National NEU Weekly Update
Week Ending 12/2/2021
Speculation raged this week about options for Government to take when moving to wider opening of schools. We spoke to the I about suggestions this may include summer schools and extended school days, and to the TES about suggestions that vaccines would be offered as some form of bribe to school staff.
We reacted to a damning report by the Public Accounts Committee on the performance of EdenRed, who had been contracted by Government to operate free school meal vouchers. Kevin was quoted in the Daily Mail story.
We also commented on vaccine roll-out in the Mail, and the thoughts of the Government’s newly appointed mental-health tsar in this BBC report. Kevin also spoke to the TES about DfE guidance on supply teachers.
Week Ending 5/2/2021
The IFS report on school funding came out on Monday. A Morning Star report quoting us can be found here.
We helped Newsnight with a feature on Tuesday night’s edition. Skip to 29:00 for our mention here.
Further promotion of our Education Recovery Plan came in the Northern Ireland press, for instance this BBC News story.
Kevin spoke to CNN this week and you can watch the report here. And Mary spoke to the Mirror about private tuition during lockdown, and to the New Statesman about Gavin Williamson’s performance as education secretary.
Week Ending 29/1/2021
Last Friday, Mary discussed with Schools Week our concerns about the Ofqual consultation on 2021 exams. She also appeared on Talk Radio’s breakfast show on Saturday to lay out our views and wrote this blog for SecEd, while on Sunday we spoke to the Observer about the challenges of home schooling for parents. Mary and Kevin both appeared in stories in the Daily Express, Daily Mail, Metro and Daily Mirror that speculated on the possible date for a full reopening of schools, and we spoke to LBC on Monday morning which was picked up in bulletins across independent radio stations.
Ofsted’s report on remote education was published Monday. You can find our comment here. That same day Mary spoke to the Guardian about the UsForThem campaign group, and questioned the ONS data on Covid deaths in this TES story.
Our campaign to Help a Child to Learn, in collaboration with the Daily Mirror, was launched on Tuesday evening. The press statement is here, and the accompanying survey report here. Stories appeared in TES, Morning Star, SecEd, Education Executive and the Mirror’s cover story was reported on paper round-ups on TV and radio and in the Guardian. The £1m fund was reported in breakfast news bulletins on many independent radio stations including Heart and Capital. There was a follow-up story in Thursday’s Mirror which again made the cover, and the paper’s Kevin Maguire promoted the campaign on Sky Papers on Wednesday evening. Coverage continued in Friday’s edition.
On Wednesday afternoon, Boris Johnson set out a roadmap for the full opening of schools, which was very sketchy but did specify a possible start date of 8 March. Our full comment is here, and Mary spoke to 5 Live Drive, Good Morning Britain and appeared in packages on Sky News and the BBC1 peak-time news shows. Clips of Mary appeared across BBC Radio bulletins throughout the night, including The World Tonight, and on independent stations we were widely quoted in hourly bulletins, saying that the Government “must now be immune to the embarrassment of u-turns” when we predicted yet another one was highly likely over the proposed date. Many local NEU officers also took to the airwaves on their regional stations, and our comment appeared in the Daily Mail, TES, the I, Independent, Morning Star and on Press Association. By morning our line about the Prime Minister giving “false hope” was still being used very widely across breakfast radio bulletin, and Mary appeared on Thursday’s Channel 5 evening news to comment further.
Week Ending 22/1/2021
Concerns around free school meals continued into the weekend press, with Kevin quoted in the Daily Mirror. There was also a good deal of coverage of Labour’s call on lunches; we were quoted in the PA story (via Daily Mail here). Our full comment ahead of the Opposition Day debate can be found here.
On Monday, Mary appeared on Sky News Breakfast to discuss the challenges facing schools and the debate around testing. You can watch some of it here. Our comments on prioritising educators for the vaccine were picked up by Press Association and Channel 4 News.
The Government position on testing faltered during the week, as a growing number of scientific bodies warned against the mass testing plan. Mary was quoted in stories from TES and the Daily Mirror. Our press release about the pausing is here and we spoke live about it to LBC.
Our comment on the latest school attendance figures was published on Tuesday and picked up by PA and TES. Our analysis of infection data was reported by TES, Nursery World, SecEd and the Daily Mirror, and used by the Sky News Breakfast presenter in his pressing of Gavin Williamson on Thursday about safety in schools. Mary was also quoted in the Daily Mirror story about the tragic deaths of teachers Donna Coleman and Alan Fitchett.
In his morning round of interviews on Thursday, Gavin Williamson hinted at two weeks’ notice of school openings but would not be drawn as to exactly when that would be. Our reaction was quoted in the Daily Mail and Metro.
We spoke to LBC on Thursday about the Sutton Trust report on learning in lockdown. Our press release is here and it was quoted by the Morning Star and Daily Telegraph. Mary rounded off the day chatting with 5 Live Drive about the vaccine, remote learning and what we see as the criteria for full opening of schools out of lockdown.
Week Ending 15/1/2021
There was much speculation last weekend about the numbers of students in schools and colleges, given the wider definition for key worker and vulnerable children when contrasted with March 2020. We commented in the Guardian , Independent, the Sunday Express and the Daily Mail. This culminated in Mary appearing on Newsnight (from 10:30 here)
We made a noise on Tuesday about the “Governmental sloth” surrounding distribution of laptops and internet devices for disadvantaged students. Our comment is here and it was picked up by the Press Association (via Northern Echo) and The Big Issue.
