London headteachers today said they are determined that students will catch up on the education they missed during lockdown as the first pupils began returning to lessons.
It comes as research suggested that most pupils will be three months behind in their studies when they return to the classroom.
Schools today began reopening fully to pupils for the first time since March, with 97 per cent expected to be back open in the coming days. A poll of nearly 3,000 school leaders and teachers by the National Foundation for Educational Research found that 98 per cent felt that students are behind academically, with boys likely to have fallen further behind girls.
Teachers also said the learning gap between rich and poor pupils has grown by almost half since schools closed.
Alun Ebenezer, head of Fulham Boys School, which reopens to teachers today and all pupils tomorrow, said: “I am determined they will catch up. Particular groups of boys will be more affected than others. Some have not had any boundaries or stimulation and some have not even been out of their flats since March. They will be the furthest behind. But we are determined to plug those gaps as quickly as we possibly can.
“They have all been working to a greater or lesser degree at home but online learning is no substitute for face-to-face teaching.” Catch-up lessons will take place after school, and extra classes may be introduced at the weekend and during holidays.
Emily Codling, head of Eden Park High School in Beckenham, south London, said she is “completely committed” to the students’ education as she welcomed pupils back to the classroom today. Her school is one of the first in London to fully reopen to all pupils.
She said: “Myself and the staff are very excited about being back with the children and in the school environment. We have planned very carefully to make sure that we mitigate the risk of transmission. At all times safety for our staff and students is our highest priority. Supporting the students in the classroom and having the opportunity to properly engage with each other in person is exactly what we need to move forwards with their learning. We remain completely committed to the students’ education and will overcome any challenges in order to protect our school community.”
Sir Daniel Moynihan, CEO of Harris Academies, the largest academy chain in London, said no pupil would be left behind as teachers tackled the learning gap caused by lockdown. He added: “Thankfully the health of children is not seriously at risk from Covid-19 but young people have unquestionably suffered the most from the effects of lockdown.
“Harris academies delivered live online lessons from the moment schools were closed, as well as opening up in July and August for Summer School, but even so we are deeply worried about the wellbeing and progress of our pupils. We are delighted to be opening up again and know this will have a really positive impact.”
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