Summer schools: government must heed concerns of both teachers and parents, says @LearningHiveUK 

Catch-up classes shouldn’t be punitive experiences for pupils and teachers – balance must be struck between academic achievement and emotional wellbeing

Following government announcements on summer schools in late March, evidence has emerged that both teachers and parents are sceptical of the current plans for catch-up learning. For summer schools to be a success, they must focus closely on the emotional wellbeing of pupils, while avoiding placing too much pressure on already overworked teachers. This is according to after-school tuition provider Learning Hive.

In recent days, an Ipsos Mori poll of parents has revealed that a majority (56%) see increased wellbeing support for all children as essential, with additional tutoring sessions outside school hours cited by 55%. This is compared to just 41% who advocate shorter summer holidays, and 21% who are in favour of longer school days.

Nayeer Afzal, Programme Director at Learning Hive, said:

“Combined with recent concerns raised by the NASUWT teaching union about the serious risk of burnout for teachers, it is clear that the wellbeing of both staff and students – alongside academic achievement – needs to be taken more seriously.

“The government’s rhetoric so far around summer schools and helping pupils catch up has been on the punitive side, with one example being the Education Secretary announcing plans for “behaviour hubs” to tackle increasing disciplinary issues with some children. While such measures are well-meaning, they approach challenges from a negative standpoint.

“There needs to be a better balance struck here. Teachers’ workloads have become even heavier since the pandemic started, with the need to juggle both in-class and remote learning being just one example of this. At a time of such fragile morale, we should be aiming to alleviate the burden on teachers and focus on their wellbeing – not saddle them with a strict, regimented approach to catch-up learning.

“Parents also know their children better than anyone. The Ipsos Mori survey shows that there’s an urgent need to focus not just on academic achievement, but on mental health and emotional wellbeing after a year of uncertainty and disruption for the nation’s young people.

“With all of this in mind, summer schools should be welcoming, relaxed environments where lessons are supplemented by enriching activities – like drama or outdoor exercise. At the same time, teachers shouldn’t be expected to shoulder all of the workload: summer schools should be managed by teaching staff and qualified experts working in tandem with one another, including tutoring providers accustomed to the demands of out-of-term learning.”

Afzal concluded: “Summer schools might be a necessity, but there’s no need for them to be a drain on exhausted teachers and the pupils in their care. High academic standards are paramount, but these can only be maintained if all parties are happy, engaged and motivated to achieve their full potential.”  

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