With the majority of pupils home learning amid the pandemic, some parents are calling for children to repeat the school year.
Thousands of youngsters across Greater Manchester missed vital classroom time before Christmas, when they had to isolate following confirmed cases of the virus among classmates and staff.
Since the holiday, they’ve been remote learning once again after the Prime Minister took the decision to close schools to all but vulnerable and key worker children from January 5.
Now some parents are calling for youngsters to repeat the academic year, saying that even if pupils do return on March 8 as the government hopes, they will have missed too much work.
We asked mums and dads for their views on our Manchester Family Facebook page after mum Nicola Makin got in touch to say she and other parents feel that repeating the school year is the only way of keeping it ‘academically fair’.
She said: “Realistically, our children will have missed the best part of six months of this school year if they return on March 8, which would leave them, at best, four months of ‘in school’ education. This just doesn’t seem academically fair or correct.”
Hundreds of parents responded to our post and while many agreed with Nicola, others firmly object to the idea, questioning the logistics of it.
Angela Flaherty was among those in support of starting the year again.
“Yes I think they need to all be held back a year to be given chance to catch up,” she said. “I also think it would benefit the younger ones whose development has been affected giving them time to be ready for school at age 5/6.
“I have a three-year-old that is four in August and due to start school in September, but because of this pandemic and the lockdowns, her development has been drastically affected and she is nowhere near ready for school and there are many younger kids in the same boat.
“I also have a 13-year-old and whilst we have worked hard and tried to keep up, it’s nowhere near the same as having the benefit of teachers, so I believe it would help him to stay behind a year and make sure he is ready for the next year instead of him feeling overwhelmed and stressed when he is struggling. The pressure on kids and the expectations are ridiculous these days and they only get harder with each year. Definitely needs to be done to benefit all.”
Natalie Anne agreed saying: “I agree. My daughter was in Year 6 when we went into the first lockdown. This year she starts Year 8. Expected to do Year 8 work, it’s unfair in my eyes. My girls have had 11 weeks out of 52 in school.”
And Dawn Morrall said too much time has been lost to simply carry on regardless.
She said: “I agree… from end of March 2020 they have had about 13/14 weeks of school education! When children go back are schools just going to carry in with the curriculum as nothing has happened?!
“Sadly not all children are keen on learning at home and as much as parents try and encourage them it’s like fighting a losing battle..not all children have the ability to sit and listen to a teacher online as some need visual learning and more time to process information.
“Schools provide the setting for children to understand that this is where they learn. Home is where they have fun and enjoy their own interests.”
Do you think pupils should repeat the school year? Do you worry about the time they have lost out of the classroom? Let us know in the comments here, or share your views on our Manchester Family Facebook page.
Rachel Nolan said that if they were going to repeat a year, it should have been started from September.
“I think if they were going to be held back a year, it should have been done from the start,” she said. “I would have been happy for mine to have started back in the same year when they went back in September, but not now they have been messed about too much.”
Some parents questioned the point in homeschooling if kids are to be held back anyway, including Kelly Owens, who said: “I’m not wasting the 5+ hours per day spent teaching and helping my kids do their work for them to be kept back one year. If that’s the case then why are we doing this?!?!”
And Mel Roscoe, who added: “Nope! My daughter is caught up with her work and she is thriving work wise! I understand this might not be the case for some other children. Don’t see how that would be fair.”
Claire Earp, Laura Daniels and Jaime Carter praised their schools for the standard of remote learning – with regular live lessons on Zoom and Google Classroom – and said their children have not fallen behind academically. Jaime said she ‘would fight a decision to hold them back a year’.
But others said they have had little interaction with school, which has affected their child’s progress.
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While agreeing in principle that pupils would benefit from repeating a year, many told us they couldn’t see how it would work in practice.
“Whereas that sounds like a great idea in theory – it will have knock on effects for children’s education forever more,” said Emma McAvoy. “If Reception resit Reception then the new Reception intake can’t start until a year later, so all children will start at school aged five, not four. Or there has to be two Reception intakes, which would not be possible.”
And Leonie Gray added: “If everyone is held back a year, where will the next lot that are supposed to be starting go? Will they have to stay home for an extra year? If not then we will need a whole load of extra teachers – there are already shortages. It’s just not that simple.”
Mum Nicola, whose view sparked our debate, says she can understand the argument from both sides.
She said: “I can understand why parents wouldn’t want their children to resit a year, as we have all spent so much time and effort trying to teach from home, but I personally feel it’s not just the academic side they have lost out on, but the communication, interpersonal and basic social skills that can only be gained from being with their peers in a school environment.”
Steve Chalke, founder of the Oasis Community Learning academy trust, which runs 53 academies including Oasis Academy Oldham and Oasis Academy Aspinal in Gorton, said any such plan would need a great deal of thought and he’s unconvinced that children would benefit.
“It needs some really serious thought,” he said. “But my intuition is that it will create more problems than it will solve for these young people.
“It creates endless logistical issues and creates a stigma for these children.”
In his speech last week, the Prime Minister said that reopening schools ‘must be our national priority’, but that the March 8 date largely depends on infection rates over the coming weeks.
He said the government will continue free school meals, with vouchers and food parcels until children return to school and said they are looking at a summer school initiative and a Covid premium, with money for schools to provide tutoring to help with the catch up of education lost during the lockdowns.