Longer school days? Five terms? Covid-19 has caused all manner of havoc, not least to the education of millions of students, some of whom have gone through entire, pivotal periods of their school or university life with little or no contact with their tutors and peers. As we seek to make up, catch up and move forward, lots of ideas are being proposed to meet the shortfall, but how do you think we can make up the Covid education deficit?
The conversation so far
Last month the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, said the government was looking at a range of proposals to help students of all ages amidst the pandemic.
He said: “We’re looking at holidays, we’re looking at lengthening the school day, we’re looking at a whole range of measures… enhancing the support we give to teachers, supporting them in their professional development, making sure they can be the very best of themselves.” He concluded that the goal was to “look at what is going to have the biggest positive impact on children’s lives.”
Education now and in the future
Of course, it’s not just about looking at how to fill gaps, it’s also about identifying them both generally and for individual students. It’s looking at those who have fallen behind and how to support them (the Association of Colleges has said sixth-form students should be allowed to repeat part of the year to make up for lost learning). It’s looking at social inequalities that have grown deeper. Meanwhile, the long-term impact for those who may or may not be fully aware of the extent that their education has been impacted, may take years to fully comprehend.
In the words of the Local Government Association:
“The impacts of COVID-19 will be with us for years to come. They will show up in economic hardship, mental health issues, attainment gaps and more, and it will be up to councils, schools and their partners to support children and their families to navigate these challenges.”
Covid-19 has taught us things as well
While all of this is a daunting prospect, and can leave individuals, as well as educational bodies, with a sense of helplessness, it isn’t all doom and gloom. The flip side to the challenges that have been raised is that schools, educators and students have also spent the year showing phenomenal resilience, flexibility, creativity and adaptability. We have seen the benefits of online classrooms and the digital world coming into their own, not just for convenience but for necessity.
The students who have been thrown in at the deep end will have had an experience that will prepare them for the world they will eventually work in, like nothing else could have. Understanding how those tools and capabilities can be incorporated into the learning environment has enormous value both now and ongoing.
Looking for opportunities to grow in how we educate
From recognising the need for a fully functional online learning environment to honing desirable skills for the future including independent learning and agility, alongside more traditional learning. Is there a possibility that we already have the tools we need to fill and supersede any gaps that have emerged in education over the last 12 months, and that it’s more a case of implementing them more effectively?
From extra tuition to mentoring, maximising the benefits of online tools to tapping into a global community of ideas and learnings. 2020 was certainly a shock to the system, but it doesn’t have to be considered an educational write off for individuals or for the collective whole.