ofqual had no plan for a pandemic

Department of education critised

As the covid review begins. A group of MPs said the department of education and Ofqual had 'no plan' on how to deal with a pandemic. Especially for both online learning and exams.

The Dfe struggled to unfolding events. The key to the criticism was the failure of schools to have standards of remote learning. While the pupils had wildly different and unequal experiences during the school closures

In response, the DfE says it acted swiftly and provided extensive support.

The MP report says that despite being involved in a cross-government exercise in 2016 on dealing with a flu pandemic, the DfE was "unprepared" for the challenges of Covid-19.

It suggests there should be a thorough exercise to learn lessons from its early response.

Meg Hillier MP, chair of the PAC, said: "The committee was concerned that the DfE appears uninterested in learning lessons from earlier in the pandemic, preferring to wait until the public inquiry which won't report for years.

"It shows little energy and determination to ensure that its 'catch-up' offer is sufficient to undo the damage of the past 14 months."

The government is due to publish its recovery plan for pupils in England for the catch up. This will include:

Catch-up plans 'not reaching poorest pupils' £13.5bn needed for pupils to catch up, report says Sport and music 'should be part of pupil catch-up' The MP's reports suggests the plans aimed at poorer pupils as part of the government's £1.7bn catch-up programme is failing to reach them.

It says the DfE "has worthy aspirations but little specific detail about how it will build the school system back better".

The pandemic disruption to schools and colleges had particularly damaging effects on vulnerable pupils. Especially those in care or with special education needs, the PAC report highlights.

Although the vulnerable were allowed to carry on going to school, the proportion of vulnerable children who actually attended remained below 11% until late May 2020, and only ever reached an average of 26%, by the end of the summer term.

And referrals to children's social care services fell by 15%, and remain 10% lower than last year - raising concerns about ongoing "hidden harm" to children, the report suggests.

'Ugly truth' Previous research has shown a growing gap in achievement between poorer pupils and their more affluent classmates.

Ms Hillier said the pandemic has exposed "a very ugly truth" about the children living in poverty and disadvantage, who have been hit particularly hard during the pandemic.

Ms Hillier says: "Online learning was inaccessible to many children even in later lockdowns and there is no commitment to ongoing additional funding for IT.

"Schools will be expected to fund laptops out of their existing, and already squeezed, budgets."