Back to School – hopes & fears

The long summer holidays are over and here we are again at the start of a new academic year. With so much disruption to children’s education over the last couple of years we’re all hoping that this year things will get back onto an even keel.

For my own family, living here in the ward, and for the families I talk with when I’m out and about, the new school year brings with it both hopes and fears. There are high hopes for young kids starting schools for the first time, and also for older pupils entering important exam years. But there is still a lot of concern around about the impact of coronavirus. Working parents in particular have found the last couple of years extremely difficult. Children have been sent home from school multiple times, at very short notice, because they have tested positive for covid, or because they’ve been in ‘close contact’ with a classmate who has. The knock-on effect of having to arrange childcare, take time off, or where possible, ask to work from home, has been very wearying. Nobody wants to see more of that.

As part of my role as your local councillor I sit on the committee for “Chidren, Education and Skills”. We meet regularly to consider the things that the council is doing to help our children succeed, including ways that different barriers, such as disadvantage or disability can be overcome. Throughout the pandemic we’ve continued meeting and have taken a keen interest in the ways that local school leaders have been responding to the biggest crisis our schools have faced for generations. I’ve been very impressed with the creativity and resilience of the staff in our schools, they’ve done a great job. We now need to give them all the help and resources they need to ensure that no child is left behind educationally because of the impact of the pandemic.

The bottom line is, we have a lot of catching up to do. Sadly, we have to do this without the levels of Government support that are needed at this time. Prime Minister Boris Johnson could start by getting rid of his hopeless Education Secretary Gavin Williamson. The pandemic has revealed that he is hopelessly out of touch and simply not up to the job. Then he needs to give Chancellor Rishi Sunak a rattle to shake some more money out of him. Our schools desperately need the extra cash right now as the financial pressure on school budgets is enormous.

The task of educational ‘covid recovery’ will be a key agenda item at our committee meeting next week (item 6). You can read the associated report that has been produced in the public papers that are now available online. It reflects on the last two academic years, describes the many ways in which our local schools have adapted, and thinks ahead to the coming academic year.

If you have children (or grandchildren) attending our local schools I’d be really interested to hear about your own hopes and fears for the year ahead. If there are things you are unsure about, or feel that you might need support with, please let me know. You can email me or message me on Facebook.

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