Growing calls for educators to be prioritised for vaccines culminated in Gavin Williamson saying on Wednesday they would be the ‘top priority’ in the next phase of roll out. Our statement, which is here, was quoted by TES, Press Association (also in Daily Mail), Morning Star, while a joint letter with AOC and others was reported by the TES. The education secretary also gave further detail of plans for 2021 exam arrangements, which we reacted to here and this was quoted by the FT (£) and PA.
On Thursday we raised concerns about the Government’s intention to switch from school-supplied free school meals to council-organised offers during February half term. We spoke to LBC, Times Radio and BBC News Channel, and were quoted in reports by the Times (£), Metro, Western Mail, Independent, Big Issue, ITV, Evening Standard, the Daily Telegraph (£), the Daily Mirror, Morning Star, the I, TES, the Guardian and BBC. Our full statement is here.
And today we helped TES on a story about the number of local public health directors cautioning against following the DfE’s plans for rapid testing in schools because of the unreliability of the lateral flow test.
All our press releases from the past seven days can be found here.
Week Ending 8/1/2021
Last Friday the Government made one of its characteristic u-turns, this time deciding at the eleventh hour to close all London primary schools – adding all previously excluded councils – for the first two weeks of term. Mary was clipped on ITV’s News at Ten reacting to the news.
On Saturday morning stories featuring the NEU made the front page of the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph and the Independent. Mary was interviewed on the Today Programme and Kevin on Radio 4’s PM programme later in the day. The Observer ran its story on the various actions being taken by education unions, as did TES and the Telegraph.
Our call to action for members, invoking section 44, was reported on Sunday’s front pages: the Independent, Sunday Telegraph, the Sun on Sunday and Observer. On Twitter, Kevin highlighted how the Sunday Times editorial demonstrated the cutting through of our argument. Viewing figures for our online meeting were quoted in Radio 4’s 6pm main news report, with Mary’s speech clipped. Kevin spoke to LBC.
NEU once again featured in front page stories on Monday about the mounting pressure to close schools: the Independent, Daily Mirror, the I, Metro and Times. We were also subject of an editorial in the Guardian, and Kevin was quoted in their main story. He also spoke to Sky News in the morning, while Mary wrote this blog for Left Foot Forward. By evening a full lockdown was a reality, and Kevin took part in Channel 4 News and then The Owen Jones Show live on YouTube (starts at 33:19 here). Mary spoke live to Newsnight (from 9:30), Talk Radio and rounded off the day with a second blog, this time for Schools Week.
Tuesday front page stories featuring the NEU, covering the announcement of a new national lockdown, were in the Metro, the Guardian, Daily Telegraph, the Independent, the Sun, the Daily Mirror, the Times and the I. The press that day took an interest in the digital divide, predictions on what will happen with exams. Mary spoke to BBC News and Channel 4 News. And with our plan B for schools well established, the resurrection of the NEU recovery plan on social media enjoyed considerable new reach.
Gavin Williamson confirmed his contingency plan for schools and colleges on Wednesday afternoon. It covered Ofsted inspecting remote learning, the roll out more laptop and 4G access to disadvantaged students, trusting teachers over an algorithm in the 2021 exams, with the cancellation of SATs thrown in as an afterthought. Our general press release was picked up widely. The Press Association story on Ofsted quotes it and can be found on the Daily Mail site. It was also picked up in the Independent. The exams announcement was covered by Politics Home. Mary spoke to John Pienaar on Times Radio. Williamson was dubbed “inept, careless, tribal” in this devastating Guardian analysis of his performance as education secretary, including comment from Mary.
The NEU remained in the headlines for several days, and in most local and national radio and TV news bulletins. Since New Year’s Day we have appeared in over 5,000 online news stories, almost 300 print stories, and more than 2,500 broadcasts – largely in the UK, but some of them used as far away as Japan.
All of our press releases can be found here.
Week Ending 18/12/2020
Last Friday, the latest ONS data release prompted us to argue for wider testing in schools and for secondaries in particular to move to online learning for the final week of term. This was also off the back of an announcement from the DfE of testing in London, Kent and Essex hotspots. Kevin was quoted in the Financial Times (online and print, £), BBC News, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Press Association (via Daily Mail), the I newspaper, Morning Star and TES. Mary also commented in a TES exclusive on the DfE’s refusal to reveal the numbers of schools intending to close early. Kevin’s interview with Sky News is here.
A veiled legal threat from the Department appeared on the cover of Saturday’s Daily Telegraph, which Kevin tweeted about here. He spoke live to LBC at lunchtime, which was then used in bulletins, and also to the Daily Telegraph. Mary spoke to Natasha Devon on her evening show on LBC. We were also quoted in the Sunday Telegraph (£), accusing the Government of hypocrisy. Our calls for staff to get access to the vaccine was quoted in the Sunday Express.
The letter from Greenwich Council, calling on schools to move to online learning ahead of Christmas, was made public on Sunday. Kevin spoke to ITV News at Ten and was quoted by Branwen Jeffreys on Radio 4’s The Westminster Hour at the same time, suggesting the decision was “very sensible”. This remark was used extensively in local and national radio bulletins on BBC throughout the night and into early breakfast, as well as during reports on BBC One and Sky News’ breakfast shows on Monday. By then, Kevin was on a fresh round of interviews, including a live with BBC Radio London, interview here. He also spoke to LBC News and 5Live, and in a pre-record for ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
In the Monday papers/online, our views on Greenwich were quoted in the Daily Telegraph (£), the I, Evening Standard, BBC News, ITV News, Sky News and a widely used Press Association story also picked up in the Daily Mail.
