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Re-opening schools and narrowing the disadvantage gap

(76 Posts)
noblegiraffe Wed 22-Apr-20 14:07:47

I know I know I know it’s a thread about re-opening schools but THIS ONE IS A PROFESSIONAL DISCUSSION ABOUT PRACTICALITIES and it’s IN THE STAFFROOM.

The Children’s Commissioner has just released a report about how to go about re-opening schools with the aim of narrowing the disadvantage gap.

The suggestion is that when they reopen, they start with the most disadvantaged kids and the lessons are focused on catch-up tuition, not new content. So Monday the most disadvantaged 20% of Y7 come in, Tuesday the most disadvantaged 20% of Y8 come in etc. This will enable social distancing measures to be implemented.

Disadvantage isn’t just based around FSM, but around the kids most likely to fall behind in general. As it’s compulsory, it might get more of the vulnerable kids in who aren’t currently attending.

I thought it was an interesting suggestion, but I’m not sure how it would be received by the people who think that the point of reopening schools is so that they can work from home more effectively.

OP’s posts: |
ChloeDecker Wed 22-Apr-20 14:14:04

Interesting. Thanks noble
I wonder regarding the catch up material, if they mean going over work that was set during the ‘lockdown’. Of course, that has the side effect of doubling up more work for those still at home. It’s certainly one approach and one that would make sense if schools opened up a little more sooner rather than later. To be honest, because children are not a one size fits all and all schools are different, I don’t think any solution will be perfect.

PhysicsCat Wed 22-Apr-20 14:19:54

Whilst in principle this could be a great idea I fear the students wouldn’t turn up. The set of students I teach who aren’t engaging with remote lessons or needed offline work sent to them has a significant overlap with the set of most disadvantaged and the set of poor attendance under normal circumstances.

MrsWooster Wed 22-Apr-20 14:27:40

Have to tread very delicately around the social implications... Everyone would make clear and, tbh, probably accurate assumptions about the reasons why some kids ‘have to go in’ while some remain at home.

noblegiraffe Wed 22-Apr-20 14:30:06

Yes, I wonder if that is why some vulnerable kids aren’t going in, as they don’t want to be singled out. Not sure how that could be managed, maybe extending the keyworker reach at the same time?

OP’s posts: |
JemNadies Wed 22-Apr-20 14:30:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

crazycrofter Wed 22-Apr-20 14:31:52

I can't see how this would work or be a good idea. I have a year 9, non-disadvantaged son and it would be so hard to get him to go in if everyone else wasn't going - we had a similar struggle before the lockdown. Firstly, he didn't see why he should attend when others didn't have to and secondly, he didn't want to go in if none of his friends were going to be there.

Add to that the social stigma of being the 'disadvantaged' ones - they would be aware. I think it has to be all or nothing - the only way to reduce numbers would be only certain year groups going in.

noblegiraffe Wed 22-Apr-20 14:33:07

The problem with whole year groups going in is class sizes.

OP’s posts: |
Trebolla Wed 22-Apr-20 14:33:33

It’s a brilliant idea in theory. Maybe those who should go back first are those who failed to consistently engage - for whatever reason - so that they can catch up.

crazycrofter Wed 22-Apr-20 15:05:01

@trebolla now that might work - if the kids are told that now! It would certainly get my ds working a bit harder!

michaelbaubles Wed 22-Apr-20 15:19:49

In theory it's fine - my DC, for example, could probably be off until September without their attainment suffering much at all. In fact in some ways they might be positively advantaged by being at home with me instead of at school. So I wouldn't mind them being among the last to return from that point of view.

However, some thoughts that pop up: how will this be enforced? Because if it isn't enforced, attendance will be poor. Some parents will be OUTRAGED that their DC have to go to school when nobody else is. Some parents will be OUTRAGED that other children are getting an advantage of extra teaching time.

Teachers' own children are unlikely to fall into this category so they will be among the last to return and that has a knock on effect for staffing, unless they get bunged back to school immediately as key-worker children (which then has another potential effect on the gap...)

