West London independent schools help educate children most disadvantaged by pandemic

Led by Latymer Upper School, with help from St Paul’s and St Paul’s Girls’ schools, the Attain programme offers catch-up lessons to disadvantaged primary school pupils

A trio of West London independent schools has been helping children from local primaries whose education has been disadvantaged by the pandemic.

Latymer Upper School, St Paul’s and St Paul’s Girls’ schools joined forces to develop the Attain programme, offering each pupil up to 15 hours of catch-up support in maths and English.

The first full month of sessions has just been completed, despite the latest lockdown necessitating a switch to remote provision.

“The disadvantage gap, like holiday hunger and the digital divide, predates Covid-19 and will sadly outlast it,” said David Goodhew, head of Latymer Upper School (pictured above). “The pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated these problems.”

Teachers nominated those year five and six pupils most disadvantaged by the pandemic to take part in the scheme.

“According to the Education Policy Institute, the disparity between high- versus low-income families’ experience of lockdown learning is estimated to be 75 minutes per day, which equated to 15 days by July 2020,” added Goodhew.

“This means that, by the summer, state school families had experienced 12 weeks of disruption or lost learning, but the poorest had lost 15 weeks. As educators, we felt compelled to do something to help.

“At the beginning of the first lockdown we provided laptops and dongles to students at partner schools who would otherwise not have had devices or wifi access to log onto their lessons. As the lockdown went on, it was clear that we had to do more. At the holiday camps we ran we focused on children’s wellbeing, giving them fun and interesting activities to be part of as well as making sure they were getting fed.”

This has been the most challenging time I’ve known in all my years of teaching – Michael Schumm, St. Stephen’s CE Primary School

It was during the first lockdown that Latymer began reaching out to its partner schools to help disadvantaged local children, and the seeds of Attain were sown.

“I really appreciated being asked what would make the most impact and [Latymer] really listened,” said Michael Schumm, headteacher at one of those schools, St. Stephen’s CE Primary.

“The support is very much tailored to what we and our pupils need, and they’ve taken the time to match their teacher with mine. We are thrilled to be one of the first schools to get the programme up and running, which means that our pupils can reap the benefits and catch up as quickly as possible.

“This has been the most challenging time I’ve known in all my years of teaching. There has been so much disruption for our pupils, and we are all working so hard to help them through this.

“We are doing everything we can to help them catch up on their learning, but it is a huge task, which is why I’m so very grateful to Latymer Upper School for offering this incredible support.”

Michael Schumm, headteacher of St. Stephen’s CE Primary School


To add more teachers to the scheme and help as many disadvantaged children as possible, Latymer approached past partners on other community-minded projects, St Paul’s School and St Paul’s Girls’ School.

“Each teacher that we recruited has been provided with training, resources and regular support from a designated, primary-trained teacher, as many of them would usually be teaching secondary school age children,” explained Goodhew.

“We then worked hard to carefully pair them with a peer at a partner primary school. Together they then co-designed individual tuition plans – with impact measures over the course of the programme – that complemented what the pupils are learning in class. It’s taken us a whole term to develop, but all the preparatory work meant that when we suddenly went into lockdown and we had to pivot to remote delivery, we had good foundations in place.”

“By half-term, we will have seven teachers running sessions across seven schools, supporting 27 children, with a further six schools due to start soon after the half-term holiday. Sadly, I think this programme will be needed for a long time to come, which is why we are keen to grow and develop the programme so that we can reach more children who need support.”

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