters | Education

This is the most damning select committee report I’ve ever read (Children with special needs plunged into ‘nightmare of bureaucracy’, 23 October). Line after line, it shows that the education system for disabled children is completely broken. Parents are forced to become protesters, lawyers and bureaucrats to stand any sort of chance of getting the support their child is legally entitled to. The government now has a golden opportunity to carry out a root and branch review of the system,…

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Special educational needs reforms ‘failing generation of children’ | Education

A cross-party committee of MPs has accused the government of failing a generation of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) in a damning new report which calls for radical change across the system. The report, by the education select committee, said ambitious government reforms, introduced in 2014 to improve the experiences of Send pupils and their families, had been poorly implemented with damaging consequences for many. Children had been left without the additional support they…

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Funding cuts take toll on support for visually impaired pupils | Education

Thousands of children and young people with vision impairment (VI) are being failed because of a shortage of funds for specialist education services, research by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has found. Less than half (44%) of councils in England have either cut or frozen funding for educational support for VI children, putting specialist provision under significant pressure, according to the RNIB report. A similar proportion (43%) have already had reductions in specialist staff and increasing workloads…

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