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What will schooling look like in September?

PUBLISHED: 19:00 07 June 2020

Schools are not expecting to back to normal for the start of the new school year  Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Schools are not expecting to back to normal for the start of the new school year Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Archant

Schools are working on plans for blended learning models for the autumn term as they predict the virus pandemic to continue until the end of the year, according to education chiefs.

Anna Hennell James said that she was planning for some sort of disruption throughout the autumn term Picture: SU ANDERSOAnna Hennell James said that she was planning for some sort of disruption throughout the autumn term Picture: SU ANDERSO

Some pupils have started to return, in some form, to classes, and further year groups are being invited back from next week.

However, only a fraction of those eligible have returned, and those that have are largely on a reduced timetable.

Now schools are looking at how they develop this new form of blended learning as they anticipate having to practice social distancing for many months to come.

Anna Hennell James, CEO of the Orwell Multi Academy Trust, which runs a number of primary schools in Suffolk, said she believed that teaching would be disrupted for some time to come.

Bec Jasper from Parents and Carers Together  Picture: BEC JASPERBec Jasper from Parents and Carers Together Picture: BEC JASPER

“I am anticipating, and I am working with our school leaders, for the autumn term to still be a period of time that is different from what we are used to normally,” said Mrs Hennell James.

“So not necessarily in the same lockdown way we are now but I am not imagining that on September 1 we are going to welcome back every child into every year group.

“If that does happen great but I don’t see that at the moment.”

Instead Mrs Hennell James said that one possible approach for schools was some form of blended learning where pupils spent a week in the classroom with teachers before spending the next week at home, consolidating their work.

Labour county councillor Jack Abbott said people needed to be realistic about what could be expected   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNLabour county councillor Jack Abbott said people needed to be realistic about what could be expected Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Any approach like that, Mrs Hennell James said, would force schools to rethink curriculums.

“In terms of the blended learning I think schools are going to have to keep open their options and capabilities for delivering some kind of home supported learning as well as delivering more traditional learning in the classroom.

“I think one of the things schools are going to have to look at is to look at the curriculum and decide which are the really key fundamental concepts that you need to keep and what would be the nice extras that may have to go.”

Jack Abbott, Labour spokesman for education at Suffolk County Council, said: “We have got to be realistic and open minded about what schools are going to look like in September.

“I think it is highly likely that social distancing measures will still be in place, so schools have to be allowed to adapt accordingly.

“However, there also needs to be a significant government-led roll out of digital learning and equipment for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

‘One-size fits all won’t work’

Some parents have weclomed this chance to modify our learning model.

“I think a one-size fits all won’t work and hopefully during this period we have shown how flexible both schools and families (and workplaces) can be in terms of providing something which works well for everyone,” said Bec Jasper, of Parents and Carers Together.

“Choice is a positive thing in this instance especially a choice which factors in the well-being of the child and family unit, hence the government relaxing rules on families being penalised for ‘non-attendance’.”

Members of the Parents and Carers Together group said they are looking for consistency and flexibility as and when schools return.

“My preference would be a regular pattern every week e.g. in two or three mornings and home the rest of the time but get that might be tricky if trying to get lots of different groups in,” said one parent.

Another said: “Our reception child starts Monday doing two whole days weekly.

“That for us is more manageable on a consistent plan with work and really think it works best for a consistent routine for them.”

A third said: “I think [blended learning] would be a good idea as it would allow time for a proper clean between groups and all children would have the prospect (accepting it will be difficult for some of our children) of some face to face education whilst maintaining the smaller groups and as much distancing as possible.

“I think it’s better than all having part time during the same week.”

‘There are significant workload concerns’

NEU spokesman for Suffolk Graham White said it was important that any approach for September onwards also provided for teachers who were already working long hours.

“There will need to be detailed negotiation between government and education unions to decide what is possible and desirable from September 1, 2020,” said Mr White.

“It may be that a rota system of one week in school and one week at home completing tasks would work.

“There are significant workload concerns around staff teaching every week and also preparing and assessing home based tasks.

“Teachers were already working in excess of 50 hours a week so this would increase that still further.

“It may be that the number of teachers and education staff will need to be increased as well.

“Schools may need to expand their space on a temporary basis, how temporary is unknown.”

‘We’ve got to be realistic’

Jack Abbott, Labour spokesman for education at Suffolk County Council, said: “We have got to be realistic and open minded about what schools are going to look like in September.

“I think it is highly likely that social distancing measures will still be in place, so schools have to be allowed to adapt accordingly,” said Mr Abbott.

“However, there also needs to be a significant government-led roll out of digital learning and equipment for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.”


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