THE chief executive of St Helens Borough Council has called on the government to take action to help disadvantaged children “disproportionately” affected by the lockdown.

Kath O’Dwyer has raised a number of concerns in a letter to the Department for Education (DfE) regarding the disruption to the current academic year and the knock-on effect it will have on next year’s studies.

Ms O’Dwyer asks the government to give immediate consideration to the accountability framework for the 2020-2021 academic year in light of the “inevitable lost learning our children and young people have suffered”.

READ > St Helens councillor has this important message ahead of the pubs reopening

She says government advisers need to work “urgently” with OFQUAL, the exam regulator in England, to re-evaluate the accountability framework.

Ms O’Dwyer says the biggest concern is for Year 10 and 12 students, who will be sitting GCSEs and A levels as early as May – despite the fact many are only just beginning to access a handful of face to face sessions with their tutors.

The former social worker also calls for a national recovery plan to support the borough’s disadvantaged students, who will have been “polarised” by the lockdown.

Ms O’Dwyer said: “Government advisers need to work urgently with OFQUAL to re-evaluate the accountability framework so that high standards are maintained but learning is streamlined to reflect the months of lost learning.

“Finally, the lockdown period will undoubtedly have polarised our disadvantaged students. This cohort of young people will have been disproportionally affected.

“We call for a national recovery plan for such students, clear in its intent, implementation and impact.

“Changes to the accountability framework need to be made known now so that leaders can start to plan, students are clear on what is to be expected and all can start to work towards the new framework with confidence.”

Ms O’Dwyer’s letter has been sent to Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State of Education, and School Standards minister Nick Gibb by Conor McGinn, MP for St Helens North and Marie Rimmer, MP for St Helens South and Whiston.

The two Labour MPs say they hope the actions outlined by Ms O’Dwyer will be “taken into account and acted upon swiftly”, with a response outlining what steps the DfE is taking to resolve the issues raised in the letter.

St Helens Star: Kath O'Dwyer, chief executive of St Helens Borough CouncilKath O'Dwyer, chief executive of St Helens Borough Council

Ms Rimmer, a former leader of St Helens Council, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the consequences of not getting this right will be “damaging to communities across the country.”

Ms Rimmer said: “Education is the foundation that helps our children get on in life. Over the past few months, local schools have been rightfully closed to protect our communities, to all but the children of keyworkers.

“But the government needs to have a plan in place to help children catch up on their education.

READ > St Helens Council pushes on with emergency budget amid funding crisis

“Over the course of this crisis, the government has consistently been slow on PPE, slow on testing, and is now slow on the tracing app.

“We cannot afford for the government to be slow on helping our children get back on track with their education.

“The consequences of not getting this right will be damaging to communities across the country.”

Here is the letter in full: 

St Helens Star:

St Helens Star: