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Summer schools come under consideration for Suffolk

Summer schools are being considered as a way to help children in Suffolk catch up with their lessons following the coronavirus lockdown, it can be revealed.

The Department for Education has been looking at the measure as one way in which to help support pupils, particularly disadvantaged pupils and those who struggled to learn under lockdown, and suggested retired teachers and Ofsted inspectors could help staff them.

With most schools in Haverhill - and numerous others in the area - run by the Unity Schools Partnership, its chief executive, Tim Coulson, said: “This is something we are looking at but a decision has not yet been made.

Dr Tim Coulson
Dr Tim Coulson

"Our staff have worked incredibly hard since the lockdown began and ensuring they get a sufficient break over the summer will definitely come into our thinking.”

Suffolk County Council has already had six Ofsted inspectors locally working for it, and said it was continuing to discuss the possibility with the DfE on behalf of its schools.

Adrian Orr, assistant director for education and learning at the county council, said: “School leaders who have got good systems in place are now very much thinking about summer and September.

Adrian Orr, assistant director for education and learning at Suffolk County Council.
Adrian Orr, assistant director for education and learning at Suffolk County Council.

“The government has said it is looking at the possibility of summer schools, and school leaders are saying to us in the local authority ‘please chase that up on our behalf because if that is going to happen we need to be identifying the young people now’.

“At the moment, the only information we have is that potentially the government might be looking for retired teachers and possibly the Ofsted workforce.

“We have got six Ofsted inspectors who are doing different duties in our team and doing great work to assist us.

“It is obviously not inspection work but they have all got a teaching background, so it could be the government looks to extend that, and we have been very grateful for the support.”

The council’s education bosses said many school leaders and teachers had worked through Easter and half term, meaning they had not had any time off since February half term.

A spokesman from the DfE would not confirm whether summer schools would be implemented, but admitted it was considering “what more is required”.

He said: “We will do whatever we can to make sure no child, whatever their background, falls behind as a result of coronavirus.

“The government has already committed over £100million to support children to learn at home, and pupil premium funding at the highest ever rate per pupil continues to be paid to help them support their disadvantaged pupils.

“Many schools have begun welcoming children from Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 back to the classroom as part of a phased and cautious approach. We are also considering, with a range of partner organisations, what more is required to support all pupils who have been affected by school closures.” However, some questions have been raised by the Suffolk branch of the National Education Union, including whether there is enough demand or staff, whether Ofsted inspectors have enough recent classroom experience, and whether the right DBS checks would be in place for retired staff. Suffolk branch spokesman Graham White added: “The scientific evidence is still that September looks safer than June or July for pupils to be in school.

"The daily death rate is still over 100, the R rate is nearly 1 and likely to rise as restrictions are lifted, schools that opened are being shut again because of Covid cases and we still do not have a credible and efficient test trace and track mechanism for Covid cases. Therefore although there may be some merit in running these summer schools it would benefit more pupils both short and long term if the government addressed the underlying issues of school funding , digital poverty, poverty and the curriculum and assessment issues facing many pupils.”

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