I can confidently say that this half term has been the strangest throughout my time in education. Remote learning has been taking place throughout the past six weeks and the survey of parents we conducted recently reflected what has been seen in secondary schools across Lancashire; many students are managing to make progress in their learning, but a significant minority are struggling to come to terms with this new way of working. There is no doubt in my mind that the daily face-to-face interactions between students and their teachers is a big part of successful learning for the vast majority of our students and I’m sure we all want our young people back in school, when it is possible to do so safely.
This is a very difficult time for everyone, for a whole variety of reasons, but the high levels of uncertainty about how and when some normality will resume and the speed at which things are changing, makes planning incredibly difficult.
The government stance on plans for primary schools to extend their opening from 1 June seems to have been ‘softened’. Only 20 of 99 councils who responded to a BBC survey said they were advising schools to open more widely on the government’s target date of 1 June. As schools (and parents) await the scientific advice from the official Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) committee that is behind its school reopening plan, yesterday evening scientists from a committee called Independent Sage – rivalling Downing Street’s group of scientific advisers – said June 1 is too soon and urged the government to delay the planned reopening of primary schools by two weeks. The picture for secondary schools gradually widening their opening to Year 10 and Year 12 is currently even less clear. The guidance for secondary schools was due out last Friday, but given the uncertainty surrounding primary schools, it would seem publication of this has been delayed.
Yesterday the Association of School and College Leaders, a professional association with over 19000 members across the UK and which represents the majority of secondary school senior leaders, have stated:
We sense some changes in government thinking. The absence again of any secondary guidance on what is expected regarding Years 10 and 12 ‘face-to-face’ experience was discussed by our Executive Committee today. Further discussion with the Department for Education this afternoon leads us to advise you to rule out any students in those year groups returning immediately after half-term. Bear in mind that this is an issue of public health – wanting to ensure that groups of students are not mixing widely in the community. Great caution is therefore necessary, and we would recommend waiting until after half-term to see what the government has finally proposed, and then we will respond. There’s some feeling that the return by any but a small handful of secondary students may now look unlikely during the summer term.
We had spent a considerable amount of time making some tentative plans for Year 10 and Year 12, but given the current rapidly changing situation and the lack of guidance, it would seem these will need re-thinking when more information is made available.
I would like to thank parents for their patience and understanding as we all try to do our very best to support the learning and well-being of the young people in our care in these incredibly challenging times. Your feedback via the questionnaire was extremely useful and we will be collecting your views again as we, eventually, step up our planning to widen our opening. As yet, it is not clear what June will look like, let alone September, but it may well not be ‘business as usual’, even after the summer break. We will continue to review the effectiveness of our home learning systems with a view to supporting our students’ learning as effectively as possible, given the difficult circumstances we all find ourselves in. Your support has been instrumental in helping us make the best provision for our students – thank you.
Next week is half-term and no work will be set for our students. I hope they will be able to relax and enjoy this short break before the online learning resumes on 1 June. The school will continue to be open for vulnerable students and those whose parents are key workers.