STANDING COMMITTEE OF TYNWALD ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS EMERGENCY SCRUTINY FIFTH REPORT FOR THE SESSION 2019-20 EDUCATION DURING THE EMERGENCY - PP 2020/0134

 
STANDING COMMITTEE OF TYNWALD ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS EMERGENCY SCRUTINY FIFTH REPORT FOR THE SESSION 2019-20 EDUCATION DURING THE EMERGENCY - PP 2020/0134
PP 2020/0134

     STANDING COMMITTEE OF
                 TYNWALD ON
               PUBLIC ACCOUNTS

         EMERGENCY SCRUTINY

         FIFTH REPORT FOR THE
                 SESSION 2019-20

               EDUCATION DURING
                THE EMERGENCY
STANDING COMMITTEE OF TYNWALD ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
                              EMERGENCY SCRUTINY
                FIFTH REPORT FOR THE SESSION 2019-20
                 EDUCATION DURING THE EMERGENCY
3.1   There shall be a Standing Committee of the Court on Public Accounts.

3.2   Subject to paragraph 3.6, the Committee shall have –

      (a)      a Chairman elected by Tynwald,

      (b)      a Vice-Chairman elected by Tynwald,

      (c)      four other Members, who shall be Chairman of each of the Policy Review
               Committees (ex officio) and the Chairman of the Committee on
               Constitutional and Legal Affairs and Justice;

      and a quorum of three.

3.3   Members of Tynwald shall not be eligible for membership of the Committee, if, for
      the time being, they hold any of the following offices: President of Tynwald,
      member of the Council of Ministers, member of the Treasury Department referred
      to in section 1(2)(b) of the Government Departments Act 1987.

3.4   The Committee shall –

      (a)   (i) consider any papers on public expenditure and estimates presented to
            Tynwald as may seem fit to the Committee;

            (ii) examine the form of any papers on public expenditure and estimates
            presented to Tynwald as may seem fit to the Committee;

            (iii) consider any financial matter relating to a Government Department or
            statutory body as may seem fit to the Committee;

            (iv) consider such matters as the Committee may think fit in order to
            scrutinise the efficiency and effectiveness of the implementation of
            Government policy; and

            (v) lay an Annual Report before Tynwald at each October sitting and any
            other reports as the Committee may think fit.

      (b)   be authorised to require the attendance of Ministers for the purpose of
            assisting the Committee in the consideration of its terms of reference.
(c)   be empowered to issue directions under Standing Order 5.6(3), provided
            that any direction so issued shall be reported to Tynwald within a year.

      (d)   be the Accounts Committee referred to in section 3 of the Tynwald Auditor
            General Act 2011, with the relevant powers and responsibilities in relation
            to the Tynwald Auditor General; and

      (e)   be the Tynwald Public Accounts Committee referred to in section 3 of the
            Tynwald Commissioner for Administration Act 2011, with the relevant
            powers and responsibilities in relation to the Tynwald Commissioner for
            Administration.

3.5   The Chairman, Vice-Chairman and any member of the Committee shall not sit
      when the accounts of any body of which that person is a member are being
      considered.

3.6   Should the need arise in relation to a particular matter, such as a conflict of
      interest, Tynwald may elect an alternate member for the purpose and duration of
      the Committee’s consideration of that matter. Subject to paragraph 3.5, a
      conflicted member so replaced shall continue to serve as a member of the
      Committee for all other purposes.

The powers, privileges and immunities relating to the work of a committee of Tynwald
are those conferred by sections 3 and 4 of the Tynwald Proceedings Act 1876, sections
1 to 4 of the Privileges of Tynwald (Publications) Act 1973 and sections 2 to 4 of the
Tynwald Proceedings Act 1984.

                           Committee Membership
                   The Hon J P Watterson SHK (Rushen) (Chairman)

                    Mr L L Hooper MHK (Ramsey) (Vice-Chairman)

                              Ms J M Edge MHK (Onchan)

                              Mrs J P Poole-Wilson MLC

                        Mr C R Robertshaw MHK (Douglas East)

Copies of this Report may be obtained from the Tynwald Library, Legislative Buildings,
Finch Road, Douglas, IM1 3PW (Tel: 01624 685520) or may be consulted at
www.tynwald.org.im

All correspondence with regard to this Report should be addressed to the Clerk of
Tynwald, Legislative Buildings, Finch Road, Douglas, Isle of Man, IM1 3PW.
Table of Contents
I.      EXECUTIVE SUMMARY................................................................................... 1

II.     COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIP ............................................................................ 3

III. EMERGENCY SCRUTINY.................................................................................. 3

IV. EDUCATION DURING THE EMERGENCY .......................................................... 3

      SCOPE AND APPROACH                                                                                    3

      RESPONSE TO THE EMERGENCY                                                                             4

      COMMUNICATION                                                                                         9

      SUPPORT FOR ESTABLISHING ONLINE LEARNING PROVISION                                                   11

      MOVING FORWARD – PLANS FOR RETURN TO SCHOOL                                                          15

ANNEX 1: PAC EMERGENCY SCRUTINY – BRIEFING PAPER ....................................19
To: The Hon Stephen C Rodan OBE MLC, President of Tynwald,
                  and the Hon Council and Keys in Tynwald assembled

     STANDING COMMITTEE OF TYNWALD ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
                             EMERGENCY SCRUTINY
                FIFTH REPORT FOR THE SESSION 2019-20
                  EDUCATION DURING THE EMERGENCY

I.    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
 1.   The Department of Education, Sport and Culture and its new Minister were
      thrust into the emergency at a time of industrial dispute and uncertainty over
      the constitutional relationship between the Department and schools. This has
      exposed and magnified the underlying difficulties already being faced by the
      Department. It is not our intention to insert ourselves into this febrile situation,
      but to comment on the outcomes during the emergency as experienced by the
      Manx public.

