Responding to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement last night of “a very big plan” to get all schools open in September, and for a “big summer catch-up”, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, warned that promises made without proper engagement with the education profession are doomed to fail, and that the challenge of catching-up with the education missed by children during lock-down is far more complex than the government’s proposed quick fix over the summer acknowledges.
Mr Whiteman said: “The Prime Minister’s plan for a “big summer catch-up” is the latest in a long line of eye-catching announcements that will suffer from a lack of input from the profession. As with the announcement that all children would return to primary school before the summer, the government has rushed to announce headline grabbing policies without properly engaging with the profession first.
“The language of summer catch-up completely underplays the scale and the nature of the challenges likely to be faced because of prolonged absence from school. There is no quick fix.
“The impact of enforced isolation on young people is little understood, yet likely to be significant for many. This might range from loss of routine, social interaction and self-regulation through to erosion of mental health and coping with anxiety, bereavement and trauma.
“Clearly, support for pupils is needed over the summer and NAHT calls on the government to fund a locally coordinated offer. Assuming social distancing rules allow, we could use the summer profitably through youth groups and youth charities to provide the sort of activities to draw young people out of their homes and encourage resocialisation.
“A suggestion that academic catch-up can be achieved over the summer is simply not credible. There already exists a wealth of knowledge within the profession about how to narrow achievement gaps. The government should be drawing on this expertise in order to come up with a sustainable, long-term plan and give serious consideration to a ‘catch-up premium’ to allow schools to focus on activities that are proven to work.
“Schools leaders are proficient in the art of the possible. I urge government to ignore the desire for eye-catching headlines and engage with school leaders properly. With the right plan, supported in the right way, school leaders will deliver for the children and the communities they support. They always do.”
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