Concerns have been raised about a lack of significant improvement in Havering’s schools since the Covid pandemic.

At a council scrutiny committee meeting on Tuesday (March 5), Trevor Cook, the assistant director of education services for Havering, attributed a small “drop” in school performances to the lingering effects of Covid-19 as well as low levels of funding compared to elsewhere in London. 

Education, especially at lower levels, had been disproportionately impacted by the move to remote learning, he added, while presenting the 2022/23 data.

Mr Cook stated that other schools had received “significant investment” and Havering schools tended to receive thousands of pounds less per pupil compared to those in the neighbouring boroughs of Barking and Dagenham and Newham. 

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However, some councillors were concerned there were no significant signs of improvement in the annual data. 

Judith Holt, the Conservative councillor for St Albans ward, said: “Considering Havering is a good area and the schools are very good, I’ve always been concerned they should be above the national average.”

She added: “It’s not just about funding but good teaching.

“You’re just doing more of the same.”

The assistant director said: “I don’t think funding’s everything but it does make a difference.”

He added that teachers in the borough were of a “very good quality,” as evidenced by Ofsted reports, though he acknowledged a “difficulty” in retaining them. 

Julie Lamb, a school governor, said the council’s education reports still had not “routinely embedded” data about pupils on an education, health and care plan (EHCP).

Though the report did not include data on many “disadvantaged” pupils, Mr Cook placed an emphasis on two of the “poorer” performing schools housing between 15 and 20 per cent of those with additional needs. 

He added that Ofsted inspections reflected a high quality of teaching and he was therefore “very happy” with how they were performing. 

Attendance issues have also persisted in Havering schools since Covid-19, with councillor Mandy Anderson saying that she was aware of pupils not properly engaging with learning. 

Trevor said parental anxiety had played a big part in certain pupils not attending school.  

He said parents had been told not to take their children into school and it had been “hard to switch that back on”. 

Attendance teams had been reformed and were visiting schools every half-term to target specific issues, the assistant director said. 

He added: “We are doing better than other local authorities and I think that’s because we already had a priority around attendance pre-pandemic, so we didn’t fall away as much as others [did].”

The council does “little” in the way of punishment, he said, though it does fine parents who take their children on holiday during term time.   

There is a total of 86 schools in the borough, comprising ten infant, ten junior and 39 primary schools, 18 secondary academies, six academy sixth forms, and three special schools.