 2.   During the evidence session, the CEO frequently referred to the industrial action
      as a practical obstacle. We have not had time to test this by taking evidence
      from the unions due to time constraints; as such we have had to give careful
      thought as to whether to publish the report. Notwithstanding this, our
      examination has been of the role of the Department as a whole. We have found
      significant room for improvement, irrespective of the industrial dispute.

 3.   We have heard of some excellent practice in schools as individual members of
      staff have made herculean efforts to support their pupils at this difficult time.

                                             1
The speedy establishment of hub schools provided a good example of quick
     thinking to a significant problem. However, inconsistencies of communication
     and online provision have been unfortunate side effects of the current state of
     affairs.

4.   Performance management, quality assurance and effective leadership has
     seemingly evaporated during the crisis. According to the Chief Executive this is a
     direct result of the industrial dispute, however for reasons already stated we are
     unable to opine on this. However, this has meant, inter alia, that exemplars of
     best practice (including those developed by teachers on island) have not been
     collated, disseminated and emulated as widely as would be hoped; that
     messaging between schools and the Department has not matched up, and
     performance of teachers has not been consistently monitored throughout the
     school closure period. The ultimate impact has been a wide disparity of
     provision which has been to the detriment of young people and their families.

5.   The plan to return to normal education provision has lacked forward thinking, or
     ability to adapt quickly enough to changing circumstances. Elements of the plan
     seem based on undeliverable criteria (such as 2m distancing), and appear
     conceptually as well as literally disconnected from the Government’s Medium
     Term Plan. It should not take three weeks to return all children to school, and
     we did not hear satisfactory reasons for this length of delay, when
     Government’s messaging is now very much on domestic normality.

6.   Much of the evidence we heard about the actions at the centre was about
     matters which we would consider administrative. We found it surprising that
     given the nature of this emergency the central support and co-ordination of
     education provision was not afforded a higher priority.

7.   The constitutional issue about where the responsibility for education sits, and
     the respective roles of the Department and schools, has already been identified,
     but the strains of the current emergency have highlighted the cracks in the
     model. In contrast to other areas of Government who were able to centralise
     and reconfigure services, the Department did not seem able to mandate a new
     approach, fulfil its standard setting role, did not seem to take control of
     communication, and still seems to be waiting for UK guidance despite a
     Government message of “Manx solutions for Manx problems”. We hope this will
     be investigated by the Chief Minister’s independent inquiry to provide a long-
     term solution to the problems identified here.

                                           2
II.      COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIP
   8.     During the process of undertaking this inquiry, Mr Callister was appointed as a
          Member of the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture. As a result,
          this brought him into conflict with his role as Chairman of the Environment and
          Infrastructure Committee, and he stood down prior to publication of this report.
          We wish to thank him for his contribution to the Committee’s work.

III.      EMERGENCY SCRUTINY
   9.     Our approach to scrutiny during the current emergency was set out in detail in
          our first report.1 Our objectives are:

                 to promote a timely conduit for effective scrutiny;
                 act as a critical friend, adding value as opposed to detailed retrospective
                  analysis; and
                 assist the Government in getting its message across.

IV.       EDUCATION DURING THE EMERGENCY
   Scope and Approach
   10. On 12th June we took evidence from Minister for Education Sport and Culture,
       Hon Alex Allinson MHK and Education Sport and Culture Chief Executive,
       Professor Ronald Barr in order to understand the Department’s response to the
       emergency, to understand what has been delivered and to ascertain
       preparedness for returning to full education of all of the Island’s young people.2

   11. A briefing paper prepared by the Chamber and Information Service provided a
       timeline of key events and decisions alongside information about some of the
       challenges, work underway in a range of other jurisdictions, along with a
       selection of guidance published by worldwide organisations; this is available in
       Annex 1.

   1
       PP 2020/0094 paras 8-16
   2
       Oral Evidence http://www.tynwald.org.im/business/listen/AgainFiles/paces200612a.mp3 00:25

                                                    3
12. We invited the public to contact us with their thoughts on this topic. We
    received 35 submissions, some of which combined views from several people.
    We would like to thank everyone who took the time to write to us; we identified
    a number of common themes many of which were asked about during the
    evidence session; where permission has been given these will be published later,
    alongside the Hansard of the oral evidence session.

13. We are conscious that we have only had the time to take evidence from the
    Department, not other key stakeholders such as head teachers, support staff
    and unions. Given the industrial dispute, we wish to point out that this was
    purely a matter of time available and no discourtesy is meant to other parties.

14. We also note that some evidence was given anonymously. It is of concern that
    some parents feel that submitting evidence would damage their (and perhaps
    their child’s) relationship with the school.

15. In his opening statement the Minister for Education Sport and Culture
    acknowledged that schools had been closed now for twelve weeks and that
    although it had been a very challenging time it had been a good learning
    experience in relation to resilience of services, developing online teaching and
    remote learning and that the experience would help in taking the service
    forward and in becoming far more responsive to pupils and their families.3

16. We had identified four specific areas for questions:

               Response to the emergency
               Communication
               Support for establishing online learning provision
               Moving forward – plans for return to school

Response to the emergency
17. We asked first about the initial response to the emergency, whether work
    streams had been established and who was leading them.4 Professor Barr
    explained that the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) had been reconfigured,
    meeting weekly, or more often as required. This group comprised the Head of
    Finance, Director of Education, the Inclusion and Safeguarding Lead, Head of

3
    01.10
4
    02.50

                                              4
Sport and Recreation, Director of Strategy and Corporate Services and the OHR
    Business Partner.5 He said there were meetings with the cluster groups of the
    high schools and some meetings with secondary heads;6 ‘a series of meetings
    many of which would have followed the normal pattern.’7

18. We asked again about work streams, and highlighted that the Department had
    said in a statement on 20th March that plans were ‘already underway to provide
    for more education for pupils online and ensure they have access to these
    resources.’8 Professor Barr confirmed that the Director of Education and the
    Education Improvement Team had begun working on these plans before the
    schools closed, following an email sent by him to the SLT in early March.9

