Teachers should help pupils understand events in Ukraine, Ofsted head urges

Amanda Spielman said it was important to help children "understand world events that are outside their control, while minimising their anxieties"

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Headteachers will need to help pupils understand complex global issues such as the crisis in Ukraine, the head of Ofsted said.

Speaking to the annual conference of the Association of School and College Leaders in Birmingham, Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, said that “children here know what’s going on in the world” and that “they absorb information, not all of it accurate, and they also share their concerns with their friends”.

“Once again you will need to help them understand world events that are outside their control, while minimising their anxieties.

“It is sadly something that you are well-practised at doing,” she added.

She said that watching the “terrible scenes” unfolding in Ukraine were a “stark reminder that Covid has no monopoly on creating fear and concern”.

She condemned “the terrible impact of the Russian invasion on the lives of all Ukrainians”, adding that this fell particularly on the children, “who suffer so much and whose future is so uncertain”.

On Friday Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi told the ASCL conference that online classroom Oak National would be providing auto-translated versions of its lessons in Ukrainian and Russian for 100,000 newly arrived refugee pupils.

Ms Spielman told heads that the disruption of the last two years had “fractured the social contract” around education.

“For years that contract has been clear, parents have a responsibility to get their children to school, with minimum absences, and in return schools do their level best to educate and look after those children,” she added.

She added that it was now time to “remake that contract”, with Ofsted’s research finding that schools with strong attendance strategies “unsurprisingly” proving more adept at ensuring pupils came into school during the pandemic.

The head of Ofsted also told headteachers not to run mock inspections as these are a “waste of precious time”.

“Don’t run mocksteds. They are a waste of precious time,” she said.

Ms Spielman said she was “acutely aware” of teacher workload and wellbeing which had been “thrown into sharp relief by the pandemic”.

“So please, don’t overload your teams with preparatory work “for Ofsted”. Just don’t do it,” she said.

Ms Spielman said the inspectorate had just restarted its summary evaluations of multi-academy trusts but added: “What we’re not doing is grading or judging Mats, or trying to impose a model for the way trusts should work.”

In her speech, Ms Spielman welcomed the Government’s announcement of a new register for children educated at home, adding that “a small number of parents have darker motivations for taking their children away from their teacher’s sight”.

She said many parents were “not equipped” to educate their children at home.