It is tremendous having young people back attending schools and the joyful sound of children and young people milling around the school gates and in the playground is so refreshing. I loved being out and about this week and saw first-hand in Regent High School and Edith Neville the exemplary arrangements in place to manage pupil movement, timetabling, teaching and learning. However, the first two weeks back have been intense and busy for all colleagues, not only getting on with the teaching and coming to terms with safety arrangements, which last week were all about face coverings. This week the challenge is around testing and actually being able to access a nearby centre.

The challenges of COVID-19 have been significant for educators, pupils and families, but how have schools coped? A new report by school stakeholder surveying company, Edurio, comprising of over 45,000 pupils, parents and staff members from 277 schools, has found almost all (99 percent) teachers surveyed believed their pupils will need additional support to catch up, with eight out of 10 teachers reporting the attainment gap for their pupils had increased. In addition to the growing attainment gap, the study highlighted several wellbeing concerns in schools; over half of parents (55 per cent) reported seeing their child stressed or anxious more often than usual, 29 percent of pupils admitted to feeling overworked, and 37 percent reported feeling stressed on a regular basis. On the other hand, communication clarity and decision-making by school leadership was rated favourably, with 85 percent of staff members and 79 percent of parents reporting that decisions made by the school leadership team and the expectations from staff were clear last term.

A couple of other additional findings from the report which were themes that we in Camden have considered were that around half of pupils reported a lack of motivation (52 per cent) and difficulty in studying alone (50 per cent) as one of their main challenges last term. From my observations and conversations with leaders, pupils have appeared keen to be back in school and the behaviours for learning I observed were calm and young people were engaged. The survey stated that three quarters of teachers set tasks on digital platforms, with over half sharing video materials and 40 per cent teaching via online lessons. As I compose this week’s blog, I am acutely aware of the challenges that are presenting for schools to ensure education continuity; nothing can replace quality first, face-to-face teaching and learning with peers in the actual classroom, however plan B should be considered so that if we need to revert to remote learning, the school community can work together so that all young people can continue to access education amid the ongoing pandemic disruption. With this in mind Camden Learning, STEAM and Camden Council will be launching a Crowdfunder site, to raise money to purchase digital devices and Wi-Fi for Camden pupils that need them to learn online at home during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more details will come out next week at the launch where the ambition is to ensure there is a universal entitlement to a device for every young person in Camden.

Jon Abbey

Managing Director of Camden Learning

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