Reconnect London is a collaborative network which brings together school leaders across the capital. We seek to build innovative solutions and to share good practice, so that London schools can better meet the needs of young Londoners. Our aim is to increase collaboration and cooperation between schools and to forge stronger links with third sector organisations. We have a particular focus on disadvantaged and vulnerable children, who have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The question of how best to approach education recovery following the pandemic is a hot topic within our network. To date, the DfE’s Covid-19 recovery strategy has included funding for individual and small group tuition, as well as a catch-up premium and a task force to improve student attendance. The emphasis on tuition seems eminently sensible, given the strong existing evidence for its effectiveness at improving student outcomes. Given the detrimental impact of the pandemic on attendance and academic attainment, these must continue to be key priorities.
Our network members highlight additional issues relating to mental health and well-being, transition, closing the digital divide and teacher recruitment and retention. They also believe that education recovery must take account of the extent to which the gap between the most and least disadvantaged children seems to have widened as a result of the pandemic. Emerging evidence suggests that young people who are eligible for the pupil premium but live in wealthier areas have been less adversely affected than those who are not eligible but live in poorer areas.
It seems the pandemic has magnified the impact on young people of the relative levels of disadvantage in the areas where they live. This may, in turn, be a result of the way in which lockdown confined people within their local areas. Educational recovery must take account of the different ways local communities have been affected by the events of the last two years, with some more significantly affected than others.
There is an urgent need for further study of these issues and their impact on schools. We have commissioned a literature review looking at what we know about the impact of the pandemic on young vulnerable and disadvantaged Londoners. We are also working with Social Finance to replicate and update their Cheshire West and Chester study in London, to gather further information about the impact of the pandemic on attendance, exclusions and other key issues. Within our network, we are gathering case studies from school leaders and pupils, to gain a better understanding of the way in which they have been affected by the pandemic.
School leaders hold essential knowledge about the children and young people in their care, and are a crucial source of evidence about their needs. Within our network, in keeping with the principles for effective recovery set out by the OECD, we work together in a spirit of trust, with a commitment to cooperation, collaboration and mutual learning, as we seek together to address the impact of Covid-19 on the children and young people we serve.