Have months of school closures and distance learning had a long-term effect on the development of our children?
A study by Stanford University has found that children in the Netherlands – which enforced an eight-week lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic – experienced a 3% drop in their learning in 2020, compared to previous years. What does this troubling statistic mean for UK students, who experienced months on end of closures and distance learning?
While loss of learning was a factor for many schools and children, the lack of in-person contact also affected mental health, social and personal skills. Malcolm Johnson, Head Teacher of Greenbank Preparatory School, said: “Thankfully, our extensive remote learning provision meant pupils’ academic ability was not affected. However, there was a noticeable impact on pupils’ social skills, their independence, and resilience. This is why we brought our pupils back from lockdown as soon as it was safe and why we have a broad curriculum which includes a focus on wellbeing, Forest School, outdoor learning, and building life skills. Teamwork, curiosity, and independence are all key factors to a successful life both at and beyond school.”
When lockdown came about, Greenbank put its faith in Google Classroom, and was able to run as close to normal as was possible. Online teaching via Google Meets was a huge success, as were assemblies, support sessions, and even social times to allow children to develop those all-important interaction skills and still have that vital interaction from the safety of their own homes. Although lockdown is over, the pandemic’s affect on children’s school attendance endures, with periods of isolation still necessary when school children come into contact with COVID-19. Distance learning is still very much a reality that schools have to be prepared for.
Thankfully, with the advancements in vaccinations and infection control, Greenbank has been able to open its doors to children and their families again for some time now, however with the onset of winter and case numbers rising in the local area, the school has once again tailored its provision so that any child having to isolate but well enough to work will receive no disruption in their learning. Blended provision is now the norm, where children at home join their classmates in school via Google Meets in order to take part in fully interactive lessons. Time is made for children in isolation to catch up with their friends online, so that any feelings of loneliness are dissipated.
While we all hope that the days of lockdowns and home learning are far behind us, the future is never certain. However, using previous experience, the quality of distance learning can only evolve, and we can hope that should schools ever be forced to close again, the dedication and caring of schools, combined with past experience, will create a thriving remote environment for children to learn in.