School catch-up plan is thrown into doubt as union makes pay demand

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School catch-up plan is thrown into doubt as union makes pay demand

Plans to help students catch-up from a year of on-and-off Covid school closures were thrown into doubt last night after teaching unions issued a fr

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Plans to help students catch-up from a year of on-and-off Covid school closures were thrown into doubt last night after teaching unions issued a fresh pay demand.

Britain’s largest teaching union, the National Education Union (NEU), said any plans to lengthen the school day or extend terms dates would require a new deal over pay.

It comes after Boris Johnson vowed to go ‘flat out’ to help children catch-up on lost learning during lockdown – including the possibility of plans to extend the school year in England.

But while the NEU’s joint general secretary, Kevin Courtney, said he was in favour of using school buildings for extra catch-up lessons, he said any that involve teachers working longer hours would require a new pay deal.

He told the Telegraph: ‘Like everyone else, teachers have contracts, and changes to contracts need to be negotiated if there are to be any changes.

Plans to help students catch-up from a year of on-and-off Covid school closures (pictured: An empty classroom prepared for social distancing when students return) were thrown into doubt last night after teaching unions issued a fresh pay demand

Plans to help students catch-up from a year of on-and-off Covid school closures (pictured: An empty classroom prepared for social distancing when students return) were thrown into doubt last night after teaching unions issued a fresh pay demand

Boris Johnson (pictured) vowed to go 'flat out' to help children catch-up on lost learning during lockdown - including the possibility of plans to extend the school year in England

But while the NEU's joint general secretary, Kevin Courtney (pictured), said he was in favour of using school buildings for extra catch-up lessons, he said any that involve teachers working longer hours would require a new pay deal

Boris Johnson (pictured left) vowed to go ‘flat out’ to help children catch-up on lost learning during lockdown – including the possibility of plans to extend the school year in England. But while the NEU’s joint general secretary, Kevin Courtney (pictured right), said he was in favour of using school buildings for extra catch-up lessons, he said any that involve teachers working longer hours would require a new pay deal

‘Then there is the question of practicality – teacher working hours are already really long. This requires a conversation with the profession.’

Unions accused of ‘highjacking’ pandemic to push for pay rises  

Britain’s biggest teaching union has been accused of ‘hijacking’ the coronavirus crisis to push for pay rises and long-term perks while the educations of millions of children are shipwrecked.

The National Education Union (NEU) is including pay increases in ‘key demands’ and bosses have called for any reduction in class sizes to be ‘long-term’ – not just for social distancing during the pandemic.

Union leaders congratulated their members for getting schools closed down, claiming it was their threats to not turn up to class which led to Prime Minister Boris Johnson shutting schools in England in January.

The NEU came under fire from furious Tory backbenchers after a ‘gloating’ email from the union to its 500,000 members was leaked which told them ‘You did it!’ as the third national lockdown was announced.

The union, which has described the pandemic as a ‘turning point’ in relations between teachers and Downing Street, has thwarted every proposal by the government to get children back into classrooms.

Now it has set out ‘key demands for all workplaces’ in a five-point ‘Covid bulletin’ to reps which calls for a ‘permanent’ and ‘automatic’ pay rise, an end to work assessments during the coronavirus crisis, risk assessments, and extra time to plan, prepare and assess students’ work. 

The call was backed by Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.

He told the Telegraph: ‘Many schools already run after-school activities and holiday clubs but this is totally different from a blanket requirement to grind out more hours of learning from tired children with the likelihood of diminishing returns.’

MailOnline has contacted the Department of Education for comment. 

The demand will be a fresh blow to the government’s plan to get pupils back to speed with their learning after a year of disruption due to Covid.

Earlier this week the Prime Minister said getting pupils’ learning on track was the government’s ‘single biggest priority’ amid fears the most vulnerable have fallen even further behind during the pandemic.

The comments came after it emerged ministers are looking at continuing the summer term for another two weeks, with the holiday time redistributed to existing breaks in the autumn and winter.

Study during the warmer months could be easier as windows and doors can be kept open in school buildings to improve ventilation and reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading.

A new study has found that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds found remote learning significantly more difficult than other students last year.

However, unions have signalled they will oppose the changes, insisting parents are ‘craving getting back to normal’.

On a visit to a vaccination centre in Derbyshire on Monday, Mr Johnson said Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will be announcing a full catch-up blueprint soon.

‘We have got to work flat out now as a country as a society to remedy the loss of learning that we have had,’ he said.

The extension is being considered as No10 insisted that the worrying news about the AstraZeneca being less effective against the South African variant had not changed plans to get children back in classrooms from March 8. 

