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COVID-19: Pupil attacks govt for ‘shocking’ lack of detail on when schools will reopen and exams will take place

With schools unable to open until March at the very earliest, many pupils, parents and teachers are despairing at the thought of remote learning being extended.

Parents are having to juggle their own work with homeschooling their children, made impossible for some by a lack of IT equipment or an internet connection.

The latest lockdown in England has also seen the number of children allowed to carry on going to school shoot up, putting more pressure on teachers.

And it’s not just their education at risk. A lack of face-to-face contact with friends and teachers saw the number of children with a mental health disorder rise from one in nine to one in six last year.

Sky News spoke to families and teachers about how COVID has affected the classroom.

Faith Oliver, 17, Manchester

Faith is in Year 12 and is studying for her A-levels. Despite schools and colleges being closed, the situation at home means she is still allowed to go in.

But she’s not getting one-to-one lessons with her teachers as she might have hoped.

“We’re not actually in the classrooms, we do virtual learning but in school. So I just sit in a pastoral office and do lessons on Zoom with 10 or 12 other people,” she told Sky News.

According to Faith, 60% of the pupils at her college in Manchester are living in poverty.

“I know a lot of young people that don’t have access to the internet,” she said.

“My college had to give out 700 laptops using their own money because the government wouldn’t give it to them.”

The Year 12 pupil hit out at ministers, adding: “We’re not getting any clarity from the government. We don’t have a clue when we’re going back, when our exams will be or about uni applications.

“The information from the government is shocking.”

Clive Searle, headteacher, Sale

Mr Searle is the headteacher of Worthington Primary School in Greater Manchester.

He said there has been a huge increase in the number of children allowed to continue going to school during this lockdown.

“We’ve gone from an average of 25 to 30 children attending in the first lockdown to 120 now. That’s a massive change,” he told Sky News.

“Blended learning is tremendously hard work for every member of staff not just in my school but all over the country,” he added.

But he had strong words of encouragement for his fellow teachers, saying: “Protect yourselves, keep strong and know that you’re doing an absolutely brilliant job.”

India Sethi, 13, and her father Harj, Essex

India’s family live in Chigwell, Essex. She is in Year 9 and beginning to think about her GCSEs.

But she says learning through a screen makes staying focused difficult.

“I’m really missing my friends. It’s really hard to motivate yourself,” she said.

India added that being on Zoom “isn’t the same” as being in the classroom and she’s concerned about her grades.

“It is scary, because I’m doing my foundation year of GCSEs. I’m starting my GCSEs and I’m not in school.”

Her father Harj said the whole family is now working from home, including the children, so they have had to buy new computers and “upgrade the broadband”.

But the “support from teachers has been fantastic”, he said.

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