Batley teacher vows to help pupils catch up with their education

A Batley head teacher can’t wait to welcome children back to school next week but fears they will have inevitably fallen behind in their learning.

By Martin Shaw
Friday, 5th March 2021, 7:30 am

Mrs Shamsa Qureshi, head teacher at Warwick Road Primary School in Batley Carr, has robust plans in place to ensure children catch up as soon as possible.

Mrs Qureshi said English, maths and sport for well-being would be her priorities from Monday as the school re-opened to its 360 pupils.

Warwick Road was unusual for a primary school in that all its lessons were live and not recorded during lockdown. Staff were on hand to help any families struggling.

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Mrs Shamsa Qureshi, head teacher at Warwick Road Primary School in Batley Carr,

There was around 90% engagement with live lessons but the completion of homework was lower and Mrs Qureshi said: “With the best will in the world children will have slipped back, there’s no getting round that.”

Some families with more than one child struggled with home learning and some stay-at-home mums found it difficult.

“All vulnerable children who couldn’t access learning at home were in school,” said Mrs Qureshi. “But there were other families who found it difficult. Children are very different at home than they are in school.

“We have quite a vigorous plan in place to help. Lots has been said about children’s mental health but kids are very resilient.”

The Government announced on Sunday that home-testing kits for Covid-19 would be available to families with primary age children but doing the tests was voluntary.

Mrs Qureshi said the Government should make the tests mandatory and urged parents to carry out the tests to keep everyone – including her staff – safe.

“It’s about fairness and my worry is that a child who hasn’t been tested sits next to one who has and brings the virus into school.

“It needs to be made law so that everyone plays their part in getting the country back to some degree of normality.”

Lateral flow tests for Covid-19 have been a particular challenge for secondary schools as students must test negative before they can return to the classroom. There will be three tests in school before tests must be carried out twice-weekly at home.

Matthew Burton, head at Thornhill Community Academy, said: “The logistics of testing are challenging but not insurmountable.

“We will have a staggered return for years seven to 11 and students will come in one day for the test and go home and, unless we contact them to say they have tested positive, they will be in the next day for their first lessons. It’s going to be busy next week.”

Mr Burton said the “bubbles” in school would continue going forward and the only difference would be that masks will be worn in parts of the school where social distancing isn’t possible.

Mr Burton welcomed the Government’s announcement last week that teachers and not algorithms would decide GCSE grades.

“That’s the fairest way to do it,” he said. “The prevalence of Covid in our area around November and pre-Christmas meant a lot of students in year 11 were isolating for four to six weeks, whereas in large parts of the country other students haven’t had to isolate at all.

“We want to give our year 11s the closest experience possible to the usual rite of passage of exams and school prom.

“What I know for certain is that all our students would rather have done their exams and all of them have worked phenomenally hard and there’s been no drop off in performance. Whatever grade they achieve on August 12 they will have earned.”

Mr Burton said he was in awe at how students had adapted to home-schooling and staff would do all they could to help young people get back into the school routine.

“It’s all about getting back into the rhythm of learning, putting the uniform and the tie back on, seeing their friends and getting back into that routine.

“We have always cared and we always will and we want students to be the best they can be. Once we get them back in the building we can start to unpick the impact of the pandemic and help them in any way we can.”