Many schools across England are due to break up for the summer holidays on Friday July 23. 

The government is looking at continuing the summer term for another two weeks, with the holiday time redistributed to existing breaks in the autumn and winter (file picture)

The government is looking at continuing the summer term for another two weeks, with the holiday time redistributed to existing breaks in the autumn and winter (file picture)

On a visit to a vaccination centre in Derbyshire yesterday, Mr Johnson said Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will be announcing a full catch-up blueprint soon

On a visit to a vaccination centre in Derbyshire yesterday, Mr Johnson said Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will be announcing a full catch-up blueprint soon

A two-week extension would therefore see pupils continuing to attend class during the first week of August. 

Head teacher hits out at working parents for ‘moaning’ they don’t have time to let their children play in the snow 

A head teacher has hit out at ‘moaning’ parents for saying they don’t have time to let their children play in the snow, after some schools announced they had cancelled online lessons and told kids to go sledging instead.

Sue Blyth, a headteacher at Fourfields Community Primary School in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, took a swipe at working parents who had complained about children being give time to play in the snow during school hours.

In a post on Twitter, replying to other teachers who had organised ‘online snow days’, she said: ‘We also did this and then had some parents complain they hadn’t got time to let their children play in the snow because of their full time work! There was a proper Facebook moan about it!

Sue Blyth (pictured), headteacher at Fourfields Community School in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, took a swipe at parents who had complained about the decision to have a 'snow day' at the school

Sue Blyth (pictured), headteacher at Fourfields Community School in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, took a swipe at parents who had complained about the decision to have a ‘snow day’ at the school

In her tweet, posted yesterday and which has since been deleted, she added: ‘Fortunately most families were grateful.’

It comes as large parts of the UK were hit with snow from Storm Darcy yesterday, forcing hundreds of schools, which are currently open to children of key workers, to close. Many schools moved lessons online.

 Cambridgeshire County Council, who are responsible for Fourfields Community Primary School, told MailOnline: ‘Cambridgeshire County Council does not have a policy relating to the provision of online lessons in the event of adverse weather.

‘Schools are responsible for lesson schedules, and any changes to these will be communicated directly to parents via their school.’

The school had previously posted about a closure due to snow on January 24. In the post the school said lessons would ‘continue as normal’ with ‘some snow day activities thrown in for good measure’. 

Asked on a round of interviews this morning whether ministers are considering making the summer term longer, health minister Edward Argar told BBC Breakfast: ‘It’s quite right that Gavin (Williamson, the Education Secretary) is looking at a whole range of things to see how we can make sure the impact on them is minimised to the extent that’s possible.

‘But it would be premature for me to comment on what may or may not be what he does announce.’  

Boris Johnson has said schools across England will not reopen until March 8 at the earliest. 

The Prime Minister has said he will publish a lockdown exit strategy later this month amid mounting pressure from Tory MPs to bring forward a return to classrooms. 

Changing the school year is one of a number of options reportedly being looked at by Number 10 as the Government develops its plans to help students catch up on lost time. 

Government sources made clear that no decisions have been taken at this stage. 

But there are reports the two weeks of lost summer holidays could be added to the autumn half-term and the Christmas holidays. 

Extending those holidays would also provide a longer so-called ‘fire break’ in the colder months, providing more time for infections to fall. 

As the policy work continues, research by non-profit body ImpactEd again highlighted the damage to the prospects of children.  

Its study monitored 62,000 pupils in England through eight months of 2020 to assess the effect of online schooling during the pandemic.

Their report, Lockdown Lessons, found that among pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds – those at schools eligible for the Government’s Pupil Premium grant – only 45 per cent said they understood their schoolwork in lockdown, compared with 57% among other students.

The survey assessed pupils using a range of measures including their home learning environment, their metacognitive strategies and their learning habits, in order to determine a ‘Covid-19 Learning Index’.

It found pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds gave their home environment a 6% lower score than other students and reported lower scores on metacognition, leading to a sharply lower Covid-19 Learning Index score of 3.21 compared with 3.35 from non-disadvantaged pupils.

‘Across all of these learning measures, and those associated with wellbeing, students eligible for Pupil Premium reported worse than average outcomes,’ the report said, adding disadvantaged students had also scored 5 per cent lower on questions about their resilience.

The report’s authors recommended that ‘post-lockdown support should be carefully evaluated to ensure that pupils who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are benefiting’.

‘If interventions are not having the desired effect, they should be stopped,’ the report said.

The survey also found pupil wellbeing overall across the first period of lockdown was perhaps not as adversely affected as feared. 