Later on Monday, Mary spoke to LBC News, which is available here. Kevin’s interview with Times Radio early evening was similarly used in bulletins throughout the night. In the Tuesday papers we featured in the Daily Mail, the FT (£) and Press Association stories (example).
Ofsted’s latest set of reports on Covid were sidelined in the press, but our comment was picked up in this TES story. We also commented on Tuesday about the latest attendance data (BBC News, TES, Guardian) and the proposed mass testing in schools from January (BBC News, PA, TES, FT, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail).
On Tuesday’s Radio 4’s Today Programme, NEU president Robin Bevan was interviewed alongside a representative of Harris Academies. You can listen to Robin’s section here, which was used widely across radio bulletins during the day, and he also featured live on Jeremy Vine’s Radio 2 show (from 11:20 here). Meanwhile, Mary’s powerful remarks to the Guardian were quoted in a Press Association story. Kevin spoke to BBC News Channel, a clip of which he shared in a public post on Facebook here He also spoke to LBC’s Tom Swarbrick late evening.
Our joint statement with ASCL and NAHT on pay was picked up in Schools Week on Wednesday. When rumours spread that a delay to the start of January term would be announced, Kevin was quoted in the Independent. He also appeared in a pre-recorded clip for bulletins on the Thursday edition of ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
A letter from Kevin appeared in Thursday’s Guardian, detailing how schools are a centre for transmission of coronavirus.
There was wide coverage across all national radio , TV and print media for the NEU’s position on the latest from the DfE for a staggered January return and mass testing of secondary and colleges pupils.
Polly Toynbee in the Guardian wrote a supportive piece on schools and staff with quotes from President Robin Bevan.
All of our press releases can be found here.
This is the final bulletin of the year. Wishing you all a restful break over the festive season and a happy 2021.
Week Ending 11/12/2020
Plans for GCSEs and A-Levels continued to get press attention, with quotes from Mary in Press Association stories and the TES. Continued speculation surrounding Ofsted’s plans for inspections in the New Year prompted comment in the TES.
NEU Cymru is calling for face masks in classrooms. Read the Western Mail report here. Also picked up in the Daily Telegraph and agency stories.
The late announcement from Government of an extra Inset day on 18 December, drew the ire of our national president Robin Bevan who wrote a scathing blog for Schools Week. It was quoted in a follow up news story.
A suggestion from America that teachers could deliver remote lessons while sick, was rebutted by Mary in this TES story.
The latest weekly release of absence figures due to Covid drew less press attention than usual, although the numbers remained high. Our commentary was mentioned in this Guardian article and was reported by TES.
By Thursday, the Government had begun to recognise that schools were acting as major centres of transmission. They announced plans for testing in schools in a few areas of the country including London. We issued a press release here. Kevin spoke to Radio 4’s PM programme shortly after the announcement (from 41:04 here) and to Sky News on Friday. Kevin’s words were clipped for The World Tonight on Radio 4 and in early breakfast bulletins on national and local BBC Radio stations. He was also quoted in the Daily Telegraph (£), Guardian and Press Association (via Daily Mail).
Week Ending 4/12/2020
We made supportive noises at the weekend when Labour called for a credible plan for GCSEs and A Level exams. Our comment is here and it was used by the Independent, Press Association and Morning Star.
The weekly drop of school attendance data came on Tuesday, and once again showed historic lows due to Covid-19. Our press statement is here and was quickly picked up by the Press Association and Schools Week.
The Ofsted Annual Report was also out on Tuesday. We commented here.
We support the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice call for an urgent inquiry into the Government’s handling of Covid-19. The open letter was reported in the I
On Thursday we reacted to a package of measures announced by the Government intended to manage disruption caused by Covid-19. The major focus in the press was on GCSE and A-Levels, and Mary spoke to Sky News, ITV Lunchtime News, BBC News Channel, BBC Politics Live (from 8:00 here) and Times Radio about this. Our president was quoted in a BBC story, and the Union also featured in stories on Schools Week (and here), Huffington Post, the I, TES, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail and Morning Star. Our press release on GCSE, A-Levels and Ofsted measures is here, and a further statement on primary assessment can be found here. Mary’s BBC TV interview was picked up on national and local radio bulletins from 1pm onward.
Thursday also saw the release of the latest figures for teacher training. We commented here.
Week Ending 13/11/2020
A number of data releases last Friday drew attention to the rise in Covid cases in secondary schools since the start of autumn term. We issued this statement and it was picked up by Schools Week, Press Association (via the Daily Mail), Daily Telegraph, FT (£), BBC News and TES.
There was anger this week when it emerged that Government has discontinued funding for projects which tackle LGBT+ bullying in schools. Kevin was quoted in the BBC story, as well as Pink News, Gay Times and Education Executive.
Finally Mary blogged for the TES about why teachers feel so let down by the Government. Read and share here.
Week Ending 6/11/2020
On Saturday we responded to leaks about a second lockdown by announcing our position that schools and colleges should be included as part of any national shutdown. Our press release was issued a few hours before Boris Johnson’s official statement. Coverage of our message was comprehensive, in widespread broadcast, print and online stories. There were frequent appearances on BBC News Channel, LBC, Times Radio and 5Live, live spots on Jeremy Vine’s Radio 2 and Channel 5 shows, The World At One, and pre-recorded clips on ITV News, Sky News, BBC Ten O’Clock News, 5 News, as well as hourly bulletins across radio and television networks. We featured in Press Association and Reach syndicated stories plus all national newspapers – see examples in the TES, Metro, Schools Week, BBC, Guardian, the Daily Mirror, and the Daily Mail. Local spokespeople were also very active. The extensive coverage continued through to Monday, with well over 2000 media mentions of the NEU across those three days.
