Standards meetings are now in full flow and it is inspiring hearing and discussing school priorities with leadership teams and governors, priorities which include dealing with the day to day COVID situation, but also curriculum and teaching matters too. This week, Keir Starmer told the Labour party’s ‘Connected’ online conference, that there needed to be a strategy with clear targets to close the education gap at every stage of a child’s development. His comments come as there is much attention on education lost, particularly by disadvantaged pupils as a result of the pandemic. Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner has been vocal about a ‘lost generation’, a phase I challenge and disagree with, as these young people are not lost, they are well are and truly visible in our schools and are clearly prioritised.

When discussions turn to education gaps, in our standards meetings, our schools are assertive and determined about what they are delivering. They politely challenge the phrase ‘catch up’, as if it is a gimmicky add on that will solve the lost learning; provision in schools has always been adapted to provide quality first teaching, scaffolding learning to adapt to the pitch and reaching for those age related expectations. Additonality, is then planned, as it always has been, based on the ongoing diagnostic assessment of where children are, with proven, integral, regular interventions. There are claims (and this maybe accurate) by EPI and Renaissance Learning, that the disadvantage gap could widen by over a third this year and those organisations are looking at collecting data over this year, to inform lessons learned due to COVID disruption, without putting more pressure on schools. We have been discussing with schools how they benchmark, collect and return baselines, so that progress can be measured, but importantly gaps can be identified and acted on effectively. Collecting intelligent data will be important to then analyse and understand how certain groups have been disproportionately affected and are identify if there are common disparities across year groups?

So what can be done and how do we come together as a system to tackle inequality in Camden? I have attached the document, Building Equal Foundations, tackling the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black, Asian and other ethnic communities in Camden, an excellent document that various partners, including our headteachers have come together to work on. It identifies our priorities and actions; with key themes around FSM, home learning, the digital divide (including the attainment gap) and the importance of good mental health. Furthermore, we are pleased to have received funding from the Richard Reeves Foundation, which will support a focus on Maths in Year 11, in four schools, targeting disadvantaged students who are on the cusp of a standard pass and/or a good pass; through a blend of quality first teaching, complemented by support from a specialist in-house maths teacher, targeted tutoring and exploring Maths Mastery. I look forward to updating you all on the progress and success of tackling the gap in Camden over the next few months.

Jon Abbey

Managing Director of Camden Learning

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