Poorer parents more likely to be worried about lost lessons amid Covid – poll

Parents of pupils eligible for free school meals are more likely to be worried about how much learning their child had lost due to Covid, a survey suggests.

Charity Teach First is calling on the Government to provide funding to reduce teachers’ timetabled hours in schools serving the poorest communities so staff can spend more time on planning high quality lessons.

Nearly half (44%) of parents of pupils eligible for free school meals (FSMs) said they were extremely or somewhat worried about lost learning during the pandemic, compared to 34% of parents whose children are not eligible.

The poll, of more than 1,400 parents in July by the Parent Ping app, suggests that families in the West Midlands (49%) are also more likely to be concerned about their child’s lost learning than those in London (33%).

Free school meals
The poll found 44% of parents of pupils eligible for free school meals were extremely or somewhat worried about lost learning (Yui Mok/PA)

It also found that the majority of parents (63%) believe that teachers are not paid fairly for the amount of work they do – in light of the Government’s announcement of a pay freeze for teachers in 2020/21.

Teach First, which provides support to schools in disadvantaged communities, is calling on ministers to provide funding to reduce teachers’ timetabled hours by 20% in some of the most disadvantaged schools so staff can spend more time on professional development to help improve pupils’ outcomes.

A separate survey, of more than 6,500 teachers in April by the Teacher Tapp app, found that 52% said funding to reduce teachers’ timetables would make the greatest difference to support students, while 61% said more funding for and access to social and mental health services would be the best help.

Ann Donaghy, head of Noel-Baker Academy in Derby, said: “With Covid leaving pupils in disadvantaged communities even further behind in their education, schools like mine have had to rethink how best to support their recovery.

“Knowing that great teachers are truly the best resource for this, our reduced teachers’ timetable made a huge difference during this really difficult time.

“It has aided our staff’s wellbeing, given them time to plan their lessons, focus on progression and fully support our pupils.

“However, schools in disadvantaged areas can’t always make these changes alone – we need ring-fenced funding to do so.”

Teach First’s chief executive Russell Hobby said: “Inequality has been baked into our education system for too long and we need sustained action to tackle it. The pandemic has made the situation worse: affecting some pupils far harder than others.

“But any plan for the future of education must go beyond ‘recovery’ because where we were before wasn’t good enough. We have an opportunity to break the historical cycle of inequality.

“The policies we’ve put forward would help schools give every young person a fighting chance to get the best possible education.

“We urge the Government to take on board these suggestions to ensure we don’t leave a generation of pupils behind.”

A Department for Education (DfE) spokeswoman said: “We are enormously grateful for teachers’ and leaders’ hard work during the pandemic.

“We have taken a wide range of action to address teacher workload and wellbeing and we are improving support and professional development at all stages of their career.”

The spokeswoman added that more funding was being pumped into schools, as well as over £3 billion of funding to help pupils make up for lost learning.