Our call for support reached 150,000 signatures by Monday morning (Morning Star, Independent, the I, Mirror). Our Fair Grade petition on exams was handed in to the DfE on the same day (TES, Education Executive). We also commented on plans for the National Tutoring Programme (BBC).
On Tuesday, former national president Amanda Martin appeared on Good Morning Britain to discuss the dangers facing schools. You can watch it over two tweets here.
The NEU’s toolkit for supply workers was also launched. See the TES report.
New national restrictions for schools and colleges were announced on Wednesday, including the extending of Tier 3 measures for face coverings to all workplaces. We commented in the Daily Mail and our press release was quoted in the Daily Express.
Gavin Williamson sought to attack the union’s position on lockdown in the pages of Thursday’s Daily Telegraph, which we sharply rebutted (£). There was also pick up in the Guardian and TES, and our dismissal of his remarks was read out on the Today Programme. We also hit back at the Education Secretary’s blog for the DfE website in which he made the bizarre claim that ‘there is nothing we wouldn’t do’ for pupils during Covid – see Kevin in TES.
And finally, Mary wrote a blog for SecEd about exams in 2021 and Government’s unwillingness to shift ground on what is clearly an increasingly challenging problem. Please read and share.
Week Ending 30/10/2020
Going into last weekend, we were widely quoted on the failure of Government to back Free School Meals during half term. Kevin spoke to BBC News Channel on Friday and this was picked up on national radio bulletins, while Mary spoke live to a number of BBC Local Radio stations in the afternoon. In the next day’s papers we were quoted by the Daily Mail, Metro, and a widely used Press Association story in which Kevin described the Government as “callous” on this issue.
We also called for a rota system to be considered for secondary schools in lockdown areas. Read the reports in Schools Week, Daily Telegraph and TES, as well as a later piece in the Financial Times(£).
We were highly critical of the latest decision to ration the availability of laptops to disadvantaged pupils, which came within 24 hours of Government imposing a legal duty on schools to provide remote learning. Mary spoke live to BBC News Channel on Saturday and LBC the following day.
The future of exams in Wales gained a lot of press on Thursday when Qualifications Wales recommended that students do not sit GCSE and AS-Level exams next year. Meanwhile Gavin Williamson continues to hold for a three-week delay in England. We described this as “running out the clock” in a press release that was quoted by BBC and TES.
Week Ending 16/10/2020
Accusations of Coronavirus cronyism flew about last weekend, when Schools Week reported that a contract for laptops to disadvantaged pupils went, untendered, to a company founded by a Conservative Party donor. Mary commented. Kevin meanwhile spoke to Huffington Post about the cancellation of Government money to the Union Learning Fund, and to the Sunday Mirror about missed payments on teacher pensions. The latter story also featured in Pensions Expert (£).
TES reported on Kevin’s latest video to members, renewing our calls for testing.
On Monday we spoke to LBC about our School Covid Map, and Mary was interviewed on BBC News Channel and 5Live about Gavin Williamson’s long-awaited announcement on exams arrangements for 2021. The latter was picked up widely on national and local news bulletins throughout the evening. Mary was also quoted in the Guardian, the I, Press Association, Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror. It was also the subject of Mary’s latest blog for TES. Our press release is here.
Mark Langhammer spoke to Sky News about new Covid-security measures in Northern Ireland, following Wednesday’s announcement. Meanwhile, David Evans was quoted in the Western Mail about school funding in Wales.
Friday’s Schools Week continued its reporting on the National Tutoring Programme and its unspent money, with comment from Mary. This was picked up by the Guardian. She also spoke to TES about the school attendance of disadvantaged pupils during lockdown.
Week Ending 9/10/2020
Members’ lack of trust in Government and their concerns about inadequate Covid testing in schools, were the headlines of a new NEU survey released to coincide with our Special Conference on Saturday. Read the summary here, and reports on Press Association, Independent, Morning Star, Labour List and TES. The finding that one fifth of respondents had seen significant pupil absences at their school owing to Covid, featured in bulletins on independent radio during the day.
We released three press releases over conference, for motions one, two and three. Press Association reported on events, as did TES (and here), Morning Star, LBC and national BBC Radio bulletins in the evening, which also used statistics from our survey.
ASCL, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU and NGA joined forces this week on a proposal to government about next year’s exams. Read more here. Following the meeting with Nick Gibb on Monday, Mary released comments. Associated stories appeared in TES, Financial Times (£), Schools Week, the I, MSN, Press Association (via Daily Mail) and TES again.
Our Covid School Map – launched last week – continues to get featured on local news sites, amongst them the Watford Observer, Bolton News, the Bristol Post, Yorkshire Live and the Epping Forest Guardian.
Conservative Party Conference ended with the Prime Minister’s speech and, in it, hints that the National Tuition Programme is set to expand – we commented here, and this was picked up by the Guardian. Also on Tuesday the Government released the latest school attendance figures, which we commented on here. She also reacted to plans for ‘academic mentors’ in this Guardian story.
On Friday we commented on the Education Policy Institute’s report on how Government has failed in its efforts on free school meals and laptops for disadvantaged pupils. Kevin was quoted by TES.
Elsewhere, Kevin reacted to a Schools Week investigation into the gaps in teachers’ pensions, and a TES report on demand for supply teachers this term, while Mary spoke to the same paper about the challenges facing schools to keep ventilated and Covid-secure during the cold months. We also responded to the numbers of school workers’ deaths from asbestos in this Sunday Mirror story, and Mary spoke to the Guardian about the “dog-whistle politics” of changes to RSHE guidance for schools.