It would probably be better, although politically massively problematic, to return lower sets earlier, focus on core subjects, and have lots of extra staff for each class. Imagine a full week with just lower sets, a lesson every day and four extra staff in the class along with 1-1 removal for those who need it. You could catch up quite quickly. Upper sets wouldn't miss 2-3 weeks as much at all.

HairyMaclary Wed 22-Apr-20 15:24:53

I fear the stigma of having to be in would cause problems but we will need to do something g like this. These children are my big worry. The gap is growing daily, I can’t timetable enough booster/catch up groups into a day and it’s so inappropriate to have some children doing basically English and maths and nothing else.

TubereuseNordlys Wed 22-Apr-20 15:34:42

It would be interesting for our school which has a PAN of 15. In one of my year groups, the ones who need it would be the ones whose attendance would be all over the shop (of 6 lower attainers, three would be in every day, two would not come in, the last would depend on which way the wind was blowing). The rest of that year group would have parents demanding access to on-site education for their children.
My other year group would be a bit more accepting of the situation.

I think in a small school like ours, parents would be more likely to understand a rationale behind one year group at a time. Of course, you then get into the sibling issue...

HedgehogHotel Wed 22-Apr-20 15:35:25

Incredibly stigmatizing. Imagine contacting parents and telling them that their children will be welcomed back to school early because they're in the bottom 20% of the class ... all those children together, feeling shit about themselves.

And just because a child isn't in the bottom 20%, doesn't mean they don't desperately need structure and socialization, too, as well as education themselves.

And top 20% students might actually be struggling at home with families who can't actually help them, ability or time wise.

Should be rotated so everyone has a chance to come in when they re open.

drspouse Wed 22-Apr-20 16:29:01

Imagine contacting parents and telling them that their children will be welcomed back to school early because they're in the bottom 20% of the class

Would the parents not already know? My DD has an IEP and of her Y1 class, nearly 20% were working below KS at the start of the year (her class teacher told us this to make us feel better!) - we all knew this was us. I spotted one of the mums dropping off her DD and I don't think she is under any illusion that her DD isn't in the bottom 20%, either, but I think her current place is based on social vulnerability/SW rather than her DD's achievement.

HedgehogHotel Wed 22-Apr-20 16:43:06

Yes, but would they want all the parents to know? Because by not inviting the other 80%, you're telling ALL the parents which children are academically at the bottom of the class.

drspouse Wed 22-Apr-20 16:44:09

Oh yes, good point! I personally don't care but others may.

HedgehogHotel Wed 22-Apr-20 16:46:59

Let alone the other children, who can be really quite unkind about this sort of thing.

And that's putting it mildly.

Just airing concerns. I am in a primary school, and still helping keep it going for KW and vulnerable children. I do think OOH, it would be a good thing to get them some extra school in, but OTOH, that would take months of effort to catch them up, and in the meantime, they would feel the stigma and begrudge the fact that they have to go and most don't to do 'real school'.

bettybattenburg Wed 22-Apr-20 16:50:27

And top 20% students might actually be struggling at home with families who can't actually help them, ability or time wise.

^ This. I have just come home from a year 1 class and have been asked to help factorise quadratic equations. Not a hope in hell sad

HeffalumpsCantDance Wed 22-Apr-20 16:52:10

Flashback to my teaching practice in the 1980s. The teacher named her groups after animals. The lowest ability were the Remedial Rabbits, because Educationally Sub-Normal Rabbits didn’t alliterate.
I think it’s a great idea to target support at the most disadvantaged children. Until you think of that child running the gauntlet of speculation and mockery. Failing in school? Have some more of the same whilst everyone else watches.

oncemorewithfeeling99 Wed 22-Apr-20 16:56:59

When it’s considered safe to do so, I think it’s more sensible to send children in by groups of family surname. That way you limit class sizes and siblings would attend at the same time.
If you have welfare concerns about very vulnerable children then they could already be invited in under the rules. So perhaps extending efforts to do that with special needs and children with a social worker as a first step.

eldeeno Wed 22-Apr-20 17:02:06

My concern would be what happens to schools where the overwhelming majority of students fall into the disadvantaged group?