19. We asked a third time about work streams established to address the impact of
    the virus; what these were and how these had been prioritised.10 Professor Barr
    replied that there was a finance work stream to look at how the Department
    would deal with lack of income11 and how they would deal with school meals.12
    He went on to explain that ‘there were a range of work streams that involved
    different officers and their own divisional staff across the department that dealt
    with school meals, that dealt with finance, that dealt with learning and also with
    individual schools’ concerns as this process unfolded.’13

20. We think this response may be surprising to some people, and that they would
    expect the Department’s primary concern to be for education. We feel this is
    perhaps a reflection on the way in which education provision is arranged in the
    Island: the Department sets a curriculum,14 but individual schools and teachers
    have a significant degree of autonomy about how this is delivered. The
    Department has a small team of advisors who also work on quality assurance
    but is otherwise more administrative and so is simply not equipped to deliver
    education provision directly. However, we do consider their role in co-ordinating
    the response to the emergency in more detail below.

5
  03.05
6
  03.35
7
  03.40
8
  03:50
9
  04.14
10
   05.20
11
   05.30
12
   05.40
13
   05.45
14
   SD 2011/0838 https://www.gov.im/media/1354443/the-educational-curriculum-order-20112.pdf

                                              5
21. The Minister explained that, prior to the Island’s first case on 20th March, on the
    16th March guidance had been sent out to all teachers on how to provide
    education remotely in the event of school closure, which was the start of trying
    to plan ahead for remote teaching and education.15 At the same time, the hub
    model was created to accommodate vulnerable children and those of key
    workers.16 He went on to say that they also looked at how they ‘would redeploy
    staff, and a huge number of teaching staff and support staff were redeployed
    into the health sector.’17 We find it surprising that teaching staff would be
    redeployed away from their teaching responsibilities.

22. The initial response to the emergency was about preservation of life and we
    would have expected some redeployment of resources, but it is hoped that
    particularly in relation to teachers that they would quickly have been returned
    to the primary role in delivering education, whether physically or remotely.

23. Professor Barr reiterated that the Department ‘did a lot of work around free
    school meals and … with schools in terms of planning for that and setting up the
    voucher scheme … in terms of planning how we were going to feed children who
    were entitled to free school meals and there was also quite a lot of work that
    was done as a separate work stream around pre-schools with … colleagues in
    DHSC.’18 We note that take-up was poor in relation to collection of free school
    meals from hub schools.19 This led to a switch to issuing vouchers. It is
    commendable that the Department was able to respond quickly and change
    their approach when the initial concept was not successful.

24. We asked how the Department had been involved with the initial co-ordination
    of the response in central Government.20 The Minister explained that he sat on
    the daily National Strategy Group for the first ten days,21 looking at education
    from a health aspect, addressing concerns for the health of pupils, staff and all
    of their families.22 There was particular consideration given to children with
    special educational needs and those of key workers.23 The Minister explained

15
   06.10
16
   06.57
17
   07.15
18
   07.45
19
   Tynwald Hansard 21 May 2020 Q4
20
   08.14
21
   09.56
22
   08.23
23
   08.55

                                           6
that he felt it was right that ‘education was seen at the forefront of the national
     response to the pandemic;’24 initially when dealing with ‘uncertainties around
     the health of students when we were dealing with the reallocation of staff’25 but
     ‘after that it would seem to be less important for him to sit in on those regular
     meetings.’26 However, we note that the CEO continued to sit on the Gold
     Command group, therefore we would have expected the Department
     representation at the heart of the Government decision making to have
     continued.

25. We asked about the apparent disconnect between certain sectors being able to
    return to work before education provision was in place for children.27 The
    Minister explained that based, on the advice of clinicians and public health
    about the risks associated with close contact, there was initial reticence to open
    up, particularly in early-years care.28 He went on to say that, while there had
    been a co-ordinated approach, the rate of change was different because the
    logistics of opening up schools, particularly in terms of getting back redeployed
    staff, had taken time to arrange.29 We find it surprising that the Minister did not
    re-join the NSG when the return to normal was being planned.

26. We asked whether this apparent tension between the Department for
    Enterprise, and Treasury seeking to open the economy, and Education’s need to
    make provision for the children of those going back to work had caused issues
    for parents.30 The Minister did not recognise a tension; he said, Departments
    ‘have been working together with an overall strategy for dealing with the health
    emergency so at no point have I come under any pressure from other
    departments to bring children back to school or staff back to school when it was
    not safe to do so.’31

27. We asked whether the advice therefore has been that it is safe to go back to
    work but not to go back to school.32 The Minister commented that everyone had

24
   10.30
25
   10.20
26
   10.10
27
   10.40
28
   11.10
29
   12.35
30
   53.50
31
   54.20
32
   55.10

                                           7
been using risk assessments.33 The Minister suggested that there was not a one-
     size-fits-all approach to this question, and that the plan had always been around
     a “phased return to normality”34.

28. The issue of a disconnect or offset was raised when some 5,000 employees
    returned to work in the construction sector, but significant increase in provision
    had not been made for education of the children of those in this sector. We feel
    that the Department has again been caught off-guard by the now speedy return
    to a domestic normality which will not be matched by an educational return to
    normality.

29. We asked Professor Barr what advice had been sent to schools about
    appropriate learning support for different year groups as we have received
    feedback that there was a disparity of provision between different schools and
    teachers; one comment was that education provision on a small island should
    not be a postcode lottery.35 Professor Barr said that extensive guidance had
    been issued, ‘the Director of Education sent out a daily email updating teachers,
    head teachers, in terms of what learning might be available, things they should
    think about progressing, things that they could do within their schools.’36 We are
    surprised that the Director of Education should spend time issuing a daily email
    of ideas which we would expect to be readily discoverable by teachers.