Week Ending 2/10/2020
Last weekend we spoke to Times Radio about accessing tests, following new DfE statistics which showed trends in school attendance due to Covid. We also contributed to a special Huffington Post report on what life is like inside schools this term.
On Sunday we commented on a Reach data story about the number of head teacher salaries which exceed £200,000, which was picked up by the Daily Express. Elsewhere Daisy Cooper of the Liberal Democrats referenced our discussions with her during a speech at their annual conference – see the TES report. And our vice-president spoke to the Observer about Covid pressures on schools.
Our quote last week about the need for free school meals guarantees in the forthcoming school breaks was picked up in Northern Ireland, where this is also a major issue, on Monday. See the Belfast Telegraph story here.
Tuesday saw an intervention by the Children’s Commissioner, with the publication of her report on the impact of Covid on young people’s lives. Our full reaction is here. Mary’s words were quoted in the Guardian, the Daily Mail, Press Association and Schools Week.
Also on Tuesday, the Prime Minister launched his plans for skills and lifelong learning. Our reaction, which can be read here, suggested the commitment simply doesn’t go far enough.
An analysis of the OECD’s Pisa 2018 was also out on Tuesday. We commented here, highlighting the need for smaller class sizes, especially after Covid.
Our School Covid Map gained good levels of press interest on Wednesday. Read the full press statement here. It was helpfully embedded in a number of national news stories (e.g. the Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror) which drove a lot of web traffic to us, and it was also reported on by Press Association, Morning Star, Schools Week, SecEd, Netmums and TES. A number of stories in local press followed, such as Yorkshire Examiner, Devon Live, Hull Live, Inside Croydon and Leeds Live.
Mary’s comments during our Wednesday morning press briefing, about the concerns of vice-chancellors over exams, were picked up by the the I, TES, Press Association and widely used on BBC Radio national bulletins and online. We also renewed our calls for Nightingale Classes. The briefing had been convened ahead of our Special Conference, and the motions were reported on by TES, Schools Week and SecEd.
On Thursday, six unions, including NEU, came together in calling for a ‘significant’ pay rise for college staff. The FE Week Story is here, and it has also been picked up by TES. On the same day, Gavin Williamson announced new measures for remote education. We were highly critical of the new criteria that would prevent some disadvantaged children from obtaining much-needed IT support, as you can see from our press release. Mary was quoted by Press Association and BBC News.
Overnight, our call for more about black culture to feature in the curriculum was picked up in many radio bulletins on independent stations such as Heart, Capital and LBC.
On Friday speculation grew around plans to delay A-Level exams in 2021 by three weeks, with an announcement expected next week. Mary was quoted in the Daily Mirror and our position was referenced in the BBC News report. Also, a TES survey of Covid cases in schools drew comment from Mary.
Week Ending 25/9/2020
Our weekend letter to the Prime Minister, calling for urgent action to improve testing in schools, was widely quoted by Press Association, Guardian, Metro, Sky News, TES, SecEd and the Daily Mail. Mary’s warnings on testing were also quoted in the Sunday Mirror.
Elsewhere, Kevin spoke about air pollution in Independent Education Today, Mary commented on excessive redundancy payments for academy chiefs in Schools Week, and Kevin to the Daily Telegraph on the possibility of rota systems in schools due to Covid. Mary’s remarks to the Times about exams season 2021 were also picked up by MSN.
The DfE’s latest school attendance figures were released on Tuesday. This confirmed estimates floating around social media that as many as 1,000 schools had been partially or fully closed due to Covid. Our press comment is here and was used by the Guardian, the Sun, Evening Standard, Press Association, BBC News and the I.
We also reacted to Keir Starmer’s speech to Labour Annual Conference and his demands that Government reduce the education gap.
In today’s I newspaper we voice our support for calls to extend free school meals to all school holidays.
Finally, the National Education Union will form part of the Hamilton Commission, a research project set up by Lewis Hamilton to study the barriers facing Black people in getting work in UK motor sport. Reports in the Daily Mail and ESPN.
Week Ending 18/9/2020
Kevin wrote a column for the Morning Star on Monday, marking TUC Congress, in which he discussed child poverty. Mary’s speech was referenced in Sky News reports. We also contributed to a black workers debate, with our senior vice president quoted in reports, and Kevin spoke during a debate about international workers.
A joint letter to Gavin Williamson about pay, signed by the general secretaries of ASCL, NAHT, NEU and Voice, was sent this week. You can view it here and reports appeared in Sec Ed, Morning Star, Education Executive and on Labour List.
Kevin spoke to Tuesday’s Guardian about the urgent need for more testing and its availability to schools. Mary commented witheringly to the Daily Mail about Boris Johnson’s remarks to the Commons’ Liaison Committee about how schools should approach testing and isolating. Her words to Schools Week about the Government’s website coding error can be read here.
Meanwhile, the mental health and wellbeing of teachers and school leaders during the pandemic was the subject of an Education Support-commissioned survey, which we commented on here.
A new campaign to improve air quality around schools was lunched this week, with NEU one of its supporters. Education Business reported on it here. It was also covered by Sec Ed and the Daily Express.
Today saw the release of the IFS’s annual report, yet another demonstration of the underfunding in education by successive Conservative governments. Read our comment here and it was widely picked up, including the Guardian, TES and again here, Education Executive, Exec Review and BBC News.
Week Ending 11/9/2020
On Sunday we spoke to the Mirror about the Government’s failure to heed our calls in the summer for retired to teachers to be brought back to support schools in the safe running of classrooms. Mary also talked to the Observer about slow action from Government on their National Tutoring Programme.
