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Pandemic home-learning has 'slowed pupil development', warns Hampshire County Council report



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HAMPSHIRE children having to learn from home due to the pandemic are not developing as fast as previous year groups, according to a report.

The county council published an assessment of early years, primary and secondary education ahead of a select committee meeting this week, writes David George of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

It claimed that youngsters who have missed out on school education during the Covid-19 lockdowns are experiencing delayed development, particularly in younger years.

The county council published an assessment of early years, primary and secondary education
The county council published an assessment of early years, primary and secondary education

Eric Halton, primary and early years education manager, said in the report: "Available evidence suggests that changes in access to early child education and care has had an impact on pre-school children in a number of ways, including social, emotional and behavioural development and mental health, physical development and school readiness.

"School settings in Hampshire are reporting that our youngest children were not as ‘school ready’ as in pre-Covid years."

"Aspects of child development, delayed through a lack of sufficient exposure to educational experiences, cannot simply be added in through ‘catch-up’ without the supporting environment of the right physical resources and activities."

Without exams such as standard assessment tests (SATs) and no moderated teacher assessments, there has been little in the way of measurement for student progress.

But the report stated that anecdotal evidence and early national studies suggest attainment has already fallen, particularly in transitional years such as Years 2 and 6 – and more so in homes that faced significant home disruption, with multiple children and/or parents working from home.

A similar impact has also been noted in secondary schools, although regular assessment has still continued.

The general consensus is still forming, but all signs point towards a natural drop in attainment.

The Department for Education is planning for SATs to be reinstated this summer, although HCC fears this will "lead to undue pressure on children, teachers and leaders in the year ahead".

Natalie Smith, secondary and post-16 education manager, said: "Some schools have been harder hit by the pandemic than others and so any comparisons may well be flawed and misleading in relation to the quality of provision implied by standards achieved.

"Service teams are providing high quality guidance to all settings and primary schools – this includes specific support materials for end of Key Stage assessments and tests that make clear how best use can be made of the remaining curriculum time.

"However, schools’ capacity to make full use of this resource and the timetabled curriculum is already under pressure as a result of the current resurgence of the Covid-19 virus."

All of this means that Year 11 students may not be fully prepared for GCSEs at the end of this school year, the report added.

It has also been suggested by HCC council officers that children’s mental health will have taken a toll.

A report from the Hampshire, Southampton and Isle of Wight last year suggested that 17.4% of young people in the region have a probable mental health disorder.

HCC believes this will have been amplified in disadvantaged children and those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

However, it has reported that some things have improved as a result of home learning, such as in repetitive skills such as handwriting, although this is not viewed as a consistent shift.

For SEND children, schools remained open – and initial studies suggest that the children actually thrived in an environment of smaller numbers, with a quieter and calmer learning space.

But this may have been offset by their having to deal with peers returning to school, and the hustle and bustle that followed.

Overall, the report concluded that "the pandemic would appear to have resulted in a slowing of progress when measured across a whole cohort of children whether in a school, Hampshire or nationally".

It added: "Whilst this is impossible to quantify precisely, this would naturally result from periods of home learning, absence from school and disruption to the planned curriculum experienced in last two years."



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