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Wed, 06 Jul 22 11:59


Last month the prime minister announced the government’s Living with Covid plan and the removal of all domestic restrictions put in place during the pandemic. For staff and children in mainstream education and early years settings the changes include removing the requirement for regular testing if they are asymptomatic and for them to self-isolate following a positive test. The pandemic is still with us; so even though the legal restrictions no longer apply, we should all continue to follow public health advice to protect ourselves and others as the guidance suggests.

School closures and restrictions during the pandemic have had a significant impact on so many children and their education, not only in terms of lost learning but a deterioration of their mental health and wellbeing too. Some children have also regressed in skills such as playing together, working in groups and resolving issues. Clearly, the impacts of the pandemic will remain with us for a long time but this also highlights the huge importance of children remaining in education.

Ensuring that all children are in school when they should be is a priority for ADCS members, and for the Secretary of State too. Schools play a key role in keeping children safe; they are not only places where children develop academically, but socially and emotionally too. During the pandemic local authorities worked together with all types of schools, irrespective of governance, to ensure that children who were more vulnerable were in school, and in many areas these positive relationships have become embedded. Clear, consistent messages from schools and local authorities about schools being a safe environment and the social and emotional benefits of being in school have helped to raise attendance. It is important that we now build on this to ensure that all schools are safe, inclusive environments for all learners.

A recent report by Ofsted on attendance and tackling persistent absence found that the while both issues predate the pandemic, they have been exacerbated by it. The report notes that the provision of remote education during national lockdowns may have affected some pupils’ and parents’ perceptions of the need to be in school. There is a concern that missed face to face teaching has further disengaged hard to reach pupils and their families and therefore exacerbated these issues. Local authorities have a key role of oversight of persistent absence and the partnership between schools, the local authority and other essential services, such as speech and language therapy, mental health and parenting support, enables wrap around support to be offered to children and families to enable them to access learning well.

ADCS is keen to work in partnership with others to raise attendance and address any barriers to it, because every single day of school really counts. Building an inclusive education system where all learners can thrive is a key part of this, and must be at the heart of the government’s Schools White Paper.

Charlotte Ramsden, ADCS President

This column first appeared in the MJ

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