During the week we responded to stories about cases emerging since the full opening of schools, and access to testing, on BBC News, the I, TES, the Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Morning Star and Press Association.
Our comment on the OECD’s publication of their annual Education at a Glance report, is available here.
Mary’s latest column for SecEd assesses the exam results fiasco of August, and the flawed assumptions baked into the system. Please read and share.
Week Ending 4/9/2020
We ended last week with a joint letter calling on Gavin Williamson to take swift action to arrange an independent inquiry into this summer’s disastrous exam results process. The general secretaries of the NAHT, ASCL, NASUWT and NEU all signed the letter and this was reported by Schools Week, the I, the Press Association and Metro.
On Saturday Kevin spoke to Politics Home ahead of the full opening of schools, and we reacted to the overnight release of new, belated guidance from Government advising schools on a “Plan B”. This included a breakfast interview on LBC (quoted in bulletins throughout the day), while Mary’s appearance on BBC News Channel made its way into local and national radio and TV bulletins from mid-afternoon onward. We featured in hourly independent radio bulletins following an additional interview Mary did with LBC, and we remained in the headlines until late evening. We are also quoted in news stories from the BBC, ITV , the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Telegraph.
Our reaction to the Government guidance continued into Sunday, with pick up in the Independent, ITV, Press Association, the Daily Mail and the Guardian. When Labour proposed that next year’s exams should be delayed, we issued this statement and spoke live to LBC and Times Radio. Our comment later appeared in the Yorkshire Post, the Daily Telegraph (via MSN) and the Morning Star.
Monday brought renewed interest in the re-opening of schools, and we were quoted in opposition to parental fines for non-attendance on radio bulletins throughout the morning, and well into Tuesday, with further comment appearing in the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror. Monday also saw the publication of an NFER report on lockdown learning (our comment in TES and BBC) and a survey of teachers’ concerns about going back (see our quote in the TES story).
On Tuesday Mary spoke to the Today Programme as schools began to re-open (listen from 49:20 here), and in the afternoon, live to BBC News Channel about what we need to see in Government planning for 2021 exams. Her Today interview was quoted in the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and on the BBC. We were again quoted on fines for parents by the Evening Standard, Press Association, LBC and ITV .
Our incoming national president Robin Bevan wrote a coruscating column for Thursday’s Guardian which took Government to task for not listening to and persistently failing school leaders throughout Covid. Please read and share.
Week Ending 21/8/2020
Last Friday we gained coverage for our petition calling on Gavin Williamson to take action to avert a repeat of this year’s exam results fiasco in 2021. See the stories in TES, the BBC and Morning Star. Mary set out our reasoning in a blog for Left Foot Forward. The petition had reached 25,000 signatures in its first day.
On Sunday, Public Health England published its long-awaited study which weighed up the risk of schools opening fully in September. Our full comment is here and we fielded many broadcast interviews including LBC, which was picked up widely on independent local stations. A live interview on Sky News with Kevin was clipped through the day. Our call for a Plan B was quoted across national and local BBC Radio bulletins from lunchtime and was the top headline on hourly bulletins by evening and into the small hours, both on the BBC and independent radio. This totalled 600 mentions of our Plan B call on radio in the space of just 24 hours. We were also quoted in reports on the Daily Mail (with video), a widely used Press Association story, the Evening Standard, Morning Star, the I and a further wave of stories about Boris Johnson’s message to worried parents in the Guardian, Financial Times (£), Daily Telegraph (£), the Independent, Press Association, ITV News, Sky News and BBC News, as well as a round of morning bulletins for Monday breakfast.
The PHE report was hot on the heels of a World Health Organisation statement on Friday which called for wider use of face coverings and medical-grade masks for over-60s and otherwise vulnerable staff. Scotland listened and had implemented the advice by Monday, but there were two days of dither and delay by the Westminster Government.
There were many broadcast interviews on Monday from NEU speakers discussing safety in schools on the cusp of re-opening, including 5Live Breakfast, Talk Radio, BBC News Channel, Sky News, ITV Lunchtime News, Times Radio (quoted in the Express story), Bloomberg and the hat trick of BBC One’s 1pm, 6pm and 10pm news slots. Together this work ensured a regular presence in hourly bulletins on radio and television throughout the day. We were also quoted in the Daily Express, Metro, Independent, Daily Mail, TES, Evening Standard, Schools Week, Guardian (as well as in their leader) and the Daily Mirror.
On Tuesday the school re-openings story rolled on, as we spoke to NPR in America and the AFP in France. We also commented on the delayed and staggered release of BTEC grades, with a quote in the Press Association story and the Guardian. There was late breaking news that day with the resignation of Sally Collier from Ofqual and the Government’s latest u-turn on face masks in schools. Kevin gave live reaction to the former on BBC News Channel, and Mary to LBC on the latter. Our release on Ofqual is here and Mary’s comments to LBC on school safety were clipped on bulletins throughout the night. We were also quoted on face masks in the Daily Mirror, Metro, Guardian, Morning Star, Press Association (via Daily Mail), MSN and the I, and on Ofqual by the TES, Education Executive and Press Association (via Daily Mail).
Our reaction to the updated guidance on face coverings continued into Wednesday, and this was quoted by Metro and TES. Kevin also wrote a column for the Daily Mirror. You can listen to Kevin on Times Radio breakfast here and his appearances on Sky News Breakfast and BBC News Channel are available to download here for the next few days. Kevin’s Sky appearance was clipped across independent radio bulletins, and remarks that the Government lacked the confidence of teachers made it onto Radio 4’s The World at One. Mary also spoke to LBC News (here), Kevin with the Press Association and he rounded off the day with a live appearance on Channel 4 News where he was invited to comment on Jonathan Slater’s departure from the DfE. Mary spoke to the Guardian on the same subject, and this was picked up by Politics Home, and the Daily Mail.
