There have been several comments that have emerged in the last few days on challenges that are impacting education in our Nation following on from our COVID implications. They seem to be focused on a number of settings across the country which includes parts of Sussex. Although they have not been referred across the whole of Sussex it would be very helpful if our Councils and indeed our MPs could work together on this theme so that our children and their parents and the teachers could all benefit from the support being proposed. The first aspect that emerged came from the Children’s Commissioner for England, Rachel de Souza who was reflecting on the level of school absences from September to December last year. Although most of the Councils responded to her request, only half of them were able to provide the response she had asked for. As she stated a few days ago
“Despite being a country that collects more data than most on school attendance, the system has significant weaknesses in supplying accurate, and in some cases, credible numbers on those children who are losing out by either not being in school at all, or who are persistently or severely absent from school they are enrolled at”.
Based on the responses that she did receive, more than 20% of the children who have missed lessons are described as persistently absent and 1.5% are called severely absent. She has called in her report for a review of attendance data, with a focus on improving data and sharing good practice. She has also included in her review a focus on ten Council areas across the Nation and in the area of the South East she has selected Brighton and Hove.
A few days later another piece of information arose following a piece of research that was carried out by an agency called YouGov on behalf of an education organisation KindredSquared. The report shows that an average of 50% of primary school pupils are not ‘school ready’ and 88% of teachers and teaching assistants have had to spend additional time with the children not achieving their developmental milestones. Now to be clear this was an assessment for the whole of the UK and there was no indication of any area being more challenged or less challenged than the rest of the nation. However, we clearly need our Councils and indeed support from all of our MPs to work to ensure that the communities across Sussex will benefit as much as possible for the future. One of the key responses in the research was
“Increased efforts from schools and the Government to communicate the importance and practicalities of school-readiness to parents could be an effective strategy.”
Inevitably there has been a number of responses to that document, one of which has come from Robert Halfon who is the Parliament Chair of the Education Select Committee. He said
“there should be a catch-up programme specifically designed to support families and nurseries to teach children practical and social learning, as well as better support their educational development.”
The final comment about education that I spotted in the last few days came from the House of Commons at the beginning of last week when the Labour Education Shadow Minister, Helen Hayes was asking a question to the Government. The focus was on Special Educational Needs and it related to Coronavirus. The Minister who responded was Will Quince and he stated
“We are in the process of procuring for additional special educational needs coordinators training for early years. We are aiming to target training in the following local authorities.”
There are a total of 76 Upper Tier Councils on his list so around half the number of the locations in the Country. There are two here in Sussex which are Brighton and Hove and West Sussex. Once he listed the Councils that would benefit from the provision, Will Quince ended his response stating
“These local authorities have been identified using metrics to measure levels of disadvantage in individual local authorities. The metrics used are: rates of access to free school meals alongside Early Years Foundation Stage profile outcomes, percentage of children eligible for Early Years Pupil Premium, percentage of children in receipt of an Education and Healthcare Plan and COVID-19 cases rate per 100,000 resident population across the length of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Now clearly this training for special educational settings is very good provision for the schools in the proposed parts of Sussex that the Government has already listed. However, it seems rather sad that East Sussex has not also been included. Given how close it is to the two areas, perhaps we could call our local MPs to work together with all of the three Councils to enable this to operate across all of Sussex?