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Education recovery

Education recovery has been the phrase on everyone’s lips recently. This involves far more than just ‘catch-up’ or making up for lost learning. Instead, we need to understand the needs of children who have all had a crucial year of their lives disrupted and actively plan for their future. Recovery needs to be intentional.

Thankfully, I’m not the only person who holds this view. Sir Kevan Collins (the education recovery tsar) is talking about ‘teaching, targeted support and time for wider activity,’ and he understands the need to look at children’s broader outcomes, as well as the academic. Children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing requires significant focus and the pandemic will have impacted on each individual differently. Some will have thrived but for others the past year has been a real struggle, traumatic even for some. Supporting these children and addressing their needs will take longer than one summer or even one year. It will require all of our collective efforts and a long-term approach to recovery. Local collaboration will be central to this and of course local authorities and education settings working in partnership will have critical roles to play. In the reorganisation of health services this year, their contribution to the mental and physical recovery needs of children must not be forgotten.

A long-term approach to education recovery will require long-term funding that meets our ambitions for children and young people. The Education Policy Institute (EPI) estimates that a multi-year funding package of £10 – 15 billion is required to make up for lost learning alone. Further analysis found that by the first half of the 2020 autumn term, primary pupils in England had lost up to three months in maths and two months in reading across both primary and secondary schools. It will take time and significant effort to recover from this but we have the collective expertise and partnerships in place to do so. However, we do need the financial backing from government to equip us with the tools to succeed.

This is not only about recovery but also recovering. It will take time, persistence and tenacity to address the many issues which will emerge as a result of the pandemic. It will likely have exacerbated ongoing issues that existed prior to the first lockdown, such as rising child poverty and disadvantage, increased domestic violence and reductions in children’s mental and emotional health and wellbeing. However, we now have a chance to ‘build back better’ and to be more ambitious for our children and families. In our education system particularly, there is an opportunity to create a more inclusive system that enables all children and young people, no matter what their ability or background to realise their ambitions.

The past year has highlighted the impact time away from school can have on a child’s educational progress and we have rightly ensured that those learners who need our support the most have remained in schools where possible. Yet despite this commitment we know that permanent and fixed term school exclusions have been on the rise for the best part of the past decade. Indeed, the Timpson review of school exclusions found that during the 2016/17 academic year 40 children were permanently excluded from school each day. School exclusions cannot be the answer to behavioural challenges that children present and inclusive approaches will be essential.

Children and young people have each been impacted by the pandemic differently. We owe it to each of these pupils to respond effectively and provide the right education with the right wraparound support, with a commitment to meeting their long-term needs.

This article first appeared in LGC

Charlotte Ramsden is the ADCS President 2021/22 and Strategic Director for People at Salford City Council


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EDUCATION 157 COLUMN 41 CORONVIRUS 1

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