We also provided a guest for a BBC News Channel discussion with supply teachers about the difficulties for schools in trying to maintain bubbles with temporary staff, and our reaction to Boris Johnson’s bizarre speech to a group of students – in which he spoke of a ‘mutant algorithm’ causing disruption to exam results – was widely quoted and chosen as Press Association’s quote of the day (story here). It appeared in the Evening Standard, the Daily Mail, TES, Guardian, Daily Telegraph (£), Daily Express, Daily Mirror, Metro, and on LBC News.
Our comment on the Wales decision on face masks was picked up by Press Association and BBC Wales. We also commented on the Education Policy Institute’s report on the disadvantage gap in education, and how it was worsening even before the pandemic. On this subject, Kevin’s Sky News Radio interview appeared on almost 200 morning bulletins, and our press release was quoted in the Guardian, BBC News, Children and Young People Now, and Politics Home.
Week Ending 21/8/2020
Since the last e-bulletin, the NEU has been extremely active in the media dealing with regular questions about school openings and the Government’s catastrophic handling of this year’s exam results.
In late July we commented on the inconsistent messages around face masks (Guardian, Daily Telegraph (£), Evening Standard, TES) and the cost of shredding SATs papers (Schools Week). We also continued to call for a Plan B from Government on school openings (Evening Standard, BBC 5Live), talked about the plight of trainee teachers (Guardian) and spoke to LBC about free school meals.
In early August we featured in a weekend of national and local radio bulletins about school openings, and in reports on the same issue from the BBC, Independent, Daily Mail, FT, TES, Daily Mirror, Press Association, Huffington Post and Daily Telegraph (£). We spoke to the Financial Times (£) and Guardian about the impact of Covid on exams season, and reacted to an EPI analysis of school funding which cast doubt on the credibility of Government claims that they were ‘levelling up’ (Guardian , BBC, Press Association and Morning Star).
The fall-out from Scotland results day lasted a week, after which attention turned to the plight of England’s students. On Thursday 13 August a huge number of downgrades were confirmed, leading to widespread anger and much controversy. Mary spoke to BBC News Channel and Sky News on the day, and these interviews were clipped in bulletins on BBC and independent radio at lunchtime and long into the evening. Other NEU spokespersons appeared on Channel 4 News, Talk Radio, Radio 2, LBC, Times Radio, Sky News and BBC News Channel across the week, and these too appeared in hourly radio and TV bulletins. Mary was quoted across BBC Radio throughout the following weekend, and NEU spokespersons continued this into Monday.
Meanwhile the Government has been under scrutiny for quoting and allegedly misrepresenting a PHE study on the spread of Covid-19 amongst children. Mary commented in the I, while Avis Gilmore renewed our calls for a Plan B in a story by Press Association. Mary’s tweets on the subject were also quoted in Schools Week.
In the past seven days we have written to Sunday Times about the lack of a Plan B for schools, and were at the forefront of discussion around the belated U-turn on England exam results by Gavin Williamson. Mary spoke to Sky News in anticipation of the latter, and LBC and 5Live immediately after it was confirmed by the education secretary. These interviews were picked up for independent and BBC radio bulletins.
We also provided comment to a wide range of news outlets during the days of speculation before and after A-Level results day: on John Swinney’s decision for BBC News, Press Association, Sky News, ITV News, Evening Standard and TES; the last-minute ‘triple lock’ in the I, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Press Association, BBC News; the fall-out of results day in Evening Standard, Daily Mail, FT (£) and Independent amongst others; the withdrawal of Ofqual advice on The World This Weekend (from 12:54); and the eventual u-turn in the Daily Mirror, Daily Express, Evening Standard, TES , Morning Star, Guardian , Daily Telegraph and Yorkshire Post amongst others. A handy chronology was published in the TES.
By Wednesday we had written to Gavin Williamson calling for swift action to ensure this does not happen again in 2021. You can read the full letter here, and reports about it featured on Press Association, TES, Metro, the Daily Telegraph (£), Daily Mail and ITV Evening News and News at Ten. Our petition was also launched.
You can read all our recent press releases here.
Week Ending 24/7/2020
On Monday we responded to the Government’s announcement on school funding for 2021, drawing attention to how this fails to make up for losses since 2010. See Mary’s full comment here and it was quoted in this Children and Young People Now report.
We welcomed Ofqual’s statements at its Summer Symposium on Tuesday about its confidence in this year’s GCSE and A-Level results. Nansi Ellis was quoted in the BBC and Guardian stories, and you can read her full statement here.
In Pink News on Wednesday there was an extended tribute to Tony Fenwick MBE, a leading figure behind LGBT+ History Month and Schools Out UK as well as a prominent union activist, who sadly died on 8 July. Kevin’s tribute is quoted in the article.
Week Ending 17/7/2020
We responded to an NFER poll issued on Tuesday detailing the experience of GCSE and A-Level students under lockdown. We commented in the TES and SecEd, and our press release is here. Mary was quoted in a story at the weekend about an Education Select Committee report into fairness in the exams system.
Mary also spoke to the TES about Government ambitions for the National Tutoring Programme, and Niamh Sweeney contributed to an Observer report on post-16 funding. Niamh also appeared on The Moral Maze to debate ‘how and why we educate?’ (from 17:04).
