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Ofsted chief hopes face masks in schools can be scrapped after Easter

Daisy Lester and Kate Devlin
·3-min read
<p>Spielman said she hopes schools will be more normal for pupils by summer</p> (Reuters)

Spielman said she hopes schools will be more normal for pupils by summer

(Reuters)

The head of the official schools watchdog has said she hopes pupils will not need to use face masks in the classroom after Easter.

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman, said children are "adaptable and flexible" around measures including mask-wearing and testing in schools, and "can live with a little bit of inconvenience for a few weeks".

Speaking to Sophy Ridge on Sky News, she said: "I think the overwhelming thing we’re seeing is the vast majority of parents, the vast majority of children and the vast majority of teachers are really happy to be going back to school.

"I really hope the whole paraphernalia of masks and testing is only necessary for a short time ... I love the idea of children being able to come back in summer term able to see everybody fully."

Longer school days, shorter holidays and five-term years have all been discussed by the government to help children catch up, but Spielman warned these have a mixed success record.

The Ofsted chief inspector said similar ideas have not been a “long-standing success in the past” and “I don’t think many of those have persisted”.

She told Sophy Ridge: “There’s no point adding time here and ridding time there if you don’t get a groundswell of support.

This comes after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he was looking at “a whole range of different proposals... Whether it’s a five-term year, whether it’s lengthening the school day.”

Addressing concerns around the mental wellbeing of children after the last year, Spielman said for the "vast majority of children the restoration of normality" should be enough to "lift those symptoms" of loneliness and anxiety.

Though she added: "There is a minority, let’s hope it’s not too large a minority, whose problems have increased. Things like eating disorders, things like self harming... everybody needs to be alert to these."

With regard to how exam results should be decided, Spielman said: "There’s no perfect solution this year.

"We have a system that’s designed for normal years when all children have had more or less the same access to education. This year, for obvious reasons, it’s been very unequal across the country between schools.”

She added: "We’ve got a sort of hybrid here, which I think is a good attempt at creating the best we can do in very, very unsatisfactory circumstances.

"I think what we need to do is have everybody embrace it and do as much as we can to make it work."

She added that current Ofsted monitoring visits have shown "the extraordinary efforts that schools have been putting into remote education".

"It’s been a slog, it’s been a real slog. Children on the receiving end are bored, lonely, miserable, anxious and really, really want the normal experience again."

Schools are set to reopen across England on Monday with attendance mandatory as part of PM Boris Johnson’s “roadmap” out of lockdown. Year groups in secondary schools will return at different times over the week to allow for Covid-19 testing.

The UK’s largest education union has accused the government of failing to put adequate safety measures in place ahead of Monday’s reopening. Groups have said children returning to schools should be phased like in Scotland and Wales.

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