Ofsted chief's after-school club plea to make time for sports

Ofsted chief’s after-school club plea: Teachers must make time for sports and trips to help children’s social skills that have been harmed by Covid lockdowns, watchdog head says

  • Amanda Spielman says heads could extend school day to bring back activities
  • ‘Rising health concerns’ of pupils who have ‘lost out’ on developing social skills 
  • Experts found children’s language skills and fitness had been badly hampered 

Schools must make time for sports, trips and clubs or risk prolonging the ‘loss’ of social skills caused by lockdowns, the head of Ofsted urges.

Amanda Spielman suggests heads could extend the school day to bring back ‘once cherished’ activities like football, drama club and music.

As schools reopen this week, she says there are ‘rising health concerns’ about pupils who have ‘lost out’ on developing social skills and had few opportunities to ‘overcome shyness or lack of confidence’.

Mrs Spielman, the chief inspector of schools, insists there is a pressing need for schools to get back to normal

And while the academic catch-up effort is ‘crucial’, she says it is ‘not enough to help them recover all that they have lost’.

Her comments, in an article for the Daily Mail on this page, will hold huge sway among heads as they seek to improve their Ofsted rating. 

It comes after experts found children’s language skills and physical fitness had been seriously hampered by the lockdowns. 

The children’s minister, Vicky Ford, said some were having to learn the words ‘cake’, ‘balloon’, ‘toy’, and ‘present’ because they had not attended a party since they learned how to speak.

Mrs Spielman, the chief inspector of schools, insists there is a pressing need for schools to get back to normal. She says: ‘With extra-curricular activities halted, children have lost out on learning the soft skills such as listening to others, speaking well, and problem solving.’

And she says the ‘possibility of a longer school day’ would allow time for these skills to be developed. 

Ofsted said yesterday schools are not expected to spend vast amounts on extra-curricular activities, which can be simple and draw on the talents of staff or people in the community.

In May, a study by the Education Endowment Foundation found 96 per cent of schools said Reception children were behind in language following the lockdowns

The Government is considering paying teachers to add 30 minutes to the school day. 

In July, Boris Johnson said extending the school day was ‘the right thing to do’ but his government was still examining how extra hours could be used. 

In May, a study by the Education Endowment Foundation found 96 per cent of schools said Reception children were behind in language following the lockdowns.

Meanwhile, a study by Sport England found most children have failed to do adequate exercise in the pandemic.

Pupils need more than just academic help

By Amanda Spielman 

It’s great to see children back at school. But there is clearly a long road ahead before children catch up on all the learning they have missed.

Children have had their lives turned upside down by the pandemic.

Academic catch-up is crucial, but alone it’s not enough to help them recover all that they’ve lost.

With rising health concerns among children, it is even more important that all extra-curricular activities return as soon as possible.

With extra-curricular activities halted, children have also lost out on learning the soft skills such as listening to others, speaking well, and problem solving

One of the best things about school is being able to try out new things, whether that’s playing in the football team, learning to play the drums or joining the chess club. Activities beyond the classroom inspire children to be part of a team, compete with others and give them a sense of pride.

For some, they help overcome shyness or a lack of confidence. I recognise that caution is still necessary, and that teachers have a lot to grapple with.

But the possibility of a longer school day gives schools extra time to restore children’s enjoyment of the activities they once loved.

With extra-curricular activities halted, children have also lost out on learning the soft skills such as listening to others, speaking well, and problem solving.

So, I hope as children go back to more normal routines, the activities that children once cherished will also return in full force.

While we can all agree academic learning is a priority, it will also be wonderful to see children once again going on school trips, playing netball, or taking part in a drama production.

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