Would we still send in 20% of disadvantaged kids from my disadvantaged school? Whilst the leafy middle class school up the road also send in 20% of theirs? Even though their bottom 20% is better off than the majority of ours??

Or is it the most disadvantaged 20% of all students? In which case some schools would be full whilst others are empty. How is that going to work??

PleasePassTheCoffeeThanks Wed 22-Apr-20 17:03:47

Would it be legally allowed to restrict access to education to some students like this? You wouldn’t want parents to start lawsuits, imagine the mess...

Also, how to you decide who is invited in?
- no access to computer/internet at home: yes, this one makes sense
- on FSM? : doesn’t mean the parents aren’t involved in their home learning.
- lower set? : they might have improved greatly at home vs others from upper sets who have stagnated. Plus all children should be educated, no «race to the bottom»
- with both parents working, so less time to help with school work? : a child can have a SAHP who is not able or willing to help

Too difficult, there would always be injustice.

qweryuiop Wed 22-Apr-20 17:26:34

That document is really frustrating, in my opinion. I've spent the day in school with just four vulnerable children, and have called most other parents and carers. The children in school spent abiut half an hour working and the rest of the day playing. I find it really hard to help a child with their learning without getting within 2m of them. Am I a bad teacher?

The experience of different families has been unique. Some children from very "comfortable" families have been looking after younger siblings while parents work. Others, from PP families, have been working their socks off. Other children, I've been unable to get in touch with. These are the ones I worry about, both academically and in terms of their safety.

Our school was down to about 30% attendance before Lockdown due to symptomatic children and families, and some parental choice. It was still impossible to ensure social distancing. It was also important to focus on welfare over academics, because the children were frightened. This would still be the case after any restrictions are lifted.

As for getting undergraduates in to teach, thanks for devaluing our profession further...

pfrench Wed 22-Apr-20 18:09:47

I just tried to work out a way of opening primary schools that doesn't totally mess everything up. I'm glad I don't work for the DfE!

Open primary schools after May half term - so that's first week of June.
What they want is 9 - 3 (or whatever your normal school hours are), so that parents can go back to work.
BUT, that means lots of grandparents doing wrap around care.
So, schools back 9 - 3, but parents still working from home if they can so they do drop off and pick up.
Drop off and pick up takes ages because of parents doing social distancing. Queuing around the block to get into small playground gates!

Can't do child social distancing - this is impossible.
Unless you do part time school - half class in morning, half class in afternoon.
BUT, that still leaves school staff who are vulnerable at higher risk in terms of exposure to higher viral load.

So if all school staff who are vulnerable don't go back, then you're down on staff and some schools might not be able to open at all.
Use supply staff? Not enough of them, and you're really looking at childcare not education at that point for those classes.

Some classes would go back with teacher, but vulnerable support staff - some of these 1-1 support staff. So you have unsupported special needs children.
That's hard to manage for one day, let alone for a whole term. There are no supply support staff who are any good.

What would social distancing mean? How about children in every other day.. oh no, same issue with vulnerable staff.

What about when staff start getting ill, which presumably is inevitable and also part of the plan to work around this in the long term.

Is it OK that some schools are closed due to lack of staffing?
Do we say to special needs parents, that when their child's support adult isn't in school, the child can't be either?
What about kids who are SEN with no support, but say massive behaviour issues? Anxiety issues?

Social distancing is impossible in primary schools. Just impossible.

To do it in school, we could maybe have 10 children in a class at any given time. How about every child does one day a week in school? Erm...
Maybe school staff are in and wearing PPE? Cos that's not scary for children at all.

Meanwhile, secondary schools not back because those kids can stay home alone. Or something.

Anyone got any better ideas? Woman in the Daily Telegraph wrote an article telling teachers to 'be brave'. Do sod off.

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