Lockdown was challenging for many pupils and their parents. But what about the teachers? How did they perceive the change from conventional education based in school to teaching and supporting kids online? Michael, an experienced teacher from South West England, said: “Setting work for classes at home is great in theory, but pupils have faced many challenges, some of which we can’t help with.”
Michael thought following the “normal” school timetable had helped some pupils to keep up the school routine during lockdown. But, he also noticed that many students couldn’t fully follow the schedule set by schools. He said many of his students studied when they could or wanted.
Michael, like many teachers, observed the importance of having a study space to learn at home. Challenges with online education were not limited to this – he was also “trying to support students whose parents were unable to support them.” Learning the curriculum is only one of the many reasons we go to school. Many pupils lacked the opportunity to socialise with their pupils and felt extremely isolated during the time schools were closed. Michael said “young people also need peer contact as well as guidance from role models – much of this has been missing during the lockdown. He added: “I don’t know how this will affect my pupils in the long term.”
We don’t know the full impact of this pandemic on education yet. Michael thinks it might provide us with an opportunity to realise the importance of funding education properly. He said: “School budgets have been squeezed to breaking point since 2008, often at the cost of larger class sizes, reduced staffing levels and little building maintenance. Few schools have the staff or space to support opening in line with the guidance recently published. Perhaps this will change!”
The government has been taking steps to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on children’s education. Under proposals outlined in June, additional funding of £650 million to state primary and secondary schools for the 2020-21 academic year was announced. This fund, together with £350 million which will be used to establish a National Tutoring Programme, aims to help pupils to catch up on education they missed. We will see what other steps will be taken and at which scale the challenges Michael and many teachers identified will be overcome in the future.
Our teachers are sometimes closer to us than our parents or peers. Giving them a greater voice to share their insights on the challenges of online education should be part of the discussion, as we build towards a better future after Covid-19.