Schools are the lynchpin in getting back to normal says Leeds education councillor as pupils go back to school across the city
Children going back to school are crucial to the recovery of the city and country post lock-down says the city’s education spokesperson.
From kickstarting learning again to restoring a routine that allows parents to return to work easier and, in turn, city centres - Coun Jonathan Pryor says that schools are “the lynchpin” in getting back to some sort of normal.
He told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “I want to pay tribute to the mammoth task that teachers and head-teachers have undertaken over summer to make sure schools are as safe as they can possibly be. It is a bigger job than government expected and I don’t think they appreciate how much more difficult they have made it.
“When you look at how the teaching profession has worked over the whole pandemic- from looking after the most vulnerable children to educating key worker children so the NHS can function, from going to individual children’s houses to make sure they are being fed - they have really kept this country going over the past few months and now they are stepping into the most uncertain year.
“If we don’t get schools right, we don’t get the whole recovery right. They are the lynchpin in getting the country back to normal.”
Over the last few months schools have been planning for today’s return to the classroom amid changing guidelines and exam chaos, but Leeds City Council’s Executive Member for Learning, Skills and Employment, said teachers were excited to return and that now is the right time in order for young people to develop educationally and socially.
He explained: “Safety has been at the forefront of all schools minds but the real feeling is the potential damage that could be done if they are off any longer. Whatever, they have done, learning at home just isn’t the same as school and different children will have done different amounts.
“Now is the right time for children to start coming back. Obviously it won’t be the same with so many measures but it is not good for children to be away from learning and away from each other for so long. When it was a necessity it was, but where we are now, I think it will be good for children.”
Once the school bell has rung today, the main focus is set to be the mental health of pupils and students and making sure they are in the “right place” physically and mentally to learn.
Hitting attainment targets, such as in maths and English, can wait, added Coun Pryor.
However, he said looking forward, there needs to be discussions taking place now about how students will be assessed in both primary and secondary schools.
The warning comes after the A-Level results fiasco which led to an unprecedented government u-turn. Moderated results had been used to calculate grades but were found to be inaccurate and prejudicial of social background, regardless of academic ability.
Coun Pryor said: “It does raise questions about how we look at exams for next year. There are discussions on-going nationally now about what happens with next year’s exams because children have lost so much time at school.
“Given the way that the government handled exams this year, it is right that we start looking at that now. They have not been listening to teachers and that is something that needs to change immediately. They should be listening and talking to teachers immediately about SATs to A-Levels for next year.
"Both my parents are teachers. It is not an easy job, it is not a job you fall into, it is a real calling and a desire to educate children. The teachers I have spoken to have been missing the classroom and missing their job. For the teachers they are really excited to get back to a sense of normality.”
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