Severe impact on pupil wellbeing, challenges of social distancing, too much emphasis on academic catch up – senior leaders have spoken out about the impact of the pandemic on school life. They have also revealed the huge financial costs incurred.
‘Put wellbeing at centre’
Living through the pandemic has had such an impact on young people’s mental health, that wellbeing must be at the heart of the recovery plans. This was the core message in a policy briefing from the NFER and the Nuffield Foundation, which draws its findings from interviews with 50 senior leaders.
Pupils are suffering from ‘Covid-related anxiety’. This was the experience in most schools, according to the leaders interviewed.
Help to improve wellbeing ‘must be properly funded’, said school leaders. Services were stretched before the pandemic, said the NAHT, so it is vital that schools are given more money now to provide pupils with this urgent support.
Impact on most vulnerable
The most vulnerable pupils have been the most severely affected. ‘The disruption to normal school routines, combined with anxieties over exams and family issues over finances, illness and bereavement will have had a profound effect on those students who were already classed as vulnerable before the restrictions began,’ said ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton, commenting on the report’s findings.
Challenge of social distancing
Practical and enrichment activities have also suffered. ‘Social distancing in schools has made interactions between teachers and pupils and group work much harder and enrichment beyond the core curriculum has been more limited,’ said Nuffield Foundation Director of Education Josh Hillman.
The over-riding view was that schools must be given the funding, support and freedom to provide the help that is best for their pupils.
Lack of funds
Insufficient funding to meet Covid costs is undermining recovery in schools. This was the message of a separate survey, this time by the NAHT of nearly 1,500 school leaders.
Average Covid costs incurred by schools was around £25k. Supply cover for sick and isolating staff amounted to £12k on average.
Many schools at the same time also lost out on major income streams, such as letting out their premises for out-of-school activities. Average losses amounted to £22k.
Government support has worked out at around £6.5k, said the NAHT.
‘The combination of a lack of support for Covid costs combined with insufficient recovery funding for pupils risks seriously undermining the important work schools need to do support their pupils,’ said Deputy General Secretary Nick Brook.
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