Head teachers speak to education watchdog about how the pandemic has impacted Calderdale children

Headteachers from several Calderdale schools and academies spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic had affected children to an education watchdog.

By John Greenwood - Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 25th February 2022, 1:56 pm
Updated Friday, 25th February 2022, 2:04 pm

Nick Robinson and Sarah Case of Trinity Academy, Karen Smith of St Andrew’s School, Brighouse, and Helen Crowther of Greetland Academy all spoke about issues, several raising the issue of the impact on their pupils’ mental health.

There was a link between physical and mental health and support given to children, Calderdale Council’s Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Board, which was considering results and other data, heard.

Issues raised by board members included suspensions and exclusions including those affecting special educational needs and disabilities, widening options for school leavers including higher education, children who were missing from school, a rise in numbers of home educated children and whether incidences of long COVID were evident in school age children.

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Students in the classroom

Board members heard that due to COVID-19 restrictions there was a very limited set of statutory assessment in the early phase from 2020-21 and therefore no results data for most assessment points.

Although Key Stage 4 (GCSE) awards were based on teacher assessed grades and not published in performance tables, the council had been provided with some data at local authority level and although not comparable to pre-pandemic years showed results remaining strong and above national level in key measures, the board heard.

A Department for Eduction ordered additional phonics – literacy – check last autumn demonstrated “real strength” in Calderdale pupils across all key pupil groups in the face of COVID-19 related disruption.

Pupil absence data collection and publication was affected by COVID-19 but the board was presented with information from the 2020-21 autumn and spring term data.

This showed pupil absence for the first two terms of 2020-21 was lower in Calderdale than was the case nationally in the first phase of the pandemic but slightly higher than nationally in the secondary phase.

The latter was largely based on an increase in unauthorised absence, though this remained lower than national levels.

Permanent exclusions in Calderdale for 2019-20 – the most recent year for which nationally published statistics are available – were equal to the rates seen nationally in the first phase, but slightly above the national level in the secondary phase.

Suspensions were below national levels in the secondary phase -, but significantly higher than national in primary schools.

Ofsted inspections recommenced in May 2021, with the first school in Calderdale being inspected ahead of the summer break.

Ofsted judgements for primary schools in Calderdale at the end of the 2020-21 academic year showed 82 per cent of primary schools rated as good or better (compared to a national average of 88 per cent).

In the secondary phase, 77 per cent of schools – 10 of 13 – were rated as good or better compared to 76 per cent nationally. A hundred per cent of special schools in Calderdale were rated as good or better together with The Whitley

Alternative Provision Academy, which is also judged as good.

Overall, at the end of the 2020/21 academic year, 82 per cent of all 100 schools were rated as good or better in Calderdale, equal to the regional comparison but below the national figure of 86 per cent, the board heard.

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