Today (1 Sept) the National Foundation for Educational Research (@TheNFER) has published a new report highlighting the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on children’s learning and the challenges schools face in reopening to all pupils. 

Jointly funded by Nuffield Foundation and NFER, the study is based on a weighted sample of almost 3,000 school leaders and teachers across more than 2,200 mainstream primary and secondary schools in England.  

The report’s key findings include:

  • The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown on mainstream primary and secondary schools in England, focussing on how well pupils were able to learn remotely and the challenges schools will face from September;
  • The extent to which pupils are behind in their curriculum learning in relation to teachers’ expectations for the end of the school year, as well as the impact on the attainment gap and the need for catch-up support from September;
  • The logistical issues and resource implications of opening schools fully while ensuring they remain as safe as possible for pupils and staff.

Commenting on The challenges facing schools and pupils in September 2020, a report by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NfER),

mary boustedDr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:  

"Teachers across the land worked extremely hard during lockdown, teaching in school, developing online lessons and keeping in touch with pupils. Many families struggled to either have the quiet space or technology to access online learning, and the Government fell short of its pledge to supply much-needed IT equipment to disadvantaged children who often had no access to the internet. 

"With schools returning fully this week, we must look at immediate solutions that will benefit students quickly and effectively. As the NfER report indicates, schools are in urgent need of extra funding and resources to provide the right support for the young people in their care. The Government must also redouble its efforts to support disadvantaged children with IT facilities for the home. 

"When we wrote to the Prime Minister on 10 June with our National Education Recovery Plan, we asked him to take action to make use of the great many qualified teachers not currently in post, encourage them to join schools, and with that in place help reduce class sizes. Schools were already stretched before Covid, with almost one million pupils in classes of 31 or more.  Now, more than ever, schools will need smaller classes in order to rebuild relationships, provide educational catch-up and ensure safety for all. 

"It is not credible in these circumstances that so many just-qualified teachers are finding themselves without work. This is a waste of talent. Such enthusiasm should be embraced, not squandered. 

"We need to be prepared for the impact Covid-19 could have on the coming school year, should national or local spikes occur. Learning time may be affected, creating many variations between schools and regions. For this reason, we have to see a more flexible approach to qualifications for 2021 - one which learns from the mistakes of this year, and the Government must set out that plan with urgency. The NEU has written to Gavin Williamson calling for a reduction in content assessed in exams next summer, collaboration with the profession to develop a robust national system of moderated centre-assessed grades in case of further outbreaks of Covid-19, and a thorough independent review into assessment methods along the lines announced for Scotland. 

"We cannot continue with short term measures, and the reopening of schools must not be viewed as a simple reset button. The challenges will be ongoing, complex and significant. Government needs to approach them alongside the profession, and to take the concerns of school leaders and teachers - as expressed in this report - very seriously." 

Kate Green MP 100x100Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education said: 

“The learning that children have lost in recent months shows that keeping schools safely open to all must be a national priority in the months ahead.

“When schools are closed, we see deep inequalities become more entrenched, and those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds lose out most. If the Conservative Government cannot guarantee pupils the education they deserve, then they will fail a whole generation of children.

“Young people’s futures cannot be held back by Conservative incompetence. This is a wakeup call for ministers. They must ensure that schools stay open, that parents and teachers are supported, and that pupils get all the help they need to catch up.”

Teachers estimate that their pupils are three months behind in learning, with over a fifth reporting that boys have fallen further behind than girls.

Teachers in the most deprived schools are over three times more likely to report that their pupils are four months or more behind in their learning compared to teachers in the least deprived schools 

Almost half of pupils are in need of intensive catch-up support, with those from the most deprived schools and schools with highest proportions of pupils from BAME backgrounds in greatest need.

Based on teacher estimates, the learning gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers has widened by 46 per cent since the start of the pandemic.

Almost 90 per cent of school leaders predict they will find it at least somewhat manageable to open to all pupils safely, although many identify the need for additional staffing and resources.

Nearly three quarters of those teaching in schools in July could not teach to their usual standard, raising concerns about the impact of current regulations on teaching and learning this academic year.

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