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Educational Settings - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:04 pm on 19th March 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Labour 12:04 pm, 19th March 2020

My Lords, I have to say that in the 33 years I have sat in this House this is by far the worst education Statement that I have ever listened to. It is wholly inadequate. As the National Association of Head Teachers has said, far more questions arise from it than answers. Before a Statement of this sort is produced, the work should have been done. The Department for Education and the Government have had plenty of time; they have been considering this issue for some weeks yet have come up with something that leaves parents, teachers and pupils in disarray.

I shall just give two examples—I would like to give many others but I must not take up too much of the House’s time. First, the Government have said that schools are going to be kept open for people in the workforce who are in key jobs, not only in the National Health Service but in many other areas. There is absolutely no clarity about how these schools will be chosen. The schools are closing tomorrow night, so what happens on Monday morning when a nurse who works in a crucial ICU does not know what to do or where to send her children? This preparation should have been done properly and it has not. How does the Minister think the system is going to work from Monday when there are so many uncertainties?

Secondly, there is the cancellation of GCSE and A-level exams. Any Minister who has been responsible for this area knows that you cannot play about with the exam system until you have done the necessary preparation so that pupils’ and teachers’ questions can be answered. We have a generation of young people now whose mental health is being jeopardised by the fact that they have not a clue what is going to happen to them regarding their university or job applications—or their college applications, if we are talking about GCSE.

Does the Government agree that it is vital that there is clarity about university entrance? Does the Minister agree that the simplest system would simply be to take the predicted grades, which are all centrally collected and every university has them for the applications they have received, and that any young person who has been made an offer at those predicted grades or below should be told within the next fortnight that their place will be guaranteed? If not, they will be left in extreme uncertainty and misery.