Croydon teacher fears for education of school children from deprived families during coronavirus outbreak

By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter

Teachers fear children from deprived families are already falling behind with their online learning during lockdown.

One secondary school teacher from Croydon has noticed the differences for pupils who have difficult home lives and is already seeing “widening inequalities”.

The English teacher said just a handful of children were still going into school in the week before the holidays started – schools are remaining open for children of key workers and those with special educational needs.

“We had a small number of kids who had parents who are key workers but that quickly dwindled,” she said.

“Some kids felt ‘why am I here’ and the parents might have been worried about going in for health reasons.”

But most children will be attempting to learn from home for the first time when her virtual lessons start after the Easter holidays.

“What we’re doing is setting work online for the kids to do every week – we had to learn that really quickly,” she said.

“We have had this issue with take-up – we can see who has read the work and who has done it. We find quite a few kids have read the work but not done it.

“There is no carrot and no stick available – we can’t really give them any praise and we can’t give detentions.

“What that means is widening inequalities. Kids who have nice computers at home, they are the ones who are submitting the work.

“I am really worried about kids who are living seven to a bedroom or they have parents with bad mental health conditions.

“It is just not very fun. The lessons aren’t very fun. We can try to be creative but it’s hard when you can’t have proper debates in the classroom.”

The teacher said she has started to send out emails to some parents of children who have not been doing their work.

This year teachers will be awarding grades for GCSE and A-level pupils, a blow to many who have been studying hard for their exams.

The teacher said: “For Year 11s it is a real shame that they won’t get their true grades.

“And some kids can absolutely decide in the last month that they are going to pull it out the bag, but we don’t have any proof that’s happened. I am sure some will have lower grades.

“It is Year 10 I’m most worried about – they are studying content now that could come up in their GCSEs next year.”

Teachers have also had to learn to work in a completely different way.

“It can feel a bit pressured during the daytime,” she said. “Teachers are balancing their own families and are expected to be present sitting by their computers during school hours.

“You can feel guilty for having to run to the shops when it’s not busy.

“Some houses aren’t conducive to doing live teaching. Some of the young teachers are in flat shares with others and don’t have the space.”

Last week the National Education Union (NEU) issued guidance on distance learning and launched a website with resources and answers to questions of parents and carers here.

Pictured top: A 16-year-old studies for his GCSEs from home after the lockdown was imposed and schools closed (Picture: PA)

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