Great Britain

Teachers should be prepared to ‘sacrifice their lives’, says ex-Ofsted head

The former head of Ofsted has said that teachers need to show a “similar commitment” to medical professionals, who in some cases have “sacrificed their lives.”

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the former chief inspector of schools, said there has to be a “pulling together’ among teachers and that they have to exhibit the same level of devotion as medics who have “gone the extra” mile during the pandemic, in order to get children caught up with their studies when schools return early next month.

Children return back to school on 8 March and the government has launched a £700 million school catch-up scheme to help children with lost learning, amid concerns children from disadvantaged backgrounds have fallen months behind their peers.

Responding to a question on BBC’s Newsnight about whether the learning gap can be closed between pupils from deprived backgrounds and other students, he said: “It will be closed if there is a real commitment and that is why there has to be a pulling together.”

“You have to compare this to the medical emergency over the last year and the commitment on the part of medical professionals and nurses and doctors.

“They’ve gone the extra mile at great cost to themselves at great cost to themselves and their families, their health – they have sacrificed their lives in some cases. We need a similar commitment from the teaching profession over the next academic year.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, gave Sir Wilshaw’s view short shrift and said teachers “have already gone way above the extra mile.”

Ms Bousted added: “The point is, the most disadvantaged children are disproportionately congregated in the most disadvantaged schools.

“The teachers and the support staff who work there already go way beyond the extra mile, with very little help from Ofsted, to support those children.”

Under plans set out by Boris Johnson on Monday, England’s stay at home order will remain in place until at least 29 March despite the minor easing of restrictions and the return of schools.

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said while infection rates were falling, overall numbers remained “very high”, putting pressure on hospitals across the country.

“Vaccines give clear hope for the future, but for now we must all continue to play our part in protecting the NHS and saving lives,” he said.

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