30. Professor Barr went on to explain that ‘the issue we have had around all of this
    … is that we are still dealing with a work to rule across all of education in terms
    of teaching, with some of the teaching unions, and so they have not been willing
    to engage with us in terms of setting up potentially new QA systems and other
    systems to monitor what would be online delivery, and certainly I am not going
    to tell you as Chief Executive I am satisfied with the quality of online delivery. I
    think there has been some excellent online delivery, I think there has been some
    areas which have not been to the standard we would have liked but I’m afraid
    sadly it has been partly mired in the industrial dispute and the non-cooperation
    that we have had from some teaching unions and also you will appreciate this is
    a new type of learning and even in England, the English Government has not set
    out its standard by which Ofsted could judge that learning so it is something we
    are very keen to progress and we have been pushing out a lot of information to

33
   55.15
34
   56.40
35
   14.00
36
   14.25

                                           8
head teachers, some of them have picked that up and have utilized that in very
     innovative ways, some not so much.’37

31. We discussed Professor Barr’s comments about the dispute, and work to rule, at
    some length as we have received information from teaching unions that
    suggests that they do not share his view about a lack of co-operation. We are
    mindful of the fact that an independent review has been commissioned and that
    on 29th May the Chief Minister stated that this is expected to start in mid-June.38

32. Given that individual schools in the Island operate with a high degree of
    autonomy, we were interested to learn to what extent the Department may
    have seen it as appropriate to co-ordinate a central response to the crisis, much
    as other Departments such as Health and Social Care have done; perhaps by co-
    opting teachers to work centrally to deliver both online learning and guidance
    for specific year groups.39 Professor Barr explained that an IT and learning group
    already existed and this was utilised for sharing information, but again referred
    to the ongoing dispute as causing an issue.40 We were surprised that guidance
    should be sought from the UK as we are not a mirror image of that system.

33. The purpose of our inquiry is to look at the education response in the
    emergency period and so, while the differing opinions alone are sufficient to
    raise serious concerns and we have no doubt that this matter has had an impact
    on the effectiveness of the response, we have concluded that it should be
    explored fully in the inquiry established for that purpose, or by our colleagues
    on Social Affairs Policy Review Committee41. We will submit a copy of our report
    to the review team for information and would urge the Council of Ministers to
    ensure that this review is progressed without further delay.

Communication
34. We have noted that there appears to have been some mixed messages being
    received by parents, for example around the return to school dates, and so we
    asked what the Department was responsible for communicating and what

37
   14.50
38
   Keys Hansard 29 May 2020, Q2
39
   16.00
40
   16.40
41
   The remit of the inquiry may not be sufficiently expansive to deal with all of the issues raised in this
report.

                                                    9
individual schools would have been asked to share.42 The Minister explained
     that the Department has been using the press briefings and press statements to
     communicate widely and then sending information to head teachers and asking
     them to send this on, as the parents’ information is held in individual schools
     and not in the Department.43 Professor Barr confirmed this,44 and again
     mentioned the industrial dispute saying that, ‘I think that accounts for some of
     the variability of information.’45 He went on to say that the Department did not
     have a mechanism to check what was sent to parents46 but had asked schools to
     correct inaccurate information where this had been noticed.47

35. If the Department is not able to communicate directly with parents, it is very
    important to ensure that the message sent to the individual schools is clear and
    understood and that, in circumstances such as the example given around
    arrangements for the reopening and return to school, that individual schools do
    not vary or misinterpret this information when it is delivered to parents.

36. We asked about the new data-sharing regulations;48 the Emergency Powers
    (Coronavirus) (Information Sharing) Regulations 202049 approved by Tynwald on
    14th April 2020. Professor Barr commented that these were only applicable to
    sharing information between Departments.50 In fact, the regulations provide for
    Council of Ministers to direct a specified person, in this case that would be the
    data controller for each school, to disclose information to a Department,51 ‘for
    the purpose of facilitating any regulations made under the Emergency Powers
    Act 1936 which relate to Coronavirus.’52 It would appear that the Department
    had the tools at its disposal for information sharing, however it does not appear
    that they took the initiative to deal with this challenge.53

42
   17.45
43
   18.00
44
   18.45
45
   20.13
46
   22.38
47
   21.18
48
   19.45
49
   SD 2020/0245 made 09 April 2020 http://www.tynwald.org.im/links/tls/SD/2020/2020-SD-0245.pdf
50
   20.00
51
   SD 2020/0245 Regulation 5(1)(b)
52
   Ibid Regulation 5
53
   Ibid Regulation 4

                                              10
37. However, it does not appear that that this centralised approach to communication,
     which would have provided consistency of messaging, was considered by the
     Department. Alternatively, in future, the Department should clearly indicate
     whether messages are to be shared as written or whether the school needs to,
     or may, adapt the information for their own parents and pupils.

38. We asked whether schools had in fact volunteered to remain open for the May
    bank holidays54 as per the Department’s media briefing of 02 May.55 Professor
    Barr said that remaining open over Easter and for the May bank holidays had
    been discussed at meetings with head teachers.56 He went on to explain that of
    their 800 staff, 600 who were able to work in schools, (others were shielding or
    had underlying heath conditions), had been split into three groups, each group
    working one week in three in schools. For the other time they were expected to
    be working on online learning, but there was also clear guidance from the
    Department that some leave should be taken.57 He said that the system had
    worked well and no negative feedback had been received.58

Support for establishing online learning provision
39. We highlighted that we have received a range of views from parents regarding
    the online learning provision while schools have been closed, some very
    supportive, reporting substantive provision and contact and others reporting a
    lack of such support. We asked whether the guidance issued by the Department
    initially was fit for purpose and what had been issued since.59 Professor Barr
    replied that he felt it was and that scaling up blended learning provision in this
    way for schools has been challenging and that it is constantly being refined on
    the basis of feedback.60 He mentioned that there has been no English guidance
    regarding standards by which the quality of this type of learning can be
    measured and again referred to needing to resolve the industrial dispute in
    order to move this forward more rapidly.61 We found this comment quite
    surprising, as it was our understanding that evaluation in the Manx education

54
   22.45
55
     https://www.gov.im/news/2020/may/02/minister-allinsons-statement-on-covid-19-2-may-2020/
accessed 13 Jun 2020
56
   23.35
57
   24.00
58
   24.45
59
   30.50
60
   32.00
61
   32.25

                                             11
system is via a School Self Review and Evaluation (SSRE) system which only has
     external validation once every three years.62 Rather than look to the UK for
     guidance, we expect the Department to be creating their own standards
     framework, perhaps based on those already being used for learning already
     delivered in this way.

