Councillor claims Lancs teachers are worried over lack of learning during lockdown

A Lancashire county councillor claims that teachers are “pulling their hair out” over the drop in learning caused by the coronavirus crisis.

By Paul Faulkner
Thursday, 18th June 2020, 12:46 pm

John Potter, who represents the Preston West division on the authority, says that the subject is one of many Covid-related classroom concerns which should have been discussed in recent months by County Hall’s education scrutiny committee.

However, the cross-party group – of which he is a member – has not met since March because of a pre-planned gap in the meeting schedule.

“We’ve had special meetings in the past for various issues – and I speak to residents and members who can’t understand why we haven’t got together to get the latest information during one of the biggest crises to affect schooling for over a century.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

County Cllr John Potter sits on Lancashire County Council's education scrutiny committee

“There are so many issues for us to look at – for instance, I’ve wanted to know how many of the laptops promised by the government for disadvantaged children have been distributed in Lancashire,” the Lib Dem politician said.

Lancashire County Council meetings were suspended at the start of the lockdown, but began to restart in May, held virtually. Education scrutiny will first meet in this format next month.

County Cllr Potter says that, based on his conversations with teachers in recent weeks, there is much for members to discuss.

“They are really worried – as am I – that there is going to be a massive attainment gap if we don’t figure all this out.

“I’ve also had parents contacting me saying that their child is supposed to be going into secondary school in September – and they’re not ready.

“It’s disadvantaged kids in particular that I’m worried about – if we don’t help them through this, we are storing up problems for later on.

“Schools are a great solver of inequality – giving kids a chance to do better. This whole crisis is unprecedented and so our response to it has to be unprecedented as well,” County Cllr Potter said.

Last month, Lancashire County Council's home-schooling materials for primary-age children received national recognition from the Department of Education, after being praised in a survey about the experience of families since schools closed to most pupils.

A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: “All the education scrutiny committee meetings have been held on their scheduled dates.

“The next meeting will take place on 7th July. The format of this meeting will be different, as it will be a merger of the education committee and the children’s services committee.

“At this meeting, county councillors will be presented with an update from Edwina Grant, executive director of education and children’s services, regarding education and children’s social care during recent months. There will also be an opportunity at this meeting for councillors to ask any questions they have.”

County Hall says that 3,745 devices have been requested from the Department or Education to help with home learning.

“These include laptops and tablets for children and young people who do not currently have access to them, for many different reasons,” the spokesperson said.

“4G routers are also being provided for some children and young people who currently have no mobile or broadband access.

“Many children and young people have already been supplied with their devices. As soon as the devices arrive they are distributed.”

Lancashire’s director of public health this week said that he was now comfortable for primary schools in the county to reopen to pupils in reception class and years one and six from next Monday (22nd June) – three weeks after the government had encouraged them to do so. Dr. Sakthi Karunanithi had previously warned that any outbreak of coronavirus cases caused by the move might not have been able to be contained by the test and trace capacity in the county at the time.

However, the government has aborted plans for all primary classes to return for a month before the summer holidays.

Meanwhile, some face-to-face contact time between secondary pupils in years 10 and 12 has begun as of this week – but there is no definitive timetable for a wider reopening of secondary schools.