The founder of a family of schools in central London has urged schools not to suspend specialist subjects like music and PSHE in response to staff shortages.
Ian Bauckham, chair of Ofqual, put forward the suggestion as one way of coping with high staff absences due to Covid-19. He also advised school leaders to consider which year groups could be prioritised for the most routine style of delivery.
However, Andrea Greystoke, founder of Abercorn, said although staff shortages represent a “significant challenge” for schools, specialist subjects are “fundamental” to a well-rounded education.
She said: “At Abercorn we are well-staffed with a highly trained team of form teachers, subject specialists, assistants and administrators, so we have thus far managed to deal with Covid-related absences in-house, but staff shortages represent a significant challenge for many schools and institutions.
“Where staff absences are rife or expected to be rife, I would encourage schools to make contact with ex-teachers who have the skills and time to step in and support.
“I believe that all children deserve equal access to in-person education and I don’t think that any year groups should be prioritised over others. If staff shortages are severe, I think schools should be prepared to merge parallel classes in the same year to ensure that all children can remain in school.
I believe that all children deserve equal access to in-person education and I don’t think that any year groups should be prioritised over others – Andrea Greystoke, Abercorn
“I would certainly caution against warnings from the Ofqual chair to suspend specialist subjects like music and PSHE in response to staff shortages.
“The DNA of Abercorn is that we place great importance on wellbeing, and striking a balance between academic excellence, including the sciences, combined with a pursuit of the arts and personal health, is fundamental to a well-rounded and happy education.”
Abercorn, which educates children from two years old up to year 8, has followed government guidance regarding mask wearing in senior schools and testing children for Covid upon reopening in January.
Pupils and teachers at Abercorn Upper School have worn face masks throughout the pandemic and Greystoke said this will be encouraged “for the foreseeable future”. The school tested pupils on return from the Christmas holiday and pupils will now test themselves at home.
Greystoke added: “2022 cannot be yet another year of disrupted learning. Interrupting children’s education should be a last resort.”