Don’t relax school standards in the autumn, leading headteacher warns

ANNA DAVIS
·3-min read
Trial run: a member of staff takes a girl's temperature at Harris Academy Shortlands in June. Ministers have promised all schools in England will open in four weeks' time: Getty Images
Trial run: a member of staff takes a girl's temperature at Harris Academy Shortlands in June. Ministers have promised all schools in England will open in four weeks' time: Getty Images

Children returning to school in September should be held to the same high standards as before lockdown because they need a sense of normality, a leading headteacher said today.

Alun Ebenezer, head of Fulham Boys School, said he will not be making allowances for bad behaviour when all pupils resume classes in September. He said it is vital for children’s mental health that they all come back in the autumn, but that it should be “business as normal” and behaviour rules should not be relaxed to allow for bad habits picked up when children have been stuck at home.

It comes as a poll indicated that most people believe the wellbeing of students is the highest priority when deciding when to reopen schools. Mr Ebenezer said: “We just have to get them back to school. We are not going to change our behaviour policy. They just have to come back with really high standards.

“Obviously there will be individual cases where we have to be understanding or sympathetic to a situation but the rule has to be that the standards we had back in March are the standards we have in September.” He added: “Normality is what we all need. The general rule has to be ­business as normal. That’s what they all want.”

All pupils at Fulham Boys School were given the chance to return to school for at least one day before the end of the summer term. Mr Ebenezer said: “The reason we were so determined to get the boys in, even for one day, was because the longer they are out, the harder it will be to come back.

“Some are doing fine and others are really struggling. The difficult days are yet to come and we have to worry about the mental health of young people.”

In a survey of 1,000 people by Dynata, 30 per cent said the mental and social wellbeing of students was the highest priority in returning, followed by the need for parents to return to work and the economy to reopen at 21 per cent.

Normally at Fulham Boys School older boys are encouraged to look after the younger pupils, and tutor groups are made up of students from different year groups. This will be scrapped from September to ensure that pupils only mix within “bubbles” their own age.

Whole school assemblies will not be held and students will no longer be able to mix in the canteen with different year groups, or take part in house events.

But sports clubs and after school clubs will continue, with pupils staying in their year-group bubbles, and the school will stay open until 5pm.

Boys who have dropped behind academically will be encouraged to use after-school time to catch up, and may be brought in on Saturday ­mornings. Mr Ebenezer urged the boys to think of themselves as professional footballers who have become unfit during lockdown, and use the summer break as “pre-season training”.

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