The PM visited a vaccination hub in Derbyshire yesterday as the UK rollout continues, with more than 12 million people in Britain vaccinated already

The PM visited a vaccination hub in Derbyshire yesterday as the UK rollout continues, with more than 12 million people in Britain vaccinated already

Education secretary Gavin Williamson is looking at ways of helping children catch up from the face-to-face learning they have lost during the pandemic

Education secretary Gavin Williamson is looking at ways of helping children catch up from the face-to-face learning they have lost during the pandemic

Boris Johnson has said schools across England will not reopen until March 8 at the earliest - making it one of the first lockdown measures to be relaxed

Boris Johnson has said schools across England will not reopen until March 8 at the earliest – making it one of the first lockdown measures to be relaxed 

Using a 35-point scale, the average score for wellbeing was 23.8 in May, 24.1 in June, and 24.0 in July, compared with a pre-lockdown score of 23.6.

Children’s Commissioner demands clear plan on vaccinating teachers, testing pupils and reopening classes 

The Children’s Commissioner has insisted teachers should receive Covid-19 vaccinations after the first on the priority list as calls grow for schools to reopen.

Anne Longfield said about 500,000 teachers and 500,000 support staff could all be given the jab ‘in a couple of days’ given recent data on UK vaccination capacity.

She added that this would only mean the under-70s would have to wait an extra 48 hours while teachers got their vaccinations in order to get schools reopened.

 Writing in The Sun last week, 60-year-old Mrs Longfield said: ‘There are about a million school employees, half of whom are teachers and the others support staff.

‘Given that we vaccinated nearly 600,000 people in one day at the weekend, there is the capacity to do this at pace.’ 

She added: ‘We must get children back to school to prevent our kids becoming part of a lost generation.’ 

Schools are set to be shut until at least March 8 for all but vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.

This date was last week pushed back by the Prime Minister from after February half-term – but there are fears schools could be closed until after Easter.

However Mrs Longfield said she wanted primaries to reopen by late February with unions and councils telling her it was ‘very doable to get younger pupils back’.

Given reasons for this, she claimed primary-age children are less able to work online and are less likely to be ill from the virus, and pointed to evidence that they are also less likely to transmit it.

Mrs Longfield wrote in the Sun: ‘Children who are aged three have spent a third of their life in lockdown and parents of very young children say they are very worried.

‘We have reports of little ones being tearful and clingy, and they are losing the ability to play with friends in the playground.’

Pupils in years 10 and 11 reported the greatest challenges with motivation, the survey said, a condition which did not improve after lockdown.

A quarter of KS4 pupils complained they could not attain help from their families if they had questions about their schoolwork.

Furthermore, 40 per cent of these students said they did not have a routine which helped them learn, according to the study, which also found pupils who exercised regularly were more likely – 58 per cent to 33 per cent – to report they had developed a positive learning routine. 

Robert Halfon, the Conservative chairman of the Education Select Committee, told Sunday Times that the change to the school year is under consideration by ministers.

He said: ‘We have to reform the school year. There has to be change; things cannot carry on the way they did pre-Covid. From my discussions with No10, everything is up for debate.’  

The Welsh government has already suggested it could move to extend the summer term. 

The Sunday Telegraph reported that some private schools are preparing similar plans. 

Some private schools are looking at bringing forward the Easter holidays to make more time for the summer term.

Geoff Barton, from the ASCL head teachers’ union, said changes to the school year should not happen now. 

He said: ‘It’s nice to think about doing things differently, and this is the moment to rethink them. But anyone trying to force that through this summer will find people are just craving getting back to normal.’  

It emerged last week that ministers are also considering plans to extend the school day. 

The idea is being pushed by some Tory MPs and the Government is said to be receptive to it. 

However, teaching unions have urged ministers to reject the proposals, claiming there are ‘better methods’ to help pupils catch up on lost time in the classroom.   

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, said: ‘Research evidence shows that there are better methods to help pupils than lengthening the school day. 

‘The Government must filter out loud calls for superficially attractive schemes and listen to the experts instead.’   

Should teaching unions try to stand in the way of the move if the Government adopts the proposals, volunteers could cover the extended lessons, according to The Times. 

Downing Street said last Friday that the Government is working with teachers and parents on catch-up plans, adding: ‘The PM acknowledges that extended schools closures have had a huge impact on pupils’ learning which will clearly take time to make up.’ 

Mr Johnson last week refused to bow to demands to bring forward the reopening of schools. 

Boris Johnson insists schools WON’T open before March 8 despite Tory backlash

Boris Johnson last week refused to bow to growing Tory pressure to bring forward the reopening of schools in England as he said he intends to ‘stick’ to his date of March 8 at the earliest for a return to classrooms.

