Michele Lucas gave the following update:
The Committee raised questions on whether there were extra finances available for schools and if the schools’ budgets had been affected. The Committee also mentioned that the current school years had been defined as the ‘Corona Class of 2020’ and questioned if there were plans in place to prevent an attainment gap. Michele Lucas said that schools were costing COVID-19 related costs into a COVID-19 related cost centre and central government had also been providing funding to support different areas and over the summer, the voucher scheme would be available to ensure free school meals were provided to vulnerable children. The Olive Academy would also be receiving an additional £750 for their year 11 pupils to help with transition into college and there were online offers for their most vulnerable children. Regarding concerns of an attainment gap, schools had adapted to providing online learning offers and the key areas of focus were on year 11 to 12 and hoped that the lessons learned from these areas of focus could be incorporated into the wider cohort of young people and children. An update could be brought back to Committee in the Autumn which the Chair agreed and also asked that a briefing note be provided to assure the Committee of the plans in place.
The Committee sought more details on the transition for children who were moving into new schools in the new school year. The Committee also asked what provisions were in place for education to support year 11s to enable them to attain the grades they needed and the types of financial support available for certain costs such as travel. Michele Lucas answered that most schools were giving online tours of the facilities to give year 6 children transferring into year 7 an idea of what the school would look like. Regarding attainment grades for year 11s, some schools were looking into opportunities for year 11s to resit and the service was working with local colleges to see what the next steps would be for year 11s who did not achieve the grade they thought they would achieve and whether they could retake those exams if they wanted to. Regarding financial support, cases would have to be considered on an individual basis and the service remained committed to ensuring that young people were able to access the educational opportunities available to them.
The Committee discussed the online learning offer from schools in that some schools had received these along with homework but had no feedback form teachers. However, schools would welcome any discussions with parents. The online learning varied across schools where private was offered full online lessons which the Committee questioned whether this would be rolled out across Thurrock particularly where new laptops had recently been acquired for LAC. Michele Lucas clarified that the laptops had been assigned to the service’s most vulnerable children only and that most of the Borough’s schools’ online learning was presented through Google Meets and other platforms and that schools were working hard to provide lessons online. The Committee also discussed education support for post-16 in that officers would meet with the Youth Cabinet to get their views and feedback on education for post-16s.