Problem-solving in maths has been ‘tricky to teach remotely’. Image: Creative Commons

Remote learning left Hackney’s most disadvantaged kids with underdeveloped motor skills and reduced problem-solving abilities, a top council education official has revealed.

Stephen Hall, assistant director for school standards and improvement, told councillors that teachers have a “big bit of work” ahead to claw back lost ground.

Speaking at a children and young people scrutiny meeting, he warned that an “attainment gap” would continue to grow if it goes unaddressed.

But he insisted that the numbers were “much smaller than we were concerned about” – and said a decision to widen criteria for pupils attending school in the second lockdown helped those “struggling to work at home”.

He said: “In terms of pupils returning to school and then going back out again and then going back in, it’s obviously really disrupted their learning.

“That’s impacted those pupils who don’t have regular access from home or that support from home, that you would want an easy study space.

“There were limited opportunities for practical science, for physical subjects such as PE.

“Younger pupils in particular have struggled with writing and fine motor skills because they’ve been writing less at home and also oracy, so pupils in early years and KS1 who are just exploring language have not had those role models at school from which to learn.

“We’ve also heard that problem-solving in mathematics has been a challenge. Things like problem-solving are tricky to teach remotely with a class of 30.

“In terms of social skills, we were concerned about that – younger pupils have missed the opportunity to socialise.

“Certain pupils might find it more challenging but actually the numbers have been much smaller than we were concerned about.

“In the second lockdown the criteria for pupils attending school was broadened to include more pupils who were struggling to learn at home.

“There will probably be an impact on Year 6 going into Year 7. Older pupils have sustained remote learning better.

“It’s fair to say that the attainment gap won’t have shrunk, it may have stayed the same but it may have gone.

“We’re going to have a big piece of work to regain that lost ground for disadvantaged groups and those who traditionally don’t perform as well.”

The warning came just days after a Department for Education study revealed that pupils lost out on two months’ worth of reading and three of maths during the pandemic.

The government later unveiled a £1.4bn package to support education recovery over the next three years.

But the figure – which works out as little more than £50 per pupil – was dismissed as a “low cost option” by teaching unions.

National Association of Head Teachers general secretary Paul Whiteman raged: “By short-changing education recovery, the government has missed an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of young people in the short term, and ignored the necessity of putting down some firm recovery foundations for the long term.

“By every measure, this is a low-cost option when what pupils deserved was something first class.”

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