“Around 40% of schools in England will open today with the rest following later in the week ”
A newly-qualified teacher today revealed his fear at being back in school with no personal protective equipment on his first day in the job as millions of children in England and Wales returned to classes from the Covid-19 lockdown for the first time in six months.
Labour supporter Adam Woodward, 23, who is starting teaching at Horizon Community College in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, tweeted: ‘I’m about to begin my career as an NQT (newly qualified teacher) English teacher.
‘I will be teaching with no PPE, in an environment where social distancing is impossible. I am scared and so are the students. This Government has failed me and every child in every school. Shame on them.’
The Sheffield Hallam University graduate wrote about his fears as he posted a selfie of himself in a mask on a Northern Rail train this morning, while a study revealed pupils are three months behind since lockdown with boys and the poorer students hardest hit.
In a crucial moment for Boris Johnson’s drive to get the country back to ‘normal’, around 40 per cent of schools in England will open today – with the rest following later in the week.
They were shut by the coronavirus pandemic on March 20, with only vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers allowed to continue classes.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s fate is also on the line, after he was seen as bungling efforts to get more primary students back before the summer holidays.
GCSEs and A-Levels also descended into a shambles after exams were cancelled and a wave of fury forced the government to ditch a computer assessment that downgraded many disadvantaged pupils.
Mr Williamson is now considering delaying next year’s exams to give children a chance to catch up after the unprecedented disruption caused by the pandemic.
A poll of nearly 3,000 school leaders and teachers found that 98 per cent felt students were not as far along with their learning as would normally be expected at the end of the 2019/20 school year.
Its study found that as of July, teachers had on average covered 66 per cent of the curriculum in the 2019/20 academic year. Teachers estimated on average that their pupils were three months behind in their studies.
However, more than half (53 per cent) of those teaching in the poorest schools in England reported their students were ‘four months or more’ behind in their learning, compared to 15 per cent of teachers in wealthier settings.
The survey also found that the learning gap between disadvantaged pupils and their better-off peers had increased by 46 per cent, adding that the figure was likely to be an ‘under-estimate’.
Dr Angela Donkin, chief social scientist at NFER, said: ‘Whilst it is crucial that children catch up, we should not assume that teachers will immediately be able to deliver the same quality of teaching, at the same speed, as before the pandemic.
‘There remains a range of barriers for teachers and schools, which means catch-up should be seen as part of the ongoing process of learning recovery, for most pupils, rather than as a quick-turnaround solution.’
She said it was ‘clear’ that additional support needed to be targeted at disadvantaged pupils and schools in the poorest areas.
The majority of pupils had been expected to learn at home throughout the 2019/20 summer term, but teachers reported that only 38 per cent returned their last piece of set work in July, compared to 42 per cent in May.
School leaders said that just over half (56 per cent) of students who were eligible to return did so, with those from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds having lower attendance at 49 per cent.
Almost a third (32 per cent) of school leaders said safety concerns from parents were a common reason for their children not attending.
Almost three quarters of teachers (74 per cent) did not feel able to teach to their usual standard while the coronavirus regulations were in force, the survey found.
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