Meanwhile, a Parentkind poll of parents showed that the majority want a say in the circumstances behind their child’s return to school in September. We were quoted in the Press Association story which got wide pick up. It was also reported by TES. Our full comment is here.
Finally, today’s TES poll delivers a damning end-of-term verdict on the Government’s handling of Covid-19. Mary was invited to comment.
Week Ending 10/7/2020
The NEU was mentioned in Guardian article urging in the light of COVID 19 and lockdown for the suspension of League Tables
The House of Lords Food, Poverty, Health and Environment Committee report published on Monday stated that food for many families was too expensive and unhealthy we were quoted in the Daily Mail saying this should serve as a ‘wake up call’ to Government.
Gavin Williamson’s announcement of a renewed focus on FE was widely reported. We welcomed the news but of course the devil is always in the detail and we await the White Paper in September. PoliticsHome story here.
The NEU was quoted in a Huffington Post article on Government’s disheartening response to campaigning group Black Curriculums calls for mandatory teaching of colonial and Black British history in schools.
A supportive article in the Telegraph for the need to abandon SATs tests next year mentions the More Than A score petition.
Week Ending 3/7/2020
On Saturday, Mary featured in a Schools Week story speculating on what the situation might be for currently shielding staff come September. Kevin meanwhile spoke to the Financial Times in a piece about the widespread doubts within the profession about the viability of a full return for all pupils in the autumn.
In an effort to correct course on the Government’s disastrous handling of schools, Boris Johnson on Sunday threatened parents with fines if they did not return their children to school in September, irrespective of safety fears. Our reaction was quoted in the Guardian, Daily Express, ITV News and in local press via Press Association.
On Monday we spoke to LBC in the morning about the need for clear guidance ahead of September openings. By mid-afternoon, the guidance had been leaked in draft form to the Huffington Post. We commented in the follow-up stories by the Guardian and the Daily Mail. In the TES, Mary described it as ‘a plan for schools in England that don’t exist’. We also commented on the Prime Minister’s plan to regenerate school buildings, noting with bitter irony that this week is the tenth anniversary of the Coalition Government abolishing Building Schools for the Future. Our press release is here and this was quoted in the Children & Young People Now report.
The lockdown of Leicester led to Mary commenting in a TES story on Tuesday that Matt Hancock’s own words in interviews are a tacit admission that wider opening of schools does indeed have safety repercussions for the local community. Also that day, we joined forces with NAHT and Early Education to write to the Prime Minister about the plight of maintained nursery schools and the urgent need for additional funding.
The formal release of the DfE’s guidance was on Thursday morning. By then, Kevin had already done the rounds on Sky News and BBC News Channel, and followed its release with The World at One (listen from 12:25), ITV Lunchtime News, a further live interview for BBC News Channel, as well as the evening report on Sky News. Mary spoke to LBC, and clips of Kevin could be heard on independent local radio bulletins throughout the day. We were also in BBC bulletins during the evening, both national and local. Our full comment is here and this was quoted by Press Association, Daily Telegraph, Reuters, Morning Star, Daily Mail, Financial Times, the Spectator and SecEd. We also reacted that day to Ofqual’s opening of a consultation on exams and assessment in 2021 – read our thoughts on that here and we were quoted in the Guardian and the BBC story here.
Week Ending 26/6/2020
Too late for last week’s bulletin was our reaction to the Prime Minister’s claims on Friday afternoon that all pupils will be back five-days-a-week from September. Our press release was read out in full on Sky News, quoted in many independent local radio bulletins, and incorporated into Branwen Jeffreys’ early evening report for BBC Radio 4. We were also in a widely used Press Association report, and in stories for the Daily Mail, BBC News Online and Schools Week.
Kevin was on Saturday’s edition of the Today Programme to discuss wider opening and the risks involved (from 35:45 here). We also spoke to LBC, and that was clipped through the day.
A Mail on Sunday report on Gavin Williamson’s handling of the crisis, as well as the summer plan proposed by Lord Adonis, included comment from Kevin. He was quoted on the same story in the I, the Sun and the Times (£).
On Monday SecEd published Kevin’s blog on what is needed this summer, and beyond. You can read it here.
In the Commons on Tuesday, Boris Johnson confirmed his decision to reduce social distancing to one-metre plus. Our full reaction is here and it was quoted by TES, Schools Week, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Morning Star (£), SecEd the Daily Telegraph and Press Association. An additional TES piece, quoting Mary, asked if the Department for Education understands how schools work…
It emerged on Wednesday that the £1bn catch-up fund for schools will be spread evenly across the country, regardless of where there may be higher numbers of disadvantaged pupils. Mary was quoted in the TES report.
Leaked reports to the Daily Telegraph on Thursday indicated that social distancing in schools will be abolished by September. This comment from the union was picked up by the Reach agency (an example in the MEN here) and Evening Standard. The Government also quietly confirmed that statutory Baseline Assessment will be delayed until autumn 2021 due to the impact of Covid-19 on schools – read our reaction here and the story in Nursery World. School census data released yesterday showed an increase in the number of pupils in classes of 31+. We commented here, and our lines were picked up by the Guardian and Press Association.
Week Ending 19/6/2020
A major u-turn on free school meals for the summer took the headlines this week, with footballer Marcus Rashford making a major and highly effective intervention. Kevin backed him in a Press Association report on Monday, as well as in the Guardian , Independent , Daily Telegraph , Metro and Evening Standard, and we welcomed the Government change of heart on Tuesday here. Our reaction was picked up by the Guardian, Daily Mail and various local papers (