Leeds school head says impact of lockdown and missed learning may be felt for years to come

A Leeds school headteacher has said the impact of lockdown and missed learning may be felt for years to come despite teachers going "above and beyond" during the Covid pandemic.

By Mark Lavery
Wednesday, 28th July 2021, 4:45 am
Morley Newlands headteacher Matthew Fitzpatrick
Morley Newlands headteacher Matthew Fitzpatrick

Morley Newlands Academy principal Matthew Fitzpatrick spoke of the challenges faced by pupils and teachers during Covid times as the Leeds school year officially ends today. (July 28)

Attendance has been patchy at many schools across the city as bubbles and classes collapsed, meaning pupils had to isolate and learn from home.

Mr Fitzpatrick, who has been in charge at the primary school which has up to 700 pupils since 2019, said: "From a positive point of view, a lot of people have gone above and beyond to make sure we open our doors.

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Coun Jonathan Pryor

"Colleagues have been teaching different year groups to cover absent staff.

"Teachers have worked hard to make sure children are getting lessons from home.

"That has to be really well planned and of a good enough standard so children don't miss out if they are at home.

"It has put additional expectations on teachers across the school that previously wouldn't have been part of their everyday job.

"It is difficult to say what the medium and long term impact of this will be.

"We are looking to ensure any gaps are addressed in the short term, any missed learning children may have experienced."

Mr Fitzpatrick added: "We may feel the impact of lockdown and missed learning for years to come. It's difficult to measure at this stage."

Mr Fitzpatrick said the ideal situation for September would be no further lockdowns and that restrictions in school are minimal.

He said the school has had to stagger starting times for students and has not been able to hold assemblies or invite parents to school.

He said: "We haven't properly been able to engage parents in the way we would have wanted to over the past 18 months as they have been restricted from coming on to the site.

"Parents have been unable to come to school for assemblies, sports days, school shows and classroom workshops.

"Despite this, parents have supported us throughout challenging times."

Coun Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for economy, culture and education, said: “It’s been an incredibly tough time for all our city’s school staff and pupils and their resilience and determination have played a huge part in keeping the city running over the past 16 months.

“Without the dedication of those working so hard in our schools, the city’s key workers would not have been able to continue working, and children in need of food, help and support would have been left without it.

“Our children, young people and families have also coped with a massive amount of disruption and uncertainty but have worked together with us, doing their bit to keep the city and each other safe.

“While we don’t yet know what September will bring in terms of how our schools will be operating, I do know that every single member of staff and every single pupil will take it in their stride as they continue to make us as proud of them as we are right now.”