More than half a million youngsters have been permitted to leave school before the end of the educational year, despite grave concerns over months of lost learning during the lockdown.
According to education campaigners, Year 11 pupils in most state secondary schools in England and Wales have not returned to school after half term in May.
Usually, these students, aged 15 and 16, would be sitting GCSEs this month and be on study leave in between exams, but because regular exams have been replaced by teacher assessments, pupils could have remained in school to catch up on work missed throughout the pandemic.
Instead, headteachers called an early halt to the educational year, giving Year 11 more than six weeks off before the official end of the summer term.
Dr Julie Maxwell, of campaign group the Family Education Trust, said, it was extremely worrying that young people that age had been chucked out of school early, and that without the safeguarding of school, they could end up, through boredom, falling into activities such as underage drinking and drug-taking.
The move to send students home comes despite teachers, heads and unions protesting that the Government’s 1.4 billion catch up pot for students suffering from the disruption to their education was not enough, and critics said schools were wasting a golden opportunity to help youngsters recover.
Professor Alan Smithers, from Buckingham University, said that it smacks of double standards, and he said that schools were effectively ditching Year 11, who are arguably amongst the worst hit by the lockdowns, while at the same time demanding more money to help students catch up on what they’ve missed.
Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said that the majority of schools appear to have already paused learning for Year 11 and that the move was breathtaking in its selfishness.
Amanda Spielman, the head of Ofstead, said the sending home of Year 11 pupils was concerning, and the watchdog will want to know how schools were using the remainder of the term to help Year 11 pupils get up to speed on the education they missed out on.
The action of numerous schools in England and Wales is in stark contrast to what’s occurring in Scotland, where the year group has been required to return to school after half term.
A majority of headteachers have chosen to keep their Year 11 students in school, saying education isn’t just about a set of grades.
And it now appears that the long summer holidays aren’t enough for staff anymore, and it’s pretty sad for the pupils, but the teachers will be thrilled, more money for doing nothing.
Numerous schools ceased in May half term, but it’s absurd the amount of time that they’ve lost – a year lost of education, and numerous students were told by email from their school not to return after half term. Thankfully some pupils have been able to get some work experience, but many have not.
Not only that, numerous students didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to their teachers, and maybe some have done their exams, but the next stage could be for the next stage of their lives, teaching children life skills, and how to handle money, or being in the workplace et cetera.
And I feel sad for this year and last years school leavers, because one of the measures is being able to cope under pressure and how well they’ve studied for such exams, and there’s been no measure of this for pupils for these two years.
And now, essentially, you won’t know who you’ll be getting in the workplace, a methodical well planned academic type or someone who just wings it, and it’s a genuine shame.