Lancashire teens "dread" losing out in life because of lockdown

Secondary school pupils in Lancashire have “a dread of being left behind” after spending months out of the classroom as a result of the coronavirus crisis, a group of councillors has heard.

Thursday, 9th July 2020, 5:59 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th July 2020, 6:00 pm

The Youth Parliament member for Chorley and West Lancashire told a meeting of Lancashire County Council’s education scrutiny committee that young people he had spoken to in his constituency had struggled with the lack of structure in their lives during lockdown.

Oscar, a year 10 pupil from Chorley, called for more online contact with teachers during the remaining weeks of term – and in the event of restrictions being reimposed due to any second wave of Covid-19.

“A problem for year 10 and some year 9 [pupils] is that they’re having to teach themselves a lot of the material which, in previous years, would have been taught by a teacher. There are loads of problems with not having that person to ask a question [of] – maybe they don’t understand it or they are interpreting it wrong.

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Some of Lancashire's teenagers have been longing for traditional lessons

“Teachers should open their emails to students and have regular conference calls, [with] more subject support, so that students…do have opportunities to ask a teacher and learn,” he added.

Fellow Youth Parliament member, Amber – who represents Burnley and Pendle – said her school was carrying out weekly welfare calls to ensure that pupils were not becoming stressed by their work – and encouraged others to do the same.

The meeting heard that pupils who have been at home since the start of the lockdown and do not return to school until September will have missed out on around four percent of their entire school career.

Committee member and Preston South East county councillor Jennifer Mein said she believed that such a gap could be bridged – and that it was vital for pupils to be told that.

“Children should be able to catch up by the end of their school life and not have lost out compared with previous cohorts.

“I think we should be doing a bit more work to reassure them that, with the right help, they will be able to perform as well as others have,” Cllr Mein said.

County Hall’s executive director for education and children’s services, Edwina Grant, said it was important to keep “morale and aspirations for children high” – but accepted that the hiatus in learning will have been felt.

“We have the long summer holiday every year and schools are very skilled at identifying those children who are vulnerable to losing their education momentum and very quickly catching them back up in September.

“But there are concerns, there is no question about it – you develop your language in early years by relating to other children and there will be impacts [of time away from class],” Ms. Grant warned.

Last month, the government announced a £1bn fund to help pupils catch-up when they get back to class – including subsidised tutoring for the most disadvantaged children.

Committee member and Preston West county councillor John Potter warned that some pupils may have more catching up to do than others, after one headteacher told him that around a third of their pupils had done “little or no work” during lockdown.

The meeting also heard that while the county council had beengiven the full allocation of laptops that it had requested under a governmentscheme to supply essential equipment to disadvantaged year 10 pupils and other vulnerable groups, only 42percent had landed in Lancashire by late June – although the proportion had gradually increased since.