David Hampson, Chief Executive of Tollbar Multi Academy Trust, who is frustrated at the lack of education and guidance children are receiving because of lack of flexibility.
David Hampson, Chief Executive of Tollbar Multi Academy Trust, which has responsibility for seven local schools, has expressed his “frustration” at the lack of education and guidance children are receiving because of lack of flexibility, particularly for those in the vulnerable and disadvantaged category.
Mr Hampson said he is frustrated that the Government has imposed a blanket regulation insisting that only 25% of pupils in Years 10 and 12 can return to the classroom when, for some schools, such as those within Tollbar MAT, he feels that figure in some establishments could be exceeded and still comply with the strict health and safety guidelines for Covid 19.
His warning came as more than 1,500 paediatricians called on the Prime Minister to make the opening of schools a priority or "risk scarring the life chances of a generation of young people".
The doctors have signed a letter from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) asking for authorities in England and Northern Ireland to follow Wales and Scotland and lay out detailed plans for getting children back in to the classroom or risk "limiting the life chances of children and young people for years to come."
Children in Years 10 and 12 returned to class at Tollbar, Cleethorpes, Somercotes and Louth Academies on Monday, following extensive risk assessments. Mr Hampson says a total of 86 students are now being taught in the classrooms at Tollbar Academy; 27 at Somercotes Academy, 38 at Cleethorpes Academy and 48 at Louth Academy. These figures include vulnerable children and those of key workers, who have been in school throughout the crisis.
In the MAT Primary Academies, 97 children are being taught at Reynolds Academy, 48 at Pilgrim Academy and 20 at Theddlethorpe Academy. These children are in Nursery, Reception and Year 1. Theddlethorpe Academy has also been able to take in Year 6 pupils, but there is not the capacity to do so at either Reynolds or Pilgrim Academies under the current regulations.
All remaining pupils continue to have access to online teaching through the Frog digital platform. This has been utilised extensively by staff and students throughout the lockdown period. Alongside accessing resources, the Frog platform has enabled students to communicate with their teachers to support the online learning taking place and quickly resolve any barriers to learning.
Mr Hampson said: “We have 25% of our Year 12 students in the classroom at the present time but because of the large capacity of our Sixth Form buildings we could accommodate all our lower Sixth students without any detriment to the health and safety of our staff and students.
“Schools will never be able to increase their class sizes unless the social distancing measures are reduced from two metres, and I believe that the Government should provide some flexibility in this by putting the decision into the hands of the CEOs and Principals of the individual academies, in consultation with their staff.
“Personally I came into this profession in 1973 because I wanted to ensure children from disadvantaged backgrounds (like mine) experienced a quality education and one that would offer them life-changing opportunities. I was determined that any child I taught, or latterly was taught in one of the establishments I led and managed, would have a far better education experience than mine and a significantly higher quality of teaching.
“We need to get children back into the classroom so that we can give them the education they deserve. We have imposed extensive measures to make it safe for them to do so and staff have been provided with large quantities of PPE equipment to ensure that they feel safe to teach.
“Masks, rubber gloves, face shields and plastic aprons have been provided for staff depending on their level of contact with students. Hand sanitisers have been placed at all entrances and at stations throughout the sites, and in every classroom. Social distancing tape, signs and cones have been set up in social and movement areas. Classrooms have been specially arranged to ensure 2-metre social distancing for the students and staff at all times.
“Throughout this emergency period the staff of Tollbar MAT have been, and continue to be, exceptional and a credit to the profession. Their safety and that of all of our students is paramount, but I believe we are ready for them to return to the classroom as a matter of urgency, otherwise we will have an educationally deprived generation of children.”