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Closing the Post-Covid Education Gap

What is being done to support schools and students in making up for lost education and enrich individuals with critical skills for their future?

As children return to school, the never-ending worry amongst many parents has been that their child has missed elements of their education during the pandemic that will have a long-lasting effect on their performance. Only recently, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), who research into all areas of education, published their findings on how pupil attainment has been impacted during the Covid-19 lockdowns. GL Assessment (who provide benchmarking, formative and diagnostic assessments to UK, bilingual and international schools) reported that, on average, school attainment in primary and secondary schools has fallen in the UK across all subjects with scores declining.

In a recent article, Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust and chairman of the EEF was quoted as saying:

“By the time schools reopen, children and young people will have faced almost a year of learning disruption. The repercussions of these months of lost learning are devastating and will be felt for a lifetime.”

The Government has put strategies in place to support schools with this issue, but what else can be done to support these pupils? Within schools, diagnostic assessments are taking place to provide schools with the knowledge of where there are learning gaps and changes in planning required. Diagnostic assessments set benchmarks for pupils, enable accurate tracking of attainment and bring into education the importance and relevance of AI (Artificial Intelligence) as a learning tool.

Schools will play a large part in bridging the gaps in learning, however, there has been a surge in demand for private online tuition. Through online tutoring, whether one to one or in small groups, children are given targeted intervention in subjects. The most successful allow for self-reflection with timely and meaningful feedback from the tutor. The personalised environment of tutoring allows for the deeper learning skills to be embedded and practised, those that are so often missed in the classroom due to curriculum time pressure and the size of classes.

Beyond collecting academic data on pupils, it is important that teachers and tutors learn who the pupils really are, how they learn and where their strengths lie. The very best teachers can tell you instantly, but in classes of 30+ students, identifying and teaching to the individual is not an easy task. Online tutoring has been heavily promoted for this very reason. The relationships that are built between student and tutor are invaluable in the pathway to success.

In the changing world of work, pupils need to have good metacognition – an awareness and understanding of their own thought processes. The world they are entering is a fast-paced, changeable environment that involves an ability to adapt and be innovative. In a 2020 article published for the World Economic Forum (WEF), Professor Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the WEF, discussed the importance of critical thinking and problem solving growing in prominence in the next five years. He went on to comment on the increased use of technology and the ability to reflect and analyse data. Online learning platforms allow children to creatively apply what they have learned. They empower students to develop critical thinking, resource management, decision-making and interpersonal skills – all elements that will be ever more important as the nature of working remotely likely evolves.

Whilst the worries of lost education are real, this is an opportunity for the teaching profession to look at their pupils with fresh eyes. A time to spot those successes and the strengths of the individuals. A moment to ensure the pathways to learning are clear, purposeful and progressive.

Olivia Wareham is Deputy Head (Pedagogy) at Huddersfield Grammar School, UK.