Schools should go back in AUGUST and have lessons on Saturdays to make up for lost time, campaigners urge amid fears of ‘social catastrophe’
- Parents and Teachers for Excellence have a five-point plan for class reopenings
- Co-founder Dame Rachel de Souza has called for children to get back quickly
- Campaigners want the new autumn term to begin on August 17 not September 2
Campaigners have urged Ministers to send pupils back to school a fortnight early in the autumn to reduce the damage to their education.
The idea is part of a five-point plan proposed by the influential education policy group, Parents and Teachers for Excellence (PTE), to get children back into the habit of learning.
PTE co-founder Dame Rachel de Souza, who is chief executive of the Inspiration Trust of 14 academies across East Anglia, says children risk ‘becoming part of a social catastrophe unfolding before our eyes’ unless they return to the classroom quickly.
The PTE plan says:
- The new autumn term should begin on August 17 instead of September 2;
- Attendance must be compulsory unless pupils have a health risk;
- Sports grounds should be open for team sports and PE;
- Saturday lessons should be brought in to provide catch-up sessions for exam students, along with a longer school day for all;
- The Government should fund overtime payments for teachers who work extra hours.
PTE – a coalition of parents and teachers set up in 2016 to improve standards – says it is imperative that the Government gives clarity to both schools and parents to allow for the necessary planning before the return.
Dame Rachel said schools provided vital structure in young people’s lives and ‘without it we risk allowing them to drift aimlessly and damaging their futures irreparably’.
She claimed that online learning had failed to bridge that gap, with students losing motivation and spending their time watching Netflix or playing video games.
Dame Rachel de Souza, chief executive of the Inspiration Trust, said children risk ‘becoming part of a social catastrophe unfolding before our eyes’ unless they return to the classroom
Dame Rachel said a return to school two weeks earlier represented ‘the only way we can make sure that we protect our children’s prospects’.
Pointing out that pubs, restaurants, shops and cinemas are opening long before schools, she asked: ‘Do we as a nation hold these institutions as more valuable than our children’s education?’
A partial return, she added, would be a disaster. It would only widen the disadvantage gap among children because struggling students were the most likely to opt out.
Urging the padlocks to be removed from sports pitches, Dame Rachel said: ‘It has been heartbreaking to see school sports grounds locked and children unable to play with each other.
‘Team sports inspire a healthy sense of camaraderie.’ Asked about the risk of spreading Covid-19, she said: ‘It can hardly be claimed that children who are meeting their friends are any safer than they would be at school.’
The nine secondary schools in Dame Rachel’s academy trust are restarting on August 18.
PTE – a coalition of parents and teachers set up in 2016 to improve standards – says it is imperative that the Government gives clarity to both schools and parents to allow for the necessary planning before the return. Pictured, The Falcon pub in Rotherwick, London
Mark Lehain, PTE’s chairman of networks, said he expected head teachers to ‘unleash a small army of volunteers’ comprising retired teachers and parents to help when the autumn term begins.
‘This needs to be a national effort,’ he said. ‘Children are at the least risk from the pandemic, but their futures and life chances have possibly been affected the most in the long term.
‘Of course, parents are nervous about sending their children back to classes, but we’ve seen with primary schools that more children have been attending each week as confidence grows.’
PTE expects opposition from teaching unions, which last week branded Boris Johnson’s plan to reopen schools for all pupils in September as ‘pure fantasy’.
Mr Lehain said: ‘There will, of course, be people who want to disrupt and obstruct this, but that’s another reason to give teachers and parents clarity so that the plans are on the table and people who want to prevent a smooth start to the school year can be pre-empted.’