Agenda item

Education Update - Covid Recovery

To receive an update on the academic year 2020/2021, the

work of Local Authority Officers in their support of schools, and any impact seen in pupils’ attainment and wellbeing because of COVID


The Sub-Committee considered a report on the academic year 2020/2021, the work of Local Authority Officers in their support of schools, and any impact seen in pupils’ attainment and wellbeing because of Covid.


The academic year 2020/2021 was beset by further disruption to pupils’ education, because of Covid. High rates of outbreak within schools and repeated periods of enforced isolation led to an extended period of closure in the spring term 2021 which required schools to move to on-line learning at haste.


Previous periods of lock down and isolation had enabled most schools to hone their approaches to home learning and ensure that all pupils had access to appropriate devices and data. The facilitation of regular ‘teach meets’ by Local Authority officers and the support of the Research School and the EdTech demonstrator schools programme ensured good practice was shared.


Continuing high levels of infection during the summer term, particularly within the 10-14 age range led to further disruption for pupils. By the time schools began summer holidays over half were deemed in outbreak.


Despite the challenges that Covid had brought, Local Authority Officers continued to work with schools to support recovery and to tackle the priorities outlined within the Ambition for Education document to improve outcomes for all pupils. 


The full extent of the impact of two interrupted academic years of education was yet to be realised.


The report also included an update on Attendance, Transition to another phase of education, Curriculum and Assessment, Interventions, Ofsted Inspections and Personal Development. 


The Sub-Committee discussed the issues raised in the report and in the course of discussion raised the following points:


-       Members highlighted concerns about how children could catch up with work that had been covered but had not been understood via online learning. 

It was noted that whilst some schools had robust gap analysis systems in place and had been proactive in assessing pupils’ attainment throughout the pandemic, others had been less successful in their efforts.

A ‘Different Summer 2020’, primary documents, had been created by North Tyneside Local Authority Advisers and serving practitioners and based on National Curriculum programmes of study for key stages 1 and 2. They were designed to support subject leaders to plan their curriculum in a more targeted way, by focusing on those objectives that could be delivered remotely and those that required face to face teaching for optimum impact. They were provided free to all schools. These were subsequently extended to include autumn and spring term curriculum plans. Extremely positive feedback was received by those schools who adopted them, with teachers reporting that they gave them a clearer understanding of progression in subjects across year groups and phases. These recovery documents would continue to be promoted in the autumn term to support transition into the next year group.


-       Catch up funding had been used in a range of ways as schools saw fit. For example, some did after school booster classes and others did pre-teaching and follow up sessions. The national tutoring programme had been used by some schools with mixed responses: for some it had engaged pupils more and others found it restrictive in what it offered. There had been a similar picture with schools who used the academic mentor programme, the success of which very much depended on the quality of the mentor.

Members stated that it had been an unequal pandemic which had affected less affluent young people who had fewer online devices and IT equipment and further funding for catch up was required from the Government.


-       Reference was made to ‘TeachMeets’ and it was explained that in September 2020, the secondary team had produced and shared a detailed paper for Blended Learning. It drew together best practice internationally and evidence and research to support the rationale and development of schools own Blended Learning policies and approaches. This pre-empted subsequent government and Ofsted guidance for remote learning. Emerging and best practice was shared at ‘TeachMeets’ which were run by the secondary team. These were virtual sessions where classroom practitioners shared something which worked well for them and attendees were able to ask practical and developmental questions. This has developed into a professional collaborative enquiry group of around 50 teachers from across North Tyneside - a lively and innovative group, which would continue into the forthcoming academic year.

Members welcomed this innovative approach and noted that ‘TeachMeets’ sessions were recorded and could be accessed by practitioners via google.


-       To facilitate remote learning, schools were able to access devices for their disadvantaged pupils, with support from the Local Authority officer team and access to DfE and locally funded schemes. For example: one High school had devices in place for every pupil by October 2020 and was able to transition to live learning seamlessly in January 2021. Educationalists in North Tyneside had embraced the opportunity to develop their approaches to blended learning and had plans to bring the best elements of learning in an era of Covid to everyday practice. Google Classroom to support independent learning had been an impactful development.


-       The mental health pilot project, delivered on the Mental Health First Aid England plan, had produced some interesting results. Fifteen schools took part in the first tranche of training for universal mental health awareness training. They completed: audits, surveys, accessed training to increase their staff understanding of mental health and created action plans for improvement. Outcomes from the surveys completed by children and young people, parents and school staff showed; an increase in awareness of different types of mental health issues, a better understanding of identifying emerging needs and being able to signpost to appropriate support. Mental Health Literacy had improved markedly in a 6 month period. In each of the 15 schools there were 3 or more mental health first aid trained adults and 5 further adults who had completed mental health awareness training. The schools met at a network meeting each month facilitated by Local Authority Officers to support and challenge each other to improve and to share best practice. The second and third cohorts of schools to complete the project had been identified and would start the process in the Autumn term 2021.

Members welcomed the mental health pilot project in schools and reference was made to work on a mental health strategy which would focus on three strands – how do you take care of yourself, how do you help others emotional wellbeing and we will take care of you.



The Chair thanked the School Improvement Officer Teaching Learning and Curriculum, Secondary for the informative report and for attendance at the meeting. 




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