"Schools catch up plan feels like a sticking plaster on a wider problem," says Derbyshire teacher

Derbyshire’s secret teacher lifts the lid on life in the classroom, pointing out that as parents rejoice about schools re-opening, they never closed at all...

By The Secret Teacher
Thursday, 25th February 2021, 10:27 am

Within minutes of the date being announced for schools to reopen, my social media accounts were flooded with pictures of joyous working parents cheering about schools opening. Harassed working parents can call a day on home schooling and concentrate on their own jobs.

The fact is schools haven’t closed during this entire crisis. I have been in work for at least four days a week every week. I’m not moaning, but it needs to be remembered that there are so many dedicated teachers and leaders doing a fantastic job at keeping education open, live, vibrant and accessible.

Catch up is an area we hear a lot about with millions of pounds pledged for catch-up funding and tuition.

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The Secret Teacher lifts the lid on what life is really like in Derbyshire schools

To patch the gap during the crisis I personally have delivered DfE-funded laptops to deserving families and have been delighted to provide the resource and associated support to help some of our most disadvantaged tudents catch up.

However, the proposed secondary schools catch up plan feels like a sticking plaster on a wider problem. Do we really need catch up funding spent on a missing history topic?

Many students will be behind in a far more basic yet crucial areas – literacy/reading - despite the hours at home where, in most cases, it could have been so easy to get access to books!

Rather than central government deciding where the funding is spent, targeted literacy support in all years and in both the primary and secondary sectors is best decided upon by staff in individual schools.

The most pressing need will be at the younger end of the education system where students are just learning the literacy skills needed for everything else – history, French, biology, etc. Without these baseline skills, the rest of the curriculum is inaccessible, and it simply widens the new/old attainment gap.

During lockdown we have strived to keep every child connected and learning despite lots of mind changing from the top and new procedures and technologies being heaped upon us on top of the ‘normal’ day job.

When we “open” on March 8 th , the struggle will not stop. I am sure we will have sorted the logistics of how to twice test 2000 people per week with a capacity of 375 tests a day, decided on year group bubbles or, re-written curriculum plans, found out about how to prepare Year 11 and 13 students for exams (or not) and helped staff feel more at ease to return to a full school in what is still a pandemic.

All governments make good, bad, strange, and much debated decisions and in the current climate, there is no guidebook. However, what is apparent and important is that everyone connected with education and parenting needs to work strategically and collaboratively to prepare students for the next stages of their lives.

We all need to safely and sensibly get students back to school, rather than look for excuses not to.