Ofsted reports on the impact of Covid-19 in schools – ‘many’ schools report restrictions on teaching arts

24 November 2020

On 10 November Ofsted published its second series of reports on the impact of the pandemic. It summarised over 900 visits to education and social care providers during September and October. These visits are not inspections and do not make a judgement about the settings.

The reports make bleak reading both for the impact of the pandemic on the most vulnerable children, and on the arts in schools.

In her commentary published alongside the reports Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, wrote of leaders who:

‘… reported regression back into nappies among potty-trained children and others who had forgotten some basic skills they had mastered, such as eating with a knife and fork – not to mention the loss of early progress in words and numbers.

We were told of older children losing stamina when it came to reading and writing; some who had lost physical fitness; and others showing signs of mental distress, including an increase in eating disorders and self-harm.’

Curriculum coverage

In terms of curriculum coverage most secondary schools are teaching all subjects and ‘many’ primary schools are. However, many school leaders reported having restrictions on their full provision of practical activity for pupils in Key Stage 3 in subjects including design technology and music.

‘In music, many leaders had made the decision to suspend singing and instrumental work for the time being. Other schools had introduced singing outside or were able to find alternative resources and large spaces inside to safely deliver their usual music curriculum.’

In special schools and Alternative Provision settings leaders ‘spoke about how they were currently not using outside speakers, theatre or dance groups, or residential trips to enrich the curriculum.’

The Ofsted report took a critical tone when talking about primary schools that were looking at gaps in English and maths and curriculum adaptions needed, but not looking at Foundation Subjects, including music.

In her commentary Spielman cautioned against this narrowing of the curriculum, saying:

‘It’s important that these adaptations are short term and do not slide into a more corrosive, longer-term narrowing of the curriculum.’

Continuing Professional Development and Learning

It is worth noting how the provision of CPDL has altered during the pandemic. Staff in many schools had accessed online training and development during the lockdown when fewer children were in school. Since then most training has been online with some face-to-face with social distancing. Leaders noted that ‘online training cuts costs and travel time, which also results in more staff being able to attend’.

You can read the full School and other reports and Spielman’s commentary on the Ofsted webpages.


Image: Amanda Spielman speaking at the Head teachers symposium, January 2020 at the Royal Opera House (c) ROH 2020 Photo by Danielle Patrick