40. We asked how the Department was ensuring that the guidance was being
    followed in relation to the approximately 96% of students who had been
    learning at home during the school closure period.63 Professor Barr replied that
    the schools’ inspection and review process was within the scope of the industrial
    dispute, and that would also apply to inspection and review of remote
    delivery.64

41. It is surprising that the Department were not reviewing the provision of
    education in the emergency. It is clearly not practical to undertake SSRE work in
    the usual way during an emergency period irrespective of the impact of
    industrial action. Perhaps alternative ways of eliciting information could have
    been found. Whilst accepting it would not be statistically robust, a simple open
    survey asking for parents and children to provide feedback could have provided
    useful information. We note that some schools have undertaken this, but we are
    not sure whether the results are being collated and analysed centrally. Isle of
    Man Government has a consultation hub platform which could have been used.
    This reiterates our earlier comments about a lack of creative response to the
    situation.

42. We asked what support had been provided to schools who were struggling to
    provide online learning.65 Professor Barr replied that an officer responded to
    individual support requests and where there were technology issues there was
    liaison with Government Technology Services; there were issues with both
    Microsoft Teams and Zoom, for example the security concerns around images in
    Zoom; he said it had been an evolving process.66

62
   https://www.gov.im/about-the-government/departments/education-sport-and-
culture/information-for-parents-relocating-to-the-island/#accordion How are schools inspected?
Accessed 13 Jun 2020
63
   32.55
64
   33.25
65
   34.08
66
   34.27

                                                12
43. There is no doubt that, at the outset, the urgent need to transition to the use of
    online technology placed huge pressure on IT support staff in GTS. This was at a
    time when education provision would not have been an immediate corporate
    priority for Government when compared with work being undertaken to
    preserve life. However, it is disappointing that we have heard from a number of
    parents whose children’s schools still have not engaged with online learning or
    pupil contact in any meaningful way during the twelve weeks that schools have
    been closed. It has been challenging for us all, Members of Tynwald included, to
    move our business and communications to online platforms and we will
    probably all be relieved to return to face-to-face working. Nonetheless we have
    also heard of some excellent practice in education but this appears to have been
    the result of the determination of individuals rather than the co-ordinated
    central response that would have been expected, particularly in the first three to
    four weeks after schools closed.

44. The Minister talked about the challenges of quality assessing online learning
    being delivered from people’s homes and said that setting aspirations in the
    guidance was more practical.67 We asked how the Department had sought to
    identify the challenges of online learning that it highlighted in its own
    guidance,68 which included specifically, ‘unclear expectations of pupils, and
    parents having unclear expectations, a lack of accommodation for pupils without
    access and a variety of disparate digital tools that could cause confusion.’69
    Professor Barr explained that they had looked at examples of best practice in
    other jurisdictions, and there was the regular email signposting links to advice
    and guidance.70

45. We asked again what specific guidance was issued that would address the
    specific challenges and points in the guidance such as what parents might
    expect, for example video conferences and check ins with pupils, because we
    are aware that for many pupils this was not happening.71 Professor Barr
    reiterated that information about best practice and ideas for what they could, or
    should be doing was provided to head teachers.72

67
   37.25
68
   38.40
69
   38.55
70
   39.20
71
   40.10
72
   40.48

                                          13
46. We pointed out that King William’s College has been running online school for
    full days since Easter and asked whether we were close to this.73 The Minister
    replied that comparisons were not particularly applicable to the rest of the
    education service on the Isle of Man, that they have set up a system which
    works for them and that the Department has been trying to enable head
    teachers to set up a system which works for their schools and pupils, some of
    whom may not have online access.74 He went on to say that ‘there's also still a
    lot of controversy about whether online classes and online lessons educationally
    are the right things to do, but what I think we certainly need is more of a
    structure around remote learning so that parents know what to expect and
    know who to go to if their expectations are not met.75

47. We would agree that parents should know what to expect and where to go
    when their expectations were not met; the Department was very clear on this
    point in their media release of 21st May that, ‘If parents are experiencing
    difficulty in supporting their children whilst at home or feel dissatisfied with
    either the volume or quality of remote learning provided, they are advised to
    seek guidance from their school’s leaders and teachers who are either active in
    hubs, or developing remote provision whilst working remotely.’76

48. However, we feel that a quality online learning provision, when there are no
    permitted alternatives, would be of benefit to a majority of our young people
    and that the Department does not appear to have stepped in to provide
    meaningful support. If there was an awareness that provision was not being
    delivered equally by all schools and teachers, whether this could be individually
    inspected or not, the Department could and should have co-ordinated a central
    provision for different year groups. There is no doubt this could not replace the
    tailored provision that some schools and teachers delivered to their pupils but it
    would have assisted those who did not receive this during the twelve week
    school closure.

