Havering schools having ‘difficulty’ in keeping ‘very good’ teachers and pupil attendance still an issue

By Staff

Concerns have been raised about a lack of significant improvement in Havering’s schools since the pandemic as there is a ‘difficulty’ in keeping teachers and pupil attendance issues persist as parents find it ‘hard to switch that back on’ to sending their children in. At a council meeting on Tuesday (March 5), Trevor Cook, the assistant director of education services for Havering, attributed a small “drop” in school performances to the lingering effects of Covid-19 as well as low levels of funding compared to elsewhere in London.

Education, especially at lower levels, had been disproportionately impacted by the move to remote learning, he added. Mr Cook stated that other schools had received “significant investment” and Havering schools tended to receive less per pupil compared to those in the neighbouring boroughs of Dagenham and Newham.

However, some councillors were concerned there were no significant signs of improvement in the annual data. Judith Holt, the Conservative councillor for St Albans ward, said: “Considering Havering is a good area and the schools are very good, I’ve always been concerned they should be above the national average.”

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She added: “It’s not just about funding but good teaching. You’re just doing more of the same.” Mr Cook then said: “I don’t think funding’s everything but it does make a difference.” He confirmed that Ofsted reports show the borough’s teachers to be of a “very good quality,” but there is a “difficulty” in keeping them.

School governor Julie Lamb pointed out that the council’s education reports still haven’t consistently included data about students who have an education, health and care plan (EHCP). Mr Cook spotlighted two schools that are performing poorly, housing 15-20 per cent of pupils with additional needs, despite the report lacking data on many “disadvantaged” pupils.

Taking pride in Ofsted inspections, Mr Cook expressed his satisfaction with these schools, describing their performance as very strong. Issues regarding school attendance persist in Havering following Covid-19, with Councillor Mandy Anderson noticing some students are not fully engaging with their learning.

Mr Cook attributed the low school attendance to parental anxiety. He added parents once advised not to send their children to school found it “hard to switch that back on”. Attendance teams have been restructured and now visit schools every half term to address the issues at hand, he shared.

Despite these significant hurdles, Mr Cook reassured: “We are doing better than other local authorities and I think that’s because we already had a priority around attendance pre-pandemic, so we didn’t fall away as much as others [did].”

The council does “little” to punish, according to him, but it does give fines to parents who decide to take their kids on holiday during school days. In total, there are 86 schools in the borough, which include ten infant, ten junior and 39 primary schools, 18 secondary academies, six academy sixth forms, and three special schools.

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