Esther McVey hopes 2021 will be the year the country delivers a first class online learning curriculum and ensure the next generation do not suffer further due to the pandemic.
The Tatton MP said research had shown pupils lost an average of three months learning last year due to Covid restrictions with some from deprived areas losing up to four months.
She said: “If we all believe in social mobility and I certainly do, then this is not good enough. We need to act to support our pupils and we need to act at pace. Education is the great equaliser; we need to adapt and we need to adapt quickly.”
Speaking in Parliament she said online learning was here to stay, it had the potential to be a resource used in various ways in years to come and called for collective action from everyone involved in teaching and education to create this new platform.
Ms McVey said: “2021 must be remembered for the year that online standards for education are set. If schools are to be closed and pupils to be at home then pupils need to have devices on which they get their lessons, a reliable network coverage which schooling can be delivered and a secure platform. We also need to have a set curriculum and there needs to be oversight and support for those pupils and structured feedback loop of pupils to teachers. You cannot have lockdown and closures and no full time alternatives at the ready.”
She pointed to the Open University as an example of online excellence and hopes there will be a “game changer” moment in online learning making the UK a world leader. Once in place resources could be used to help pupils catch up who have been sick, those who excel in certain subjects could do extra learning and the 60,000 pupils home schooled pre pandemic could benefit.
Ms McVey said: “We have to go to get teachers, Ofsted and Government and unions to come together to set out that standard. If unions and teachers and local councils are arguing for pupils not to return to school and with Government’s announcement of a third national lockdown then they must come together and provide for a full and accessible online curriculum because there is joint responsibility there and therefore joint action is needed.”
Ms McVey also issued a stark warning to Government it must reinstate its manifesto pledge to ensure 1gb capability to everyone by 2025 to end the “division in provision.” A recent report showed teachers believe only one in ten have adequate access to laptops and the internet.