Building a coherent picture of learning loss
Children learning to adapt with lots of other children learning from home, being isolated from one another without the opportunity to talk and challenge each other, where they live and their parents’ circumstances: all this has limited what our children have been able to do this year.
This has also made us all think how much the school system contributes to the lives of the children and their families. However, colleagues across our schools have missed out on so much too. We have felt so disconnected from some children at times when they have not been physically in school, but we have endeavoured to find ways to support all children in different ways, and there is no doubt many have thrived either through smaller group working or through the opportunity for high-quality remote learning.
Our staff have been amazing. Some were anxious to begin with because none of us knew what hand we were going to be dealt. Staff now have greater confidence being in school and they are more confident to work with the children. We always make sure we talk with staff, ask them questions, and do not take things for granted. Supporting staff who have been on a massive rollercoaster – trying to teach in classrooms, trying to teach remotely – they have been immense.
Encouraging colleagues to work in teams has been absolutely vital. We have created pillars of support, with people who can manage external and internal provision, but also with each other and making sure they have others to talk to. Instead of a high-level focus on CPD, I have tried to facilitate a mindset of ‘let’s share experiences, what is and isn’t working, how can we help and what do we need to do to enable everybody to cope with this’. Open dialogue, for me, is key, but of course it is challenging with constantly changing government guidance.
What the pandemic has highlighted is the opportunity, with appropriate government funding, to have a social/emotional mentor on every school site – somebody who perhaps has that ability to link with the community and parents as well (and a good example of this is Angie Waterson at Trumpington Park Primary School) – but I would advocate that training and development is needed to go alongside that.
And in the discussion of learning loss and catch-up programmes this is a reminder that children and staff are at the centre of this. Whilst there are people we might have labelled as disadvantaged pre-pandemic because of data, we now have families that are disadvantaged who were not before because of job losses and health issues. We have to acknowledge that and regroup as we look ahead to the future.
Lesley Birch is CEO/Executive Principal of Cambridge Primary Education Trust (CPET)