73
   60.20
74
   60.40
75
   61.10
76
   https://www.gov.im/news/2020/may/21/remote-learning-plans-accelerated-to-support-home-
schooling/ accessed 13 Jun 2020

                                             14
Moving forward – plans for return to school
49. With regards to planning for a return to school, we asked whether at any time
    the Department had suggested that a two-metre social distancing rule would be
    impossible to maintain within schools and whether there has been any
    discussion about simply not opening schools until it was safe for pupils to be
    closer together.77 The Minister said that this had been acknowledged in their
    roadmap document,78 that they had optimistically planned for 50% capacity but
    that in measuring they had realised this would not be possible.79

50. We asked what plans the Department has for any future, sporadic, re-
    emergence of the virus that can be shared publicly so that everyone
    understands what the procedure would be.80 The Minister explained that there
    are many unknowns and the Health Minister is looking at a plan for escalating
    restrictions in the future, should this be required, and that he has asked that
    education be considered. He went on to say that his hope was that any future
    response would be much more strategic, perhaps closing one or two schools in a
    locality or making the pragmatic choice to keep the school open, provided risks
    to others had been considered, as the risk to pupils would be low. He said that in
    the meantime online resources need to continue being developed in order to
    support any children who cannot attend school.81

51. The Minister acknowledged that work is required to address both the education
    deficit and any wellbeing needs which have arisen during the emergency
    period.82 Professor Barr then detailed the practical arrangement for cleaning in
    schools including recruitment of additional staff and £70,000 on new cleaning
    stations.83

52. Professor Barr went on to say that schools would be hoping to have four full
    weeks with children prior to the summer to allow for a determination of where
    they are with their learning, including those who are vulnerable; he commented
    that there was a broader question about support over the summer to help

77
   46.30
78
   https://covid19.gov.im/general-information/roadmap-for-the-gradual-expansion-of-school-
provision-to-specific-groups/ accessed 13 Jun 2020
79
   48.00
80
   49.50
81
   50.30
82
   27.55
83
   29.05

                                               15
children who have struggled.84 Although we have noted that the Department
     states on their website that, ‘Schools remain committed to providing resources
     to promote and support home learning until the end of the 2019/2020 academic
     year on Friday 24th July 2020,’85 which suggests there may not be an extension
     of the more structured provision that some may be hoping for, especially those
     in key, pre-exam year groups.

53. We asked the Minister, given the Chief Minister’s announcement regarding the
    removal of social distancing on 15th June, when the schools will be fully open.86
    The Minister confirmed that they would be contacting teachers on Monday to
    discuss accelerating the return of all pupils to Island schools, that returning
    would still not be obligatory for pupils, but that he was confident all those who
    wanted to return would be able to do so within the next two to three weeks.87.

54. We asked why it would take two to three weeks and the Minister explained that,
    following the removal of social distancing requirements, the schools would need
    to be re-configured again, and work would be required to ensure appropriate
    staffing, including for cleaning and to work with others, for example the
    Department for Infrastructure regarding bus services.88 Professor Barr explained
    that, when sites open on Monday, a lot of them will have been closed for ten
    weeks. He also said there is some uncertainty around exactly how many children
    will return on the 17th and 22nd June under the current plans, but that he
    thought all children would be back before three weeks.89

55. The Department issued a statement to this effect following the evidence session
    saying, ‘The Isle of Man Government is consulting head teachers to plan and
    manage the return of all children before the end of June … Any pupil who is not
    able or does not feel able to return will be supported by their school through
    remote teaching and the Department will be assisting schools to deliver an
    enhanced educational package to those who choose not to return before
    September. Further announcements will be made next week regarding the

84
   29.30
85
   https://www.gov.im/about-the-government/departments/education-sport-and-culture/ accessed
13 Jun 2020
86
   44.10
87
   45.20
88
   56.00
89
   57.50

                                             16
return of all pupils to school and provisions for activities during the summer
     holidays.’90

56. We find it surprising that, as the days passed with no new cases of Covid-19,
    there were not more discussions around reconfiguring classrooms and earlier
    return. The Department’s roadmap was out of date almost immediately and a
    revision has not been published. The prospect of a full return to school taking
    three weeks seems to indicate a lack of forward planning and responsiveness to
    changing circumstances on the part of the Department.

                                                                 J P Watterson (Chairman)
                                                               L L Hooper (Vice-Chairman)
                                                                                  J M Edge
                                                                          J P Poole-Wilson
                                                                           C R Robertshaw

                                                                                  June 2020

90
  https://www.gov.im/news/2020/jun/12/plans-to-get-children-back-in-school-ramped-up/ accessed
13 Jun 2020

                                              17
18
ANNEX 1: PAC EMERGENCY SCRUTINY - BRIEFING PAPER

                                      PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE - EMERGENCY SCRUTINY

                                      Coronavirus: Education during the
                                      emergency
                                      BRIEFING PAPER                                                          DATED 08/06/2020

CONTENTS

Background ............................................................................................................................ 2

  Timeline of key events and decisions ........................................................................................ 2

Issues .................................................................................................................................... 3

  The school hub system ............................................................................................................ 3

  Remote learning ..................................................................................................................... 4

  Free School meals .................................................................................................................. 4

  Exams................................................................................................................................... 5

  Vulnerable children ................................................................................................................. 5

  School/Government cooperation ............................................................................................... 5
     Pay dispute ................................................................................................................................................................ 6

Guidance from NGOs and other organisations ........................................................................ 7

  WHO: Considerations for school-related public health measures ................................................... 7

  Other guidance ...................................................................................................................... 8

COVID-19 in children ............................................................................................................. 8

Further Reading ..................................................................................................................... 8

  Isle of Man ............................................................................................................................ 8

  Approaches in other jurisdictions .............................................................................................. 9

  Remote learning ..................................................................................................................... 9

  COVID-19 in children ............................................................................................................ 10

  Children’s Rights and Coronavirus .......................................................................................... 10

  Impact on children and young people ...................................................................................... 10

Sources ................................................................................................................................ 11

                                                                                      19
Coronavirus: Education during the emergency
                                                                                               Page 2

BACKGROUND

TIMELINE OF KEY EVENTS AND DECISIONS

Date                        Event/decision

Tuesday 3rd March 2020      Dr Allinson MHK becomes Minister for Education, Sport and Culture,
                            replacing Mr Cregeen

Monday 16th March 2020      State of emergency declared on Island

Tuesday 17th March 2020     Reported meeting with Government, head teachers and teacher union
                            representatives to discuss the Covid situation.

Friday 20th March 2020      Statement made by Minister for Education, Sport and Culture. No school
                            closures announced.