The Prime Minister warned that reopening schools too soon could force the country ‘into reverse’ and threaten the progress made during lockdown.

He said his March 8 date represents the ‘prudent and cautious approach’ and that he does not intend to deviate from it.

An increasing number of Conservative MPs are pushing for the PM to bring back schools earlier than planned as coronavirus cases continue to fall while a crucial study found the AstraZeneca vaccine cuts transmission of the disease.

Fresh analysis from Oxford University showed the jab offers 76 per cent protection up to three months after the first dose, and can dramatically reduce the potential for passing on infection.

Nicola Sturgeon piled the pressure on Mr Johnson last week after she said pupils in Scotland will start going back from February 22.

Senior Conservatives seized on the AstraZeneca news to demand the country gets back up and running faster, with huge damage being wreaked on children’s education and the economy.

Mark Harper, chair of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, pointed to Ms Sturgeon’s date for reopening schools and questioned why England couldnot do something similar.

The Tory former chief whip said: ‘The PM said last week that reopening schools was a ”national priority”.

‘Now that Scotland has indicated that schools are likely to return from February 22, there needs to be a very good reason for keeping English schools shut for so much longer.’

However, Government sources played down the idea that the timetable could be speeded up, with case levels still high and fears over mutant strains.

‘It’s March 8, no change,’ one said. ‘It’s good reassuring news about the AstraZeneca vaccine, but steady as she goes.’

The Prime Minister warned that reopening schools too soon could force the country ‘into reverse’ and threaten the progress made during lockdown.

He said his March 8 date represents the ‘prudent and cautious approach’ and that he does not intend to deviate from it.

An increasing number of Conservative MPs are pushing for the PM to bring back schools earlier than planned as coronavirus cases continue to fall while a crucial study found the AstraZeneca vaccine cuts transmission of the disease.

Fresh analysis from Oxford University showed the jab offers 76 per cent protection up to three months after the first dose, and can dramatically reduce the potential for passing on infection.

Nicola Sturgeon piled the pressure on Mr Johnson last week after she said pupils in Scotland will start going back from February 22.

Senior Conservatives seized on the AstraZeneca news to demand the country gets back up and running faster, with huge damage being wreaked on children’s education and the economy.

Mark Harper, chair of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, pointed to Ms Sturgeon’s date for reopening schools and questioned why England couldnot do something similar.

The Tory former chief whip said: ‘The PM said last week that reopening schools was a ”national priority”.

‘Now that Scotland has indicated that schools are likely to return from February 22, there needs to be a very good reason for keeping English schools shut for so much longer.’

However, Government sources played down the idea that the timetable could be speeded up, with case levels still high and fears over mutant strains.

‘It’s March 8, no change,’ one said. ‘It’s good reassuring news about the AstraZeneca vaccine, but steady as she goes.’

Last week, the Children’s Commissioner insisted teachers should receive Covid-19 vaccinations after the first on the priority list as calls grow for schools to reopen.

Anne Longfield said about 500,000 teachers and 500,000 support staff could all be given the jab ‘in a couple of days’ given recent data on UK vaccination capacity.

She added that this would only mean the under-70s would have to wait an extra 48 hours while teachers got their vaccinations in order to get schools reopened.

Mrs Longfield added that headteachers have told her it is vital to carry out rapid lateral flow tests on pupils to ‘help ensure schools stay open for good this time’. 

Writing in The Sun last week, 60-year-old Mrs Longfield said: ‘There are about a million school employees, half of whom are teachers and the others support staff.

‘Given that we vaccinated nearly 600,000 people in one day at the weekend, there is the capacity to do this at pace.’

Children's Commissioner Anne Longfieldwants teachers to be prioritised for Covid-19 jabs as most pupils across Britain continue to carry out their schoolwork at home

Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfieldwants teachers to be prioritised for Covid-19 jabs as most pupils across Britain continue to carry out their schoolwork at home

She added: ‘We must get children back to school to prevent our kids becoming part of a lost generation.’ 

Schools are set to be shut until at least March 8 for all but vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.

This date was last week pushed back by the Prime Minister from after February half-term – but there are fears schools could be closed until after Easter.

However Mrs Longfield said she wanted primaries to reopen by late February with unions and councils telling her it was ‘very doable to get younger pupils back’.

Given reasons for this, she claimed primary-age children are less able to work online and are less likely to be ill from the virus, and pointed to evidence that they are also less likely to transmit it.

Mrs Longfield wrote in the Sun: ‘Children who are aged three have spent a third of their life in lockdown and parents of very young children say they are very worried.

‘We have reports of little ones being tearful and clingy, and they are losing the ability to play with friends in the playground.’

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