Concerned dad begs council to keep his son back a year at school

A Sompting father wants his son to be ‘back-classed’ after he moved to the UK from the Philippines and missed more than a year of education due to Covid-19.

Tuesday, 19th October 2021, 3:39 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th October 2021, 8:58 am

David Munn, 59, his wife, Jurissa, and their children came over from the Philippines in March, 2020, just before the country went into lockdown, meaning they could not leave.

As a result, David’s son, Kevin Gabriel, 11, missed out on over a year of education due to not being registered at an English school. Because of this, David now wants his son to be ‘back-schooled’ – meaning he would start in year six instead of going into year seven.

David said: “The combination of a significant lack of schooling and academic achievement commensurate with his age, his language difficulties, and his lack of social support from friends makes a compelling argument for him to ‘back-class’ to the last year of primary.

David Munn, his wife Jurissa, his son Kevin Gabriel and their daughter, who moved over from the Philippines in 2020 just before lockdown

“This would provide a less stressful environment for his educational needs to be evaluated and supported and for him to have the opportunity to make new supportive friendships that he would be able, the following year, to move up with together to big school.”

A West Sussex County Council spokesperson said the authority ‘recommend that parents apply for school places in the correct chronological year’.

But David said he does not understand why Kevin Gabriel cannot be put back a year, and said it was unfair on his son.

He added: “It is our grave concern that the education authority’s approach to just throw Kevin Gabriel in at the deep end into this secondary school option, what most people seem to concur would be an inappropriate and ill advised action, is very worrying and upsetting.

David's son, Kevin Gabriel, wrote a letter to the council explaining how he feels about starting in year seven

“It is staggering that they are prepared to ignore the potential harm and distress that could result to a child when there is no real need to take this risk, as ‘back-classing’ in this case appears to have no real and identifiable detriment.”

Kevin Gabriel wrote a letter to the director of education services in West Sussex, so they could understand how it is affecting him personally.

Part of the letter said: “I have tried hard to learn how to speak English but sometimes I find it difficult to understand what people say the first time, and also, because of the lockdowns, I have not made any new friends in England.

“My school in the Philippines is very different to the schools here. The school was very small with rooms made of blocks and a roof that leaked.

“I have seen the big school and it is massive, I don’t want to go to a big school like that where I don’t know anybody.

“I would like to go to the school before big school, it is still a lot bigger than my school in the Philippines but at least I could make lots of friends and then we could all go to big school together.”

David said: “We just want him to be able to be happy and feel welcomed into an appropriate school, the last year of primary school, an environment where he can catch up on his learning and meet and make new friends to provide him a strong platform to, next year, move up and onto secondary school.”

A West Sussex County Council spokesperson statement said: “It is fair to say that many children have missed out on time in school due to Covid-19 and are now adapting back into school life.

“However, schools have access to additional funding to provide catch up and individual tutoring for those who have had significant time out of school.

“We do therefore recommend that parents apply for school places in the correct chronological year.

“West Sussex has many children who are learning English as an additional language and schools are very experienced in planning and providing additional support where required to ensure that children with additional language demands are able to learn successfully alongside their peers.

“West Sussex schools are pleased to work with children and their families and are committed to providing them the help they need.”