An open letter to Sir Kevan Collins
Dear Sir Kevan,
We are Action for Children’s Arts Young Voices: a group of young people aged 7 to 17 who meet every month to discuss issues concerning children’s arts and education.
Firstly, thank you for taking on the role of Catch-up Tsar along with the huge pressure, expectation and responsibility that it involves. Following a number of Young Voices meetings about summer ‘catch-up’ we wanted to write and share our thoughts and concerns about the summer holidays:
- We believe that any education offered over the summer holidays should be optional. The last year has been difficult, and children need to be given the opportunity to relax and recover over the summer holidays. We acknowledge that there are some children who have fallen behind in the last year, for whom intervention might be useful and appropriate. When deciding which children qualify for ‘catch-up’ we ask you to take their circumstances into account, for example whether they are struggling with their mental health (in which case the pressure of extra school might do more harm than good).
- Delivery of summer ‘catch-up’ should be flexible. We believe that the idea of ‘catch-up’ would be more appealing to children and their families if delivery was spread out over the summer holidays. This would still allow for families to organise time away together, and for children to have some much-needed downtime between ‘catch-up’ days in school. For the same reason, it would also be better if catch-up sessions did not last a whole school day.
- Children at transition points or who are about to take important exams should be prioritised. ‘Catch-up’ delivery should focus on children transitioning into year 7 - particularly those who are starting at new schools - and young people going into year 11 and 13 who have important exams coming up. If there is extra resource, children who went into year 7 in September 2020 should also receive the offer of ‘catch-up’ as they have not had much of a chance to adapt to the transition from primary to secondary school in the last academic year.
- The ‘catch-up’ curriculum should include extra sport and creative activities. In the spirit of a fun and relaxing summer holiday, any ‘catch-up’ that takes place should be an opportunity to do more enrichment activities. We feel that these are the activities that suffered most during the lockdown, as they are harder to do in isolation. In addition to this, we believe that additional creative and physical education would present a great chance to help young people who are struggling with their mental health, or those at transition points (for example entering year 7) who are concerned about making new friends.
- Any ‘catch-up’ on offer should be free. We must maintain our right to free education, including the provision of free school meals.
- Where possible, we should be taught by our teachers. We believe it is important that those who are giving us knowledge and nurturing us are people we know, trust and have a good relationship with. This is particularly vital for children with additional support needs. If we are working with teachers who do not know our learning styles, much of the ‘catch-up’ time will be wasted getting to know each other and trying to communicate what works best for us in the classroom.
- Our teachers should be properly paid for their contribution to the ‘catch-up’ effort. This has been a really hard year for teachers - we should be focusing on how to support them and improve their working conditions, not asking them to do more work for little or no return.
We look forward to hearing your response to our suggestions and want to thank you again for taking on this very important task.
ACA Young Voices