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Home-schooled children lacked ‘discipline and order’ during lockdown says Gavin Williamson

The Covid-generation of home-schooled children lacked ‘discipline and order’ while stuck at home during lockdown, says Gavin Williamson.

The Education Secretary has backed a mobile phones ban in schools, saying it is ‘now time to put the screens away’ as the return to classrooms rendered remote learning – which relied on internet-accessible devises – redundant.

He said home schooling while schools were shut will ‘inevitably’ impact pupils – adding that ‘out of control behaviour’ by certain youngsters could risk destroying lessons for others.

He will back any action by headteachers to curb sub-par behaviour – including detentions, suspensions and expulsions – and said wanting disciplined classrooms is ‘nothing Dickensian’. 

A consultation by the Department for Education will be carried out this year to help school leaders put phone bans in place and decide on policies for poor behavior.

The Covid-generation of home-schooled children lacked 'discipline and order' while stuck at home during lockdown , says Gavin Williamson (pictured)

The Covid-generation of home-schooled children lacked ‘discipline and order’ while stuck at home during lockdown , says Gavin Williamson (pictured)

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Williamson said: ‘This longed-for return to the classroom will give them the structure and order they desperately need, where they feel safe and ready to learn.

‘Although remote learning was a tremendous success in terms of enabling children to carry on with their lessons from home, the lack of regular structure and discipline will inevitably have had an effect on their behaviour.’

While tablets or laptops can be used in a ‘controlled’ way in classrooms, mobile phones should not be allowed, the Education Secretary said, adding: ‘Outside the classroom, the use of mobile phones distracts from healthy exercise and good old-fashioned play.

‘Worse, it acts as a breeding ground for cyberbullying, and the inappropriate use of social media sites – such as anonymous Instagram accounts, where students are ranked on their appearance – can heighten insecurities, damage mental health and encourage harassment.’

The Department for Education (DfE) is set to launch a £10million ‘behaviour hub’ in time for the summer term – which will see 22 ‘lead schools’ advise others on how to manage pupils’ behaviour and create discipline. 

It follows the news that face coverings in secondary school classrooms could remain in place until the end of the year after the Government came under pressure not to ‘rush into’ removing the mask mandate from five major unions. 

A consultation by the Department for Education will be carried out this year to help school leaders put phone bans in place and decide on policies for poor behavior (file image)

A consultation by the Department for Education will be carried out this year to help school leaders put phone bans in place and decide on policies for poor behavior (file image)

Officials at the Department for Education said secondary pupils in England should wear masks when they return to school for the summer term, in both lessons and corridors, as a ‘precautionary measure’.

They explained that the policy will be dropped as part of stage three of the roadmap out of lockdown, which will happen no earlier than May 17.  

Any changes to the policy will be confirmed with one week’s notice following a review of the latest data on infection and vaccination rates, the DfE said.

Last month, MPs heard that school leaders had received ‘threatening letters’ from parents who did not want their children to wear face coverings.

But a joint letter from the leaders of the National Education Union (NEU), NASUWT teaching union, NAHT school leaders’ union, GMB and Unison said there was a ‘strong scientific consensus’ that face masks can and should continue to be part of measures to suppress transmission of Covid-19.

When Boris Johnson announced that schools would reopen on March 8, he said secondary school pupils would need to wear masks anywhere indoors where they could not socially distance, including classrooms and corridors.

Year 11 students, wearing face coverings, take part in a GCSE science class at Park Lane Academy in Halifax, northwest England on March 8, 2021

Year 11 students, wearing face coverings, take part in a GCSE science class at Park Lane Academy in Halifax, northwest England on March 8, 2021

Year 11 students, wearing face coverings, take part in a GCSE maths class at Park Lane Academy in Halifax, northwest England on March 8, 2021

Year 11 students, wearing face coverings, take part in a GCSE maths class at Park Lane Academy in Halifax, northwest England on March 8, 2021

However, at the time he insisted the measure would remain in place until Easter, at which point a review would be carried out. 

The decision to extend the use of masks in the classroom has come as a surprise to many, with parents and campaigners accusing ministers of ‘betraying’ children by upholding the mandate during the summer term.

In their letter to Gavin Williamson, the unions – which represent teachers, heads and other school staff, said masks may be helping suppress the spread of Covid-19 in schools and insisted they are not causing disruption to learning. 

Department of Health bosses recorded another 2,379 positive Covid tests, with the rolling seven-day average for infections now at the lowest levels since mid-September

Department of Health bosses recorded another 2,379 positive Covid tests, with the rolling seven-day average for infections now at the lowest levels since mid-September

Britain's daily coronavirus deaths have fallen by two-thirds in a week, with 20 victims announced. It means the UK has gone a fortnight without registering over 100 daily deaths

Britain’s daily coronavirus deaths have fallen by two-thirds in a week, with 20 victims announced. It means the UK has gone a fortnight without registering over 100 daily deaths

According to the Guardian, the letter stated: ‘None of us wants to see pupils or staff wearing face coverings for longer than is necessary.

‘However, it is our shared view that the government should not rush into changing this policy at short notice without careful consideration of the scientific evidence surrounding the wearing of face coverings in schools.’

The unions argued that there is ‘a strong scientific consensus’ that masks ‘can and should’ be part of anti-coronavirus measures.

‘The research suggests that they cut down the chances of both transmitting and catching the coronavirus,’ the leaders said. 

‘We have also seen the emergence of more recent studies that suggest that they can help to reduce transmission of the virus within schools.’ 

Boris Johnson during a gloomy media briefing in Downing Street yesterday

Boris Johnson during a gloomy media briefing in Downing Street yesterday


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