The Government issued the Coronavirus Act 2020 Provision of Remote Education (England) Temporary Continuity Direction ('the Direction') on 1 October 2020 which comes into effect on 22 October 2020. The Direction is applicable to state funded schools (and independent schools in respect of registered pupils whose education at the school is wholly paid for out of public funds received by the school from the Secretary of State, a local authority in England or a school in England).
The Direction is expected to have effect until the end of this academic year. It imposes a legal duty to provide 'remote education' to pupils of compulsory school age where a class, group of pupils or individual pupils need to self-isolate, or there are local or national restrictions requiring pupils to remain at home. It does not define remote education or give clear guidance as to what is meant by it. It does however reinforce government expectations on all schools to plan for disruption to schooling during the 2020 - 2021 academic year and to offer immediate remote education to pupils who cannot attend, as set out in the non-statutory guidance for full opening.
The majority of schools have provided remote education to most of their pupils since March 2020 and will have adapted their curriculum and contingency plans to meet the government expectations, set out in the guidance for full opening, which include:
The Government has also published non-statutory guidance 'Remote education good practice' in which it states that the most successful method of delivery is where "live classrooms are replicated in a remote environment". This method enables a school to deliver its curriculum on a daily basis, opportunities for teachers and pupils to interact, supports pupil motivation and leads to better progress.
In the light of this, we consider that threshold expectations regarding the quality of remote education (in whatever context it is required) have been raised.
Earlier non-statutory guidance, How schools can plan for tier 2 local restrictions, also contains good practice recommendations on remote education.
Essentially, we would recommend that schools:
We are aware that some schools are now considering signing contracts for the provision of devices to enable education to be delivered remotely. As with all such legal agreements the terms should be reviewed carefully and the implications understood before contracts are signed. In particular, given the nature of IT hardware, academy trusts should be careful these agreements do not constitute finance leases which would of course be a breach of the Academies Financial Handbook.