Children returning to school have been having more fall-outs with fellow pupils after lockdown, and some have struggled to get back into routines after late-night video gaming, MPs have been told.
Head teachers have been responding to a series of challenges this term after months of school closures, including a greater need for pastoral support and a focus on pupils’ reading development.
Joanne Ormond, head of Maryport Junior School in Cumbria, told the virtual Work and Pensions Committee she had also seen a rise in the number of children starting nursery and reception who were not potty trained.
Pictured: A teacher talks to her year two pupils during their first day of school after the summer break at St Luke’s Church of England Primary School in East London on September 3
‘It is pulling staff away from the learning in that effect,’ she said.
Ms Ormond told MPs: ‘We would normally maybe have one or two children who are still in nappies or pull-ups when they start our nursery.
‘But this year we have got about between 12 and 15 who are not regularly using the toilet correctly.’
She added that pupils had struggled to get back into the school routine after spending long periods on video games during lockdown.
‘I think a lot of them, their bed times had been disrupted so they weren’t going to bed until quite late. There was a lot of children who had been spending many, many hours gaming, and sort of getting them out of that habit,’ Ms Ormond said.
Kathryn Hobbs, head of David Nieper Academy, a secondary school in Alfreton, Derbyshire, added that students had ‘got out of the habit’ of social situations when they returned to school in September.
Year 7 students line up in the playground and observe social distancing at City of London Academy Highgate Hill today after schools reopened, as a poll shows there are still pupils not returning because of coronavirus
‘We have noticed more falling out and a lack of ability to resolve issues promptly, which has required more staff intervention,’ she told MPs.
Ben Levinson, head of Kensington Primary School in Newham, east London, added that pupils’ learning of phonics – which helps teach them read – had been affected by months of remote learning.
He told MPs: ‘For most of our parents the teaching of that is not something that’s easy to pick up, it’s not something that’s easy to deliver so they have fallen behind there.’
Mr Levison said he does not believe Government support goes far enough to address concerns about left-behind pupils, adding that the winter package would only make ‘a small difference’.
He said: ‘I think that there will still be families who fall through the gaps. We’re in a really challenging time for everybody and so you know there’s always going to be those families who really struggle.’
Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, told MPs: ‘Children have fared disproportionately badly if they were living in poverty before and during the pandemic.
‘And of course there is more now who are in poverty because of the change in finance.
‘I think what we’re seeing at the moment is because schools are now having to get back, of course, to the day job, if you like, the teaching and children in school – there is a gap here of children who are falling through because they aren’t, you know, in crisis enough to get the help from the council in social services terms but they still do need help.’
Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, told MPs: ‘Children have fared disproportionately badly if they were living in poverty before and during the pandemic. And of course there is more now who are in poverty because of the change in finance.
It comes after school inspectors Ofsted said school and nursery closures had left previously potty-trained youngsters needing nappies and dummies again.
They added that some pupils had forgotten how to use cutlery and others had lost ‘stamina’ in reading and writing and had fallen behind in maths.
Older pupils have struggled to write for long periods or ‘stay awake and alert’ in lessons because they are ‘disconnected’ from learning and also physically unfit.
The findings came after Ofsted carried out more than 900 visits in September and October to education and social care providers.
They said children ‘of all ages and backgrounds, have lost some basic skills and learning as a result of school closures’.