We have addressed the following letter to Mr Williamson – Secretary of State for Education.
Dear Mr Williamson,
We are all aware of the challenges that Covid-19 has brought to our efforts to continue the effective education of our children. I write to share our analysis of the impact of self-isolation after the first 8 weeks of the Autumn term, which provide a stark illustration of the reality facing students in the areas worst affected by the virus.
There are 337 students in our current Year 11. In the first eight weeks of this term:
We have seen a similar pattern in Year 13 attendance.
This clearly highlights an inequality of access to education, not just across the country, but within individual schools. We have put in place high-quality remote learning: all students have access to an appropriate device, teachers are live-streaming lessons or producing videos, but even so, there is no substitute for face to face teaching and in-person interactions.
We are only eight weeks into this school year, and we all recognise that there is a long way to go before we return to any kind of normality. Students facing exams this summer are becoming increasingly anxious, and the uncertainty around what the next seven months will bring is adding to an already spiralling mental health crisis in our young people.
The reassertion that exams will go ahead as planned without accompanying contingency plans is adding to this anxiety. What we now need is reassurance that students who have missed varying amounts of in-person teaching will not be disadvantaged compared to those whose education has suffered much less disruption; that there is a fair process by which teachers can submit their teacher assessment grades based on solid evidence; that there is a contingency for students who may miss exams due to illness or self-isolation (we have already had two cases where students have been forced to miss November re-sit exams).
Looking longer term, we also need to consider the impact of the pandemic on the current Years 10 and 12 who will be facing examinations in the summer of 2022, and whose course coverage and knowledge base will undoubtedly have been affected by the first lockdown and subsequent periods of self-isolation during the current academic year.
Wickersley School and Sports College, Rotherham