Will Reception and Year 1 children lose out in the long term if they go back to school before September?
There seems to be little disagreement over the fact that education and therefore, school attendance are very important to a child’s life chances.
Early start does not equal best outcomes
The common age for starting school worldwide is 6. The UK encourages parents to put their children into school at age 3. We do not seem to perform better on world tables https://www.oecd.org/pisa/PISA-results_ENGLISH.png, being 14th in reading and science and 21st in Maths based on age 15 results.
Parents and teachers co-educate children in the early years. What happens at home is as important as what happens at school. Not all parents are able to rise to the challenge though.
School is designed to provide learning opportunities for the average child and many provide additional support for the child lacking any home learning.
Many parents have worked exceptionally hard to provide home education during the weeks of lockdown. Some cannot. Many are expected to work at home as well as be educators. That is tough.
Childcare is the real driver to send children back to school.
Having our children cared for helps employment and the economy. But it must be safe.
Missing school happens for many reasons
Children who have long term illnesses or act as young carers have much experience of missing school but they are not doomed to poor outcomes. The PISA report shows the UK delivers for disadvantaged children ‘...in spite of socio- economic disadvantage, 14% of disadvantaged students scored in the top quarter of performance in reading, indicating that disadvantage is not destiny’ . ‘Disadvantaged’, children maybe by the pandemic, it does not define their destiny either.
Schools adjust and teachers adapt learning
Teachers can adapt classroom lessons and home support. They are amazing at adjusting and developing children with learning gaps for any reason.
The Dfe produced research in 2015 which implied a week off of school could make a significant difference to learning outcomes https://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/feb/22/missing-lessons-harms-childrens-education-uk-government . The Government interpretation of the data was later debunked by Durham Univeristy https://www.dur.ac.uk/news/allnews/thoughtleadership/?itemno=29068 They said in conclusion, ‘the DfE … are wrong to claim knowledge that absence is a root cause of low attainment’.
Even at an older age gaps can be filled. When my daughter was studying GCSE, in one of her subjects’ her teacher was unqualified and truly useless. She projected my daughter would achieve a D at best. In her second year of the course a new teacher took over. She declared that the class had learnt less than a quarter of what was expected by that stage. A creative, inspiring, mesmerising, energising teacher and my daughter achieved an A grade.
Learning at school can wait if it risks lives
Just because teachers are outstanding https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/2020/05/06/teachers-will-play-a-frontline-role-in-getting-our-children-back-up-to-speed-with-their-education/ , just because they can fill the gaps created by unforeseen circumstances, does not mean we keep our children off from school for no good reason. Children need school, they love to learn, but not if it risks them spreading a deadly disease.
The Rate of infection (R) is still 0.7 in many areas. The Independent SAGE group http://www.independentsage.org has modelled that the return to school may raise the R rate by 0.3. Add those numbers together and we reach 1 which means the virus is out of control again.
We all need to think hard about giving teachers more work to get our 4-6 year olds up to speed on return versus placing them, parents and wider family at risk now. As one very experienced head told me.’ schools are geared to helping children with diverse learning styles and circumstances’. Look at what schools achieve with mid year arrival children without English. Schools can do this.
Children in the early years will not suffer when all are in the same boat with the same gaps to fill. We must stay safe and listen to the scientists…the independent ones.
We must not imply to children or parents that they are written off. Coronavirus is a blip. We can come through this and we will.