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Summer Catch-Up

If enough people say the same thing repeatedly over time, what are opinions can very quickly become indisputable truths – with the unfortunate consequence that policy decisions are then made which are based on information that may well be wrong. What I’m referring to here is the undisputable fact that all of our children are now behind in their learning and need intensive support to catch-up.

Every day I receive a barrage of speculative emails from organisations trading on this fear, the most recent one this morning, from Oak Academy, the governments champion of catch-up:

We’ve got brand new tools and resources to support your work over summer:

  • Priority units and lessons for Reception to Year 6 identified in English, Maths, Science, Geography and History to help prepare pupils for the next academic year
  • Newly designed unit quizzes as a formative tool to help identify gaps in knowledge
  • A dedicated Summer Classroom and Summer Teacher Hub to make delivering targeted support straightforward

These resources may be extremely helpful, but before cancelling children’s summer in exchange for a catch-up programme, I think we need to consider the real impact of the lockdown on primary age children.

The answer to this question is, I guess, ‘it depends’. How children faired academically in the last year will vary considerably according to things like the quality of the remote learning provided by the school; the children’s levels of engagement and motivation; and the amount of learning support they received at home. However, what we’re finding at Highgate Primary is that after a relatively short time back in school, our children have quickly settled back into school life and have largely recovered any learning that may have been ‘lost’.

The reality is that the learning hadn’t in fact been ‘lost’, more, a bit like my keys, ‘temporarily mislaid’ or indeed not lost at all. This is because all children are hardwired to learn – it’s not something that can be switched off. Just because children are not in a classroom doesn’t mean they stop learning. During the national lockdowns, all children would have been learning all of the time. They may have been learning different things to what they may have been learning were they in school, but they would definitely have been learning. There may be some curriculum content that was missed, particularly in maths, but I am confident this will quickly and naturally be regained, without the need for summer school, extended school days or intensive intervention.

However, whilst children are hard-wired to learn, they are also hard-wired for social interaction, which, from my perspective, has been the real cost of the time away from school. On the return to school, all of our teachers reported lost learning in terms of cooperation, collaboration and social interaction, with plenty of squabbling, snatching and the odd tantrum, not just in the younger years! The other areas where we noticed a difference was in children’s confidence and physical fitness.

Having been back at school now for only a couple of months now, it feels like the children haven’t been away. And now that things are opening up, my best advice for catch-up is to simply get out and about, take up of every opportunity that comes your children’s way and allow them to enjoy themselves in the fantastic green spaces around the school.

Reading, a bit of spelling practice and learning times tables always helps, but rather than the summer of catch-up, let’s make this the summer of fun – and our children will be fine!

William