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Covid-19 impact on students could take years to see, says Suffolk headteacher

PUBLISHED: 07:33 29 October 2020

Chantry Academy executive headteach Craig d'Cunha said it could take years to see the effect the coronavirus lockdown will have on students. Picture: ARCHANT

Chantry Academy executive headteach Craig d'Cunha said it could take years to see the effect the coronavirus lockdown will have on students. Picture: ARCHANT

A Suffolk headteacher has said that it could take years to evaluate the impact missing school during the coronavirus lockdown has had students in Suffolk.

Geoff Barton former headteacher of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: GREGG BROWNGeoff Barton former headteacher of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Most schools have been back for a number of weeks giving teachers the first opportunity to see how the lockdown has affected their pupils.

Craig D’Cunha, executive headteacher at Chantry Academy and Hillside Primary School, said that it could take years to find out the true effect of the lockdown on pupils. However, he did say that most pupils had returned to school “brilliantly”.

He said: “I haven’t seen a consistent message on how pupils have come back to school after the long break.

“We’ve used the first term to really appraise where students are and look at our curriculum to see what gaps they have and to make sure support packages are in place if needed.

Head teacher of Chantry Academy Craig D'Cunha Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNHead teacher of Chantry Academy Craig D'Cunha Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“It has been a challenge but I would say the vast majority of children have come back brilliantly.

“But there have been certain individuals who have come back after having very challenging circumstances and they need more pastoral support as educational support as well.”

The headteacher said that the school will have to go over some ground that was missed at the end of last year and added that disadvantaged students may have suffered more than others.

“We are getting used to this new way of teaching and are getting to the point where we can redeliver part of the curriculum,” he said.

“What we have seen is that the children who have transitioned between primary and secondary have not been nearly as settled as they have historically because a lot of the transition work happens at the end of the year.

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“I think we are going to feel the impact of this for a number of years.

“If you look at the gaps of six months of education, that is going to have a knock on effect.

“It is going to take years to really see how deep this goes and years beyond that to cover the issues that it has caused for individual kids.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, added that some students would “undoubtedly” struggle after the long break.

The former headteacher of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, said: “It will undoubtedly be the case that some pupils struggled socially and educationally from missing school during the national lockdown period.

“Many disadvantaged pupils, in particular, will have struggled because they did not have a dedicated laptop or sufficient internet connectivity.

“Schools provided printed resources to pupils in these circumstances but these young people will not have been able to access the range of resources that are available online.

“Some children will not have had a quiet space in which to study, or been in households where parents had to go out to work and had limited time available in which to help them with their studies. Many children will have missed their friends, and felt quite isolated.

“Schools are well aware of the impact on their pupils and are working hard to identify gaps in their learning or any pastoral needs they may have and to provide them with the appropriate support.

“They are doing this work in very difficult circumstances because of the ongoing disruption caused by coronavirus, and schools need more support from the government in the form of more laptops for disadvantaged children, a test and trace system which works properly, and timely public health advice when it is required.”

Jerry Glazier, spokesman for the Essex branch of the National Education Union, agreed that students from disadvantaged backgrounds will have been more deeply impacted by the time spent learning from home.

However, he warned the problem was not yet over, as more schools are seeing whole classes sent home due to Covid outbreaks and said ‘blended learning’ will likely be staying with us until the end of this academic year.


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