THERE is no one-size-fits-all approach to help thousands of children catch up with school work missed due to the pandemic, but The Northern Echo readers have spoken out about what they want to see.

Earlier this month, schools standards minister Nick Gibb said he is “open to all ideas” on how to help pupils catch up with schoolwork missed due to the pandemic, so we asked for your ideas.

Mr Gibb told the Commons’ education select committee: “We just have to leave no stone unturned in making sure that we can help those young people catch up from the lost education.”

Some £300m will be given to schools to cover catch-up costs.

You have watched first-hand children in your family struggle or thrive in a home environment, so who better to put forward ideas on how children could catch up. 

The debate has mostly centred around longer school days and shorter summer holidays, but North-East parents who responded to our callout have a range of other ideas. 

Many of you do not think that extending school days and shortening summer holidays will help, saying those measures would instead put additional pressure on learners and be counterproductive. 

Parents want to see the government investing in schools so they can hire more teachers, have smaller class sizes and provide better learning resources.

Lessons should also be efficient and targeted, focusing on core subjects.

Here's what you said:

Victoria Maude doesn't think extending the school day or terms will help children "at all".

She said: "They will be too exhausted to learn effectively.

"Scrap pointless testing, trust teacher assessment and allow schools to manage their staff effectively to provide support and interventions where necessary."

Making the same point, Alec Burns said: "Core subjects should be the most important areas for children to catch up on.

"At the moment my children are learning about King Darius the First. This won't aid their development while they are so far behind. For now, stick to English (reading and writing), maths and science.

"If any become historians later in life then they can study King Darius the First during further education or during their own studies. Let's get the basics in place."

Similarly, Rebecca Pattinson takes issue with languages.

She said: "Cut out all of the non-essential lessons such as Spanish. Why teach a 7-year-old Spanish when they are just learning English?!"

But Lindsay Conway has struggled to get her two children to learn from home while being heavily pregnant. She says shortening summer holidays would be the best way to catch children up. 

She said: "My children have missed out so much and, being heavily pregnant this last lockdown, it has been hard.

"My children have refused to do any work and it’s very very stressful. Children should go back to school as soon as possible, have a two weeks holiday during what would be the six weeks holidays and then let them learn again at school through till autumn with a weeks holiday in October, then back to school until Christmas."

Ms Conway added that her daughter, who is in reception, has only been in school one week this year due to having to isolate with other children, including her brother, having the virus. 

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However, Christine Lynch points out that while children have been remote learning, teachers have still been working so it would be unfair for them to have to work longer hours or through the summer holidays. 

Instead, the government should support catch-up measures financially. 

Ms Lynch said: "Schools should be given extra funding to employ extra staff to support pupils with catching up through small groups or one to one support. This should happen as soon as the pupils go back to school.

"There is absolutely no way that the school day should be extended or children made to go to school during the summer holidays. The teachers and school staff have worked throughout this pandemic, most of them have gone over and above in effort and hours put in so need this time at home with their own families.

"Also lots of children have consistently been accessing good quality online learning so why should they have to attend even more lessons? Surely the focus should be on the children that have struggled with their online learning and this can 100 per cent be addressed in schools, within the normal timetable, by extra staff who can be employed with extra funding."

Claudia Favero also stresses the importance of resources, smaller classes and learning materials but also suggests allowing children to repeat a year.

She said: "Halve class sizes by hiring more teachers - while you're at it, cancel fees for PGCE courses, they are ridiculous.

"Buy books. Kids can learn from laptops, sure, but a bunch of books costs less than a laptop and a fast internet connection. And it's absurd that kids go around school for years and year with makeshift photocopies [of books] here and there. They can never revise, they can never know what comes next, no logic, no structure, it's a mess.

"Allow children to repeat a year by creating ongoing assessments every year that determine who has reached the minimum standard and who has not.

"Cancel high stakes exams that prove nothing and help only those who have an aptitude for high stakes exams - or find me some literature that demonstrates that high stakes exams after two years of course are a good or even a decent tool to assess learning for children."

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Rebecca Pattinson also says children should be kept in the same year for another year.

She said: "They have effectively missed two years.

"It's not right, those who are transitioning from primary to secondary are going to be so far behind. It will end up causing more mental health problems in young children.

"Allowing them all to stay in the same year that they're in will not make a difference to the schools or teacher but it will make a difference to the children's education."

Agreeing, Tara McCormack said: "They’ve missed too much. Emotionally and socially they are way behind previous years. All kids should be given the chance and the support to start again and not be rushed to the next school year when not ready.

"They are worried and scared and the whole package should be looked at not just the education catch up."

Victoria Ross also agreed, adding children should have "meaningful support from qualified professionals". 

Samantha Stabler, Clare Perez, Nicola Karim and many others also told The Northern Echo they want to see children repeat a year. 

Louise Dennett says academic year should be changed to January to December and school holidays should be revamped, as six-weeks holidays are "too long for working parents and vulnerable children".

Sophia Leadill wants to see individually tailored catch up for each child.

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