Review of the year 2020: A school year like no other

Josh Salisbury (07 January, 2021)

We take a look back on the year 2020 - which was a school year like no other

41520Review of the year 2020 - A school year like no other

For Southwark students, 2020 has been a school year like no other.

In March, as the pandemic hit, schools were forced to close to all those except the vulnerable and children of key workers.

After the government ordered school closures on March 20, schools in Southwark were forced to swiftly adapt to remote learning for their pupils.

This threw up a number of problems, as we reported on this year, including a lack of internet access and laptops in households.

This caused a number of schools, including Compass School in Rotherhithe and later Comber Grove primary in Camberwell to crowdfund to ensure greater access to laptops for their pupils.

When pupils did return to classes, the Government’s handling of it was slammed as “chaotic” by the then council leader, Peter John.

Compass School students in Bermondsey sit two metres apart

“It feels like a massive indecision has taken over at DFE [department for education]. I don’t know who’s to blame but the Secretary of State should take some responsibility,” he told us.

Further criticism was levelled at the Government in the furore over 2020’s GCSE and A-level results.

A new algorithm was designed to ‘predict’ a pupil’s grades after exams were cancelled – which resulted in a swift backlash including in Southwark after pupils were penalised through no fault of their own.

GCSE students were spared the same fate when it came to receiving their results, after the Government U-turned and awarded teacher predicted grades for students instead.

2020 saw a bumper crop of good results from hard-working students despite the pandemic, as we reported in our A-levels and GCSE specials.

But always the pandemic was lurking in the background: Classes were sent home from various school throughout the year after outbreaks.

The development of rapid mass flow-testing, we revealed in November, began to be used in schools to track those who were asymptomatic.

A temperature check being used in a SE16 school

And as 2020 came to an end, schools were once again in the spotlight. As cases surged, Greenwich Council wrote to all of its schools to urge them to move to online learning.

While a similar move was not replicated in December in Southwark, officials spoke openly about the need to support schools suffering outbreaks.

As 2021 gets underway, expect to see yet more fierce debate about how best to manage our children’s education safely in what has been an extraordinary period.

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