End of term Pupils and parents brace for an uncertain summer
At the start of this year, 15-year-old Akasha Daley was ready to settle into a programme of hard work and revision. Now, with the news that schools are closing, she, like many of her friends, has been left adrift and wondering what her future holds.
“Everyone was devastated when we learnt that we wouldn’t be going back to school and the exams were cancelled,” said the pupil at Westminster Academy, in west London. “After we found out, everyone was just so sad – it felt like the whole of year 11 went into meltdown.”
As parents prepare homeschooling ideas and wonder how they will continue to work, teachers are frantically pulling together lesson plans and online support. As one tired teacher in Hastings put it: “I didn’t think the apocalypse would have this much admin.”
Yesterday, it was already apparent that many parents were feeling overwhelmed. “My husband is still working, and I am trying to do a fulltime job while looking after a sevenyear-old and a four-year-old,” said accountant Claire McElarney, who, like thousands of other parents, had joined the Facebook group Family Lockdown Tips and Ideas. “I’m doing a crap job at working and a crap job at parenting.”
Bernadka Dubicka, chair of the child and adolescent faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said that while there may be positives to school closures, parents could come under a huge amount of pressure. “There is great scope to learn about social responsibility and getting involved. [However] parents and carers also need to look after their own health and try to contain their own anxieties in front of their children,” she said.
Closing schools was likely to add to growing inequality in the UK and leave families who were already struggling financially unable to cope, warned Prof Becky Francis, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF).
“We anticipate there will be longterm impacts on attainment gaps for disadvantaged pupils. There is a lot of evidence on the impact of summer holidays on the growth of achievement gaps between richer and poorer students,” she said.
“Children from disadvantaged families may be less likely to have close supervision because parents are more likely to have to stay in work, and those are crucial factors to be born in mind.”
Westminster Academy spent yesterday informing pupils how classes would be moving online – and assuring them that they would still be expected to work, and would be taking exams, at some point.
The school was determined to support pupils and staff during uncertain times, said its principal, Saima Rana. “We are all infinitely aware of the crisis and are filled with sadness, but we also have to consider a future when Covid-19 comes under control. Our children are our future, and we have filled them with a tremendous sense of uncertainty,” she said.
Asked if she felt worried about the future, Akasha remained positive. “I don’t think we are scared,” she said. “We are maybe anxious for our future, and I don’t think that anxiety will go away until the government tells us what’s going to happen. But we will get through it. This generation will be the strongest this country has ever seen.”
Schools will close today in a further move to combat the coronavirus outbreak