Education Overhaul?

Throughout the pandemic, there has been a lot of talk about the effects on children’s education, how many hours schooling they have lost and how this can be resolved. The government is throwing ideas around which have been covered by the news. I feel this was a huge mistake for a variety of reasons. Is the government giving false impressions, false hopes, false promises again? I feel they should make some definitive decisions with things in place before sharing anything with the public. All these suggestions come at a huge cost – where is that money going to come from?!

The latest ideas that are being thrown about include….

1. Summer schools run by qualified teachers which they claim children can make up to four months of academic progress. It’s suggested that these summer schools would need a strong academic element.

2. 1:1 weekly tutoring sessions, which the government is claiming would make up for 3-6 months of academic progress.

3. Repeating the school year, which The Education Policy Institute think tank has suggested could help those whose education has fallen behind (I imagine this could include a huge % of pupils!).

4. Extending school days.

5. Increased well-being support, which in this report suggests that extra funding for mental-health support for school children to help ease their return to the classroom and improve their chances of catching up. They say that this can be provided by teaching staff and in-school counselling sessions. (Yet as mentioned in previous posts, the government is yet to fund counselling in schools, and I can’t imagine that schools have enough funding or staff to be able to provide enough support for pupil’s well-being especially given that it is inevitable that there will be a huge increase in demand for such support once all pupils return to school).

I think that apart from increasing well-being support for pupils, the rest of the ideas pose problems and don’t solve the issues faced by children and young people.

Parents may love the idea of summer schools or extended school hours but has anyone thought about children’s wellbeing? School can be tiring as it is without being there even longer, especially after being off for so long. I fear they will find it hard enough going back as it is without more pressure. By all means, offer more extra-curricular activities, this would benefit children in terms of socialising and being able to participate in activities that they’ve missed out on for so long. 1:1 tutoring sessions particularly if funded for those who may benefit aren’t necessarily a bad thing as long as it doesn’t cause burnout for children.

Although teachers do their job because they are passionate about children’s education, they also have a life and have had an incredibly tough time since the pandemic began. With teachers having to quickly learn how to teach remotely, change how they teach, still teach children who can attend school at the same time, ring parents, still complete the ridiculous amount of paperwork etc, yet there’s no mention of consulting with them about these proposals.

How do you think teachers would feel about extended school days or working over the summer holidays (which they do anyway – there’s always planning and preparation to do even when teachers aren’t physically in school)?  

Teachers are paid a salary, like nurses, doctors etc but teachers don’t get paid overtime unlike nurses and doctors. I imagine most teachers in the past year have worked a ridiculous number of hours in very stressful and bizarre circumstances.

I tried to find out how teachers’ performance related pay has been impacted during the pandemic but I couldn’t find anything. I’m not sure how or if teachers have been able to achieve their yearly performance related pay increase as it’s based on pupil’s academic progress. Now I imagine that on average pupils have not made the same progress as they may have done if they had been in school full time, therefore, despite the best efforts of teachers does this mean that they have had to also forgo their yearly pay rise on top of everything else?

When I read any articles relating to pupil’s education and how it’s been impacted by the pandemic, I can’t help but wonder why nobody has taken a step back and gone…ok yes, children may not have made the same progress, yes, some children may have fallen behind, however, maybe we need to change the goalposts, maybe we need to rethink expectations or even rethink the National Curriculum.

What benefit does it have on children to keep the same goalposts given the current situation? Surely, it’s just going to cause more anxiety and more pressure on pupils and teachers. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t provide children with every opportunity to flourish, I’m not saying we shouldn’t encourage, positively push or challenge them but why are we expecting them to tick the same boxes as they would if the pandemic never happened? To what end?

I’m not a fan of SATs as it is…but are you telling me that when pupils do eventually go back that they won’t be pushed beyond belief to still try and achieve the results anticipated or wanted? I am aware they aren’t going ahead this year but no doubt they will next year. I know that most Year 6 pupils spend the entire academic year preparing for these tests as it is, but after missing more than a year of school it’s bound to have an impact. I’ve always felt that SATs are purely for league tables and aren’t of any benefit to pupils.

Teachers have plenty of ways of doing assessments without it having to be these tests. For those pupils who will be taking GCSE’s in a few years’ time, maybe schools could start directing lessons towards them earlier? Could they be done in modules or with more coursework spread over a longer period?

I am concerned that there will be a lot of pressure for pupils and teachers when pupils return to school. Surely given what we have all been through we cannot expect everything to go back to normal as soon as lockdown ends in terms of expectations?

In fact, I worry this may be harmful.

I don’t know how schools will approach this and maybe they will do things differently. It’s more the pressure from above i.e., the government that’s the problem.

I hope that time will be given for pupils to readjust to school life – they will have had different routines, different rules/expectations, gone through a bizarre time, may have lost people due to Covid, been stuck in the house for most of the time. Some children may thrive and be excited to go back to school whilst some may be very anxious and fearful of going back. Children may struggle to adjust to real life lessons again.

We don’t know what life in schools will look like post lockdown…. will children still be in bubbles? Will they be able to play with their friends? Will Christmas plays be a thing of the past? Will assemblies be non-existent or virtual? Will children be able to take their favourite teddy in for show and tell?

Given that so many children have not been able to socialise for many many months it would be nice to think that schools would be able to provide them with this opportunity and to focus on their emotional well-being on their return to school rather than focusing on a regimented intense series of lessons aimed at children catching up on a year’s education in the space of a a few weeks/months.

We might be surprised at how much children have learnt during the pandemic. I imagine most children’s IT skills will have vastly improved!! It would be interesting for children to share what they have learnt and experienced in this time with one another.

So what if children have forgotten what fronted adverbials or grapheme-phoneme correspondences are?

What if children have learnt how to ride their bide, learnt how to read scales, read a vast variety of books, learnt about artists when they went on a virtual tour of an art gallery, how to follow recipes, budgeting, letter writing, first aid, life skills? The list goes on!

I believe this is a prime time for the government to have a complete overhaul of the education system, but I will be very surprised if this happens.

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