There’s no denying it has been a tough 6 months for everyone involved in education. Teachers, school leaders, students, and parents have all been impacted by the shift toward online learning and the disruption to our daily lives. Our research looked to uncover the reaction of teachers and parents of this change and how the pandemic affected people in different ways.
We conducted over 12 hours of interviews with parents, teachers and students, focusing on 10-14 year olds - an age group somewhat forgotten during the disruption to GCSE and A-Level students in the UK.
Having spoken to parents of the students faced with learning from home we found that the use of online learning was thrusted to the forefront of parents' life with varying amounts of support from their schools. On the one hand, there were examples of full-contact between all three stakeholders (parents, students and teachers), where lessons were being taught online with high interaction and high engagement. The reaction from these parents was evidently positive and the majority of these responses came from those who had children in private schools.
On the flip side, other parents recounted that there was a severe lack of contact between the schools and their households and that their children were being left to their own devices with only a maximum of 3 hours of content per day and was not fulfilling their expectations. The nature of this content was rarely if ever teacher-led and more often it was a worksheet which didn’t fill the void in which the effects of Covid-19 had left in education.
Throughout our research, we spoke with teachers at various different levels in education in an attempt to understand their experiences. Once again we saw some opposing experience between many different teachers on how they and their schools had dealt with the disruption to the learning styles of their students. However, we found that there was a common problem that teachers faced; exams and how to cater for those taking exams last year and this coming year.
Teachers' feedback also included their level of uncertainty when going back into schools as they didn’t know what the impact of the lack of social interaction that the students had been exposed to over the lockdown. This also exposed a realisation for teachers about how important the social benefit that schools offer for students across the country and how, more than often, the pastoral care and value that schools offer are often more important than the academic benefits. This also outlined the fact that teachers had been able to maintain the attention given to academia but the lack of face to face teaching presented a larger problem.
So what is the impact on students and how does this affect their future? Throughout our research we were faced with the comment “back to normal”. This predominantly meant getting students back to school and into an environment that was safe for them but we also found that there was a chronic need for students to gain a top-up education as a result of the gaps in their learning over the past few months. This has uncovered some interesting data which shows that students not only need the content to thrive but also the guidance and passion from teachers and external educators.
Overall we have learned so much in regards to the experiences that students, parents and teachers have faced through the global effect of Covd-19. Although our research showed many opposing experiences whether that be for parents homeschooling their children or teachers delivering remote learning, we did uncover one commonality. That commonality was the fact that, when asked about what the ambitions were for their child/student, everyone wanted them to feel safe, do something they love and be equipped with the skills to contribute to society in a positive way.