Autumn term is likely to be the most challenging that any teacher has experienced for generations. There is understandably huge concern about the impact of school closures during the COVID-19 lockdown. There is concern both about the face-to-face learning time pupils have missed, and about a possible extended ‘summer learning loss’ effect where learning prior to the lockdown may have been forgotten. The reality is that different children will have done different amounts of learning during lockdown.

Social mobility experts are warning, in particular, that by September the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers may have widened significantly. The disadvantaged gap is a perennial challenge not only for educators, but for society as a whole. The impact of school closure during lockdown has the potential to unpick all the positive gains that schools have made over the last decade in addressing this issue. Schools are now having to rise to the challenge of averting a social mobility decline caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

As we plan to reopen schools across our Trust, we are considering the evidence for different possible approaches to where our focus should lie in order to provide every pupil with appropriate academic support.

At the beginning of July, we commissioned a research project to look at how we can collectively, as a Trust, mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic and create a cross-phase, system wide approach to minimising its impact on the progress and outcomes of our disadvantaged learners – now and in the future. Our research and action group comprises nine senior leaders from across our primary and secondary settings to ensure a group make-up that is genuinely representative of the range of perspectives and ideas across CELT.

The key aims of the project are to:

  • Minimise the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown on the progress and outcomes of disadvantaged learners – now and in the future.
  • Create a sustainable, evidence-based approach to developing powerful learning and teaching that improves outcomes for all pupils.
  • Secure an enduring and productive professional learning culture, providing guidance and support for all teachers at all stages, across our Trust.

This morning, Marc Cooper (Deputy Head, Brannel School) and Natalie Simmonds (Headteacher, Lostwithiel Primary School), delivered a presentation to our CELT Headteachers’ Board, outlining the beliefs and principals that will underpin the project, and setting out the first steps for implementation.

The research group has already reviewed a broad range of the latest national and international research focusing on the disadvantaged gap, and has produced a set of provision guidance for all educational leaders, teachers and support staff across our Trust, to inform their thinking and planning as we prepare for the return of pupils in the autumn.

We will be delivering the research project in partnership with the International Centre for Educational Enhancement at the University of Bolton (@Boltonuni), led by Professor David Hopkins (UoB, Educational leadership Chair, and John Baumber (Head of ICEE, @johnbaumber)

For more information view our Provision Guidance for Disadvantaged Pupils:

We are looking to work with other multi-academy trusts who would like to share best practice on designing and delivering a catch-up programme.