                            Learning Disability Day Services provided by Adult Social Care closed

Sunday 22nd March 2020      Announcement that schools will close from the end of the next day, 23rd
                            March

Monday 23rd March 2020      All regular Learning Disability Respite Care provided at Hollydene Unit
                            suspended

Tuesday 24th March 2020     Schools closed (except for the children of key workers and vulnerable
                            children)

                            Minister makes statement to Tynwald

Thursday 26th March 2020    Everyone required to stay at home except for limited reasons

Saturday 28th March 2020    Statement by Minister of Education, Sport and Culture on COVID-19

Monday 6th April 2020       Pre-school voucher scheme to be extended for children of key workers

Thursday 16th April 2020    State of emergency extended

Thursday 23rd April 2020    Announcement that parents will receive food vouchers of equivalent
                            value of 10 free school meals every two weeks

Friday 24th April 2020      Limited return to work for specified sectors, such as construction, with
                            strict social distancing

Saturday 2nd May 2020       Announcement that schools would close completely over the TT holidays

Monday 4th May 2020         The Government published its Medium Term Response

Thursday 7th May 2020       UCM to start a phased return where safe to do so

Sunday 10th May 2020        Schools roadmap on going back to school released

Saturday 16th May 2020      State of emergency extended for the second time

Monday 18th May 2020        Children of workers in construction, trades and horticulture sectors
                            allowed to go to a hub school

                                                 20                       Date Published 08/06/2020
Coronavirus: Education during the emergency
                                                                                                  Page 3

Wednesday 20th May 2020       Nurseries allowed to accept the children of workers in construction and
                              related trades

Thursday 21st May 2020        Remote learning plans accelerated to support home schooling

Sunday 31st May 2020          Local firms offer help with returning students' belongings from the UK

Friday 5th June 2020          Educational Institution Regulations rejected by Tynwald

Monday 15th June 2020         School sites to reopen

Wednesday 17th June 2020      Children attending hub school to be allowed to return to own school

                              Bus services to restart

Monday 22nd June 2020         Children in years 2, 6, 10 and 12 to be allowed to return to school full-
                              time on a voluntary basis

ISSUES

THE SCHOOL HUB SYSTEM

Announced in a press briefing on Sunday 22nd March 2020, the decision was made to close schools to
most pupils from the end of the next day, Monday 23rd March 2020. It was also stated that all
secondary schools and nine primary schools would remain open to offer care for vulnerable children
and those whose parents are classed as “key workers”. These schools would become known as “school
hubs”.

Along with all the secondary schools, the nine primary schools that remained open are:

      Ballacottier
      Bunscoill Rhumsaa
      Henry Bloom Noble
      Onchan
      Peel Clothworkers
      Phurt Le Moirrey
      St John's
      Cronk-y-Berry
      Rushen

The extent of dedicated government support and guidance to schools on managing and arranging the
hub set-up is unclear. The Department has said that it ‘has held regular meetings with teachers and
unions which have allowed for concerns and ideas to be shared around how more pupils could be
accommodated in hub schools’.

The Department has said that its key priority ‘is, and will always be, the safety and wellbeing of staff
and pupils’. It was announced that staff members may be self-isolating due to illness or may be unable
to come to work because a pre-existing condition makes them vulnerable to coronavirus. As such, the
Department has also stated that ‘careful workforce planning and modifications to usual school practices
will be essential during the process of allowing more pupils to attend the Island’s schools’. Physical
distancing guidelines have been outlined in the Roadmap.

                                                   21                       Date Published 08/06/2020
Coronavirus: Education during the emergency
                                                                                                     Page 4

The Department has stated that it would not permit a ‘sudden, uncontrolled’ wider opening of schools.
Instead it would propose an ‘incremental, iterative process’ in which provision is opened up to different
groups. The proposed phasing for the different groups is outlined in the Roadmap.

REMOTE LEARNING

Many schools have initiated remote home learning programmes to enable students to continue with
their studies.1

There has been some criticism of the lack of consistency in the approach taken by schools. On 9th May
2020, it was reported that an anonymous parent, who contacted Dr Allinson about her concerns, said:

         My main cause of concern is the lack of actual teaching. There are currently no online classes,
         where the students can be taught by the teachers. Children are expected to teach themselves,
         which is very difficult if they don’t understand the initial concepts. Chemistry, physics, maths,
         etc are impossible for many children to learn without a teacher explaining and teaching first
         before they are expected to do the work.

The parent also said that some schools were providing live remote teaching and suggested students in
year 10 and 12 are prioritised so they are not disadvantaged in their GCSE and A level exams next
year.

A petition has reportedly been launched, calling for more face-to-face teaching.

On Thursday 21st May 2020 it was announced that the Department was ‘accelerating new ways to
deliver online teaching and remote learning’. Schools have been encouraged by the Department to loan
devices such as iPads to households who may be struggling to access the teaching and resources being
made available. The Department has said that it is also exploring how it can enable greater broadband
coverage for disadvantaged families.

In response to a written question in the Keys on 2nd June 2020, the Minister said that the Department’s
Education Improvement Service (EIS) is ‘aware that there are varying types, styles and amounts of
remote/online learning being provided by schools, and has offered substantial support and guidance to
ensure a greater degree of consistency over the past eight weeks’.

FREE SCHOOL MEALS

Initially, the Department continued to provide free school meals by distributing packed lunches from
the school hubs. However, the Minister explained to Tynwald on 21st April 2020 that take-up had been
low because some families had been unable to collect the meals. After consultation with head
teachers, the Department decided to introduce a voucher scheme.

On Thursday 23rd April 2020 it was announced that all eligible parents would be sent food vouchers
every fortnight equivalent to the value of 10 free school meals. These would continue to be sent out
every two weeks to all eligible families during the current health emergency.

The value of the vouchers is £23 for each primary school child and £29 for each secondary school child.
The vouchers can be exchanged at any Shoprite store on the Isle of Man. They can only be used for
the purchase of groceries, excluding alcohol, lottery tickets, tobacco and non-food products. They may
be exchanged for articles of a higher price than the face value on payment of the difference. No change
is given. All vouchers are dated and sequentially numbered. The vouchers expire at the end of each
fortnightly period.

