The coronavirus pandemic has caused widespread devastation right the way across the globe.
After killing tens of thousands of people and forcing millions upon millions of workers to self-isolate at home, the virus has shown no sign of slowing down over recent weeks and months. And with friends, families and livelihoods at stake, it can be easy to forget about how the virus has impacted other areas of life.
The education sector, for example, has particularly suffered at the hands of the pandemic, with numerous questions now being raised over when the schools will finally go back, what’s going to happen with next year’s university placements, what effect has home-school had on students, and how will the economic fallout influence teaching resources, salaries and pensions.
With this in mind, we take a detailed look into the key effects the coronavirus pandemic has had on everyone involved within the education sector – from the students themselves to the teachers that guide them.
While many children may have initially enjoyed a ‘Whoopee! No more school!’ feeling – throwing their books, posters and revision cards in the air – as the weeks of lockdown have progressed, that will have probably felt pretty short-lived.
Unfortunately, though it may have felt like it to some, the lockdown hasn’t been a school holiday or an extended holiday period – there has remained an onus on kids to keep up with their learning, albeit from far more difficult, virtual-based circumstances.
Some kids may have embraced this change but, without a classroom setting or the ability to talk to a teacher one-on-one, other students may have struggled and – as a result – fallen behind on their learning. This could, therefore, pose difficulties down the line when schools reopen, as each student could be at a different level.
The pandemic has also had a significant effect on students due to take exams this year. After months and months of work building up to a series of potentially make-or-break exams, pupils have now been left in the lurch about how the pandemic is going to affect not only their grades but their futures as well.
While many will have felt an initial sense of relief at the exams being cancelled, that feeling will again have been fairly short-lived after Ofqual announced their grades would be calculated using a specialised algorithm that takes into account predicted grades, KS2 performance, mock results and the school’s contextual data.
As a result of this, the grades allocated may not truly reflect the trajectory of each individual student, posing a potentially significant psychological effect on their inability to have closure. Many students, for example, may feel as if they haven’t deserved their place at university, while others may miss out altogether depending on how the algorithm works out for them.
It’s also important to consider the effect this could have on employers down the line. For example, will they look more unfavourably on students who achieved their university place in this way?
It will still be a while before we know the answer to this question and, until we do, there will remain a lot of unknowns left to smooth out. However, it’s imperative that the health, wellbeing and livelihoods of each individual student are put at the front and centre of any decisions that will affect their lives.
It’s in the very DNA of a teacher to want to share their knowledge with others – to help nurture the minds of students who, without their guidance, wouldn’t go on to achieve the lives and careers they might have done otherwise.
In light of the coronavirus pandemic, teachers can no longer teach their students in the same way – instead, left with no choice but to teach their classes via video call services like Zoom or Facetime. This, in turn, raises a number of concerns over not only the student’s ability to learn effectively but the ability of the teacher to recognise those who are struggling.
Online classes don’t express the body language of a child, after all. If they’re being neglected at home, abused, or are currently living in a non-viable situation, teaching online lessons makes it much more difficult for teachers to provide them with the safe space and sanctuary that school typically provides.
There’s also the emotional impact to consider as well – after all, it isn’t just the students who are missing out on exams. Teachers will have put a lot of hard work and effort into teaching their classes, often going the extra mile to ensure each student understands a certain topic.
Now that they’ve been cancelled, and the school year has effectively ended, those teachers will now have to deal with the emotional repercussions of not being able to celebrate with their students or being able to, again, seek any closure.
Perhaps more concerningly though is the potential impact parents could have on schools. If a parent loses their job as a result of the pandemic, for instance, they may struggle to fund their child’s place at their usual independent or grammar school.
As a result, they may need to move to a state school instead, causing a giant ripple effect throughout the education sector; since the original school will have lost its funding, it may need to make cuts elsewhere (i.e. teaching staff or resources). At the same time, with the state education system picking up these children, an even greater pressure will then be put onto state school funding at a time when the entire country will be in recession.
While the coronavirus outbreak continues to cause disruption throughout the globe, it’s important to remember that this time will pass and, eventually, the world will eventually return to some level of normality.
Until then, however, recognising the impact that the outbreak has had on those involved in the education sector is absolutely imperative. Now is the time to raise questions, demand answers and try to make sense of the uncertainties surrounding education.
Will education ever return to how it was before? Will schools be able to recover? Until the school’s reopen again it will be difficult to know for sure. However, as of right now, there certainly appear to be a lot more questions than answers.