Survey reveals pandemic impact on Windsor and Maidenhead education

Shay Bottomley

The pandemic’s impact on children’s education in the Royal Borough was discussed at a school improvement forum on Monday (June 7).

Councillors received a presentation on the school response to pupils returning to face-to-face learning following a survey by the council’s school improvement team.

A total of 29 out of 64 schools responded to the survey with 96.6 per cent of respondents noticing gaps in learning since the majority of children returned to classrooms in March.

Key stage 1 appeared to show wider gaps compared to key stage 2, although both cohorts were picked up as a concern in 14 and 10 of the responses respectively.

Phonics, writing and reading were subjects where many of the responders noticed a gap, with social skills among pupils also seeing a decline.

Schools said they planned to run small group teaching sessions to address gaps in learning, as well as intervention groups outside of school time and teachers and teaching assistants who will identify lost learning.

Presenting the findings, schools leadership development manager, Clive Haines, noted that many children were delighted to have returned to face-to-face teaching, with 98 per cent of children now back in the classroom.

“The overall response was [that] children are generally really happy to be back, and that’s echoed throughout the borough,” he said.

“[The schools] said that children were quite happy to get back into routines quite quickly, and said the use of IT has grown, obviously because of where we’ve had to do home learning, so children are much more aware of IT.”

Cllr Stuart Carroll (Con, Boyn Hill) asked whether the local insight was in line with national trends, although Mr Haines said he had not seen any national data hence why the local authority had conducted the survey.

The forum also heard from school leaders in the affected cohorts.

Richard Daniels, headteacher of Riverside Primary School, said he ‘echoed’ the findings from the survey, adding that the school had looked into the academic and emotional gaps after the return from lockdown.

“What we’ve found was actually the emotional side worried us more when the children came back from lockdown,” he said.

“A year of them not doing anything, not having any experiences and being cooped up at home has really had a detrimental effect on them.”

He added that extra measures had been brought in, such as extra learning mentors to run nurture groups to provide support to children and a teacher who returned to the school as a volunteer to build confidence and resilience in key stage 2 pupils who have found the return to classrooms particularly difficult.

Nicola Chandler, executive head of the Dedworth campus and substantive head of Dedworth Middle School, saidthat although attendance had remained at pre-pandemic levels, there had been a ‘very big’ increase in maths and early help referrals as well as concerns and disclosures.

Cllr Carroll thanked the school leaders for their ‘extremely comprehensive’ overview of initiatives that had been put in place.

“What’s really pleasing and indeed reassuring is the huge emphasis and effort that’s going in to ensure that our children are receiving the maximum support in terms of health and wellbeing and particularly mental health,” he said.

“I really want to emphasis my thanks and gratitude for the thoroughness, enthusiasm and passion that’s been brought into so many of the examples you were all citing around mindfulness and mental health, but also thinking about parents and carers as well because we know that has such an important role for a child’s health, wellbeing and education.”

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