1
    See e.g. the approach taken by Dhoon and Laxey primary schools and St Ninian’s high school.

                                                     22                        Date Published 08/06/2020
Coronavirus: Education during the emergency
                                                                                                  Page 5

On the choice of supermarket the Minister said that, ’it was essential that the government responded
quickly to introduce the scheme and we are grateful to Shoprite for all their assistance. Shoprite is a
local company with the island coverage that we needed.’ On 21st April 2020 in Tynwald Court, the
Minister confirmed that he had spoken to other retailers on the Island about joining the scheme, and
said that the scheme would be reviewed after two weeks.

Guidance has been produced to explain to schools how the free school meal programme would operate.

Free packed lunches have also been provided for those attending hub schools. Once the definition of
key workers has been widened to include construction, horticulture and trades workers, the
Department has proposed to revert to the usual arrangements.

EXAMS

With the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak expected to continue having a significant impact on the
education system, it was announced by the Minister on Sunday 22 nd March 2020 that exams would be
cancelled to give pupils, parents, and teachers certainty, and enable schools and colleges to focus on
supporting vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

Guidance produced by the Department states that students who were due to sit A level, AS level,
BTEC, IGCSE or other exams this summer will receive a calculated grade. This is in line with the
approach adopted by the UK. The calculated grade process will take into account a range of evidence
including non-exam assessment and mock results, and the approach will be standardised between
schools and colleges by examination boards and regulatory bodies.

This summer’s calculated grades are not predicted grades. The Government has claimed that each
examination board and their regulator is developing ‘a fair and robust process’ that takes into account
a broad range of evidence, including assessments by schools and colleges of the grades that students
would have been likely to attain if exams went ahead.

In an article published in the Guardian on 3rd April 2020, it was reported that experts have cautioned
that relying on teacher assessments is likely to penalise students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Jo
Grady, the secretary general of the University and College Union, said: ‘Our primary concern is that
disadvantaged students are the ones most likely to miss out. Research shows that they fare badly
when it comes to predicted grades and they are less likely to be able to put life on hold and delay
sitting exams, or have access to the tools required to navigate any appeals system’.

VULNERABLE CHILDREN

It is unclear whether the Department has provided detailed guidance for supporting vulnerable children
during the coronavirus outbreak. In response to a written question in the House of Keys on 2nd June
2020, the Minister referred to an inclusion and safeguarding guidance website.

The UK Government has published guidance for supporting vulnerable children and young people
during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The document addresses identification of vulnerable
children, the attendance of vulnerable children and safeguarding concerns, along with staffing,
transport and logistics.

SCHOOL/GOVERNMENT COOPERATION

Despite claims of cooperation between island teachers and the DESC, the Government has faced
criticism from teaching unions. The teaching unions—the Association of School and College Leaders
(ASCL), National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), National Association of Schoolmasters, Union of
Women Teachers (NASUWT), National Education Union (NEU), Prospect, University and College Union

                                                   23                        Date Published 08/06/2020
Coronavirus: Education during the emergency
                                                                                                  Page 6

and Unite the Union—have said that plans made by the Department to reopen schools have not been
endorsed by them.

They stated that they ’wish to see schools/University College Isle of Man return to normal working’ but
school leaders and parents must have ’full confidence that schools are safe before any consideration to
re-open for more pupils is acted upon’. It was reported that Ramsey Grammar School head teacher
Annette Baker said:

       The "road map" was issued to head teachers last Sunday (May 3) and to all teachers last
       Monday via email. There had been one set of meetings with hub head teachers previous to its
       publication, no mention was made of the existence of this document or of the intention to issue
       it.[…] There had been a meeting of joint unions the Friday previous to its publication, no
       mention of a "road map".

The unions of NASUWT, NAHT, ASCL, NEU, Prospect and Unite issued the following joint statement on
9th May 2020:

       The first meeting held on 6 May, was attended by representatives from ASCL, NAHT, NASUWT,
       NEU, Prospect, UCU and Unite. The Minister was invited, however, he was unable to attend due
       to a prior engagement. He requested the feedback from the meeting and we have now
       forwarded that to him. We have provided him and the DESC with a set of questions to be
       addressed as a starting point for discussion on initial proposals for the phased reopening of
       educational establishments. The Minister has been invited to attend our next meeting scheduled
       for next Wednesday, 13 May.

       As far as we are aware, schools will not be opening soon beyond the current hubs supporting
       key workers’ children. There are a lot of H&S considerations and logistical issues to be resolved
       before there can be any expansion of the current provision. The unions are keen to work
       together with DESC to make sure that all of these are properly planned and in place so that
       students and staff are safe. Parents need to have confidence that when schools/UCM do admit
       more students, this can be done safely.

       The aim and purpose of the group is to help provide a centralised agreed response to the
       challenges facing us all in attempting to implement a way forward re the expansion of
       educational establishments to both staff and students. We share a common belief that we need
       the combined expertise of the professionals involved in all of the relevant unions to contribute
       towards safe systems of work during this pandemic.

PAY DISPUTE

The teachers’ pay dispute remains ongoing. Speaking on Manx Radio on 26th May 2020, Geraldine
O'Neill of the NASUWT said that, ‘the situation has improved, despite talks being on hold during the
coronavirus emergency’. In response, the Department said:

       During the current state of emergency, any pay negotiations with the teacher unions have
       understandably been put on hold. The Department for Education, Sport and Culture is engaged
       in regular weekly meetings with teachers and their representatives on how we face the
       coronavirus challenges together. We remain committed to an open dialogue with all the
       teaching unions and to working together to find positive outcomes for the benefit of the Island’s
       children and young people and all our teaching staff.

The NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union has expressed concern at proposals to stop paying supply teachers
during the emergency. In the House of Keys on 22nd April 2020, the Minister said that discussions

                                                   24                        Date Published 08/06/2020
You can also read