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Mind the gap: Education in COVID-19 world

Over 100 teachers and school leaders logged on to a special Bradford for Teaching webinar on 24 June looking at how schools can identify and address the education gap caused by the national Coronavirus lockdown.

Schools around the world face a massive challenge in the months ahead to understand how pupils have been affected by enforced closures and the impact it might have on their educational attainment.

Three expert commentators were assembled for the online debate: Mary Myatt, author of ‘Hopeful Schools’ and ‘The Curriculum’, and Chair of the Centre for Education and Youth; Lisa Crausby, Executive Director of Education, Star Academies, and Natalie Perera, Executive Director and Head of Research at the Education Policy Institute.

The first topic addressed by the panel provided some useful insight into the how the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers might have grown since the start of the pandemic, with Natalie Perera telling the online audience that even before the outbreak, pupil Premium eligible pupils in Bradford were more than 20 months behind their classmates.

She said: “Research by the Education Endowment Foundation says the gap could widen by up to a further 75% as a result of the pandemic. However, the problem is that we won’t know the true impact on the gap until 2022 because there are no national exams this year.”

Mary Myatt told listeners that talk of a ‘recovery curriculum’ needed to shift at the present time to a series of ‘recovery conversations’, so that school leaders could understand the effect of the pandemic on teaching staff before working out how to help pupils get back on track.

She also painted a positive picture – one which was backed by her fellow experts – of how the new found sense of urgency and partnership brought about by the lockdown, coupled with new, blended teaching methods, could play a significant role in the catch-up process.

Discussion turned to the National Tutoring Programme and the importance both of how to target tutor time to best effect and how to ensure it doesn’t become a bolt-on activity but instead becomes an integral part of the education offer for schools.

Technology and finding ways to close the digital divide, the experts agreed, will be mission critical going forward. So too, argued Lisa Crausby, will be the new emerging dynamic between parents and teachers that has been brought about by the experience of home-learning for such an extended period of time.

Watch the debate below...


Mary MyattMary Myatt, author of “Hopeful Schools” and “The Curriculum”, and Chair of the Centre for Education and Youth

Mary Myatt is an education adviser, writer and speaker. She works in schools talking to pupils, teachers and leaders about learning, leadership and the curriculum. She maintains that there are no quick fixes and that great outcomes for pupils are not achieved through tick boxes.

Lisa CrausbyLisa Crausby, Executive Director of Education, Star Academies

Star Academies Trust is rated the top performing multi-academy trust (MAT) in England. Prior to joining Star, Lisa was the Chief Education Officer of another MAT, responsible for transforming the education of over 12,000 pupils from areas of high deprivation across the primary, secondary and Further Education phases. Under her leadership, over 90% of schools were judged as Good by Ofsted with no school performing below the government’s coasting criteria. She is also a Lead Ofsted Inspector in the Northwest.

Natalie PereraNatalie Perera, Executive Director and Head of Research at the Education Policy Institute

Natalie recently gave evidence to the House of Commons Education Select Committee about the challenge that schools face to prevent disadvantaged students falling further behind as a result of the Covid pandemic.

Prior to her current role, Natalie worked in the Department for Education where led on research and policy interventions including on narrowing the gap between disadvantaged children and the rest and reform of the school funding system. Between 2014 and 2015, Natalie was seconded to the Cabinet Office where she worked in the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office. Natalie is also a Director of a Multi-Academy Trust in South London and a Trustee of the charities, The Fair Education Alliance and Causeway Education.