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The Impact of A Second Lockdown on Teachers, Schools and Students

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Claiming the lives of over 40,000 UK citizens as of October 2020, Covid-19 cases are continuing to rise.

The UK Government announced 21,331 confirmed new cases on 20th October: a 50% growth on the previous week, and a four-fold increase on the highest peak in cases back in April this year. With reports that some hospitals across the country are already becoming overwhelmed, Parliament has recently introduced a tiered system to enforce local shutdowns – although a second lockdown may still be on the cards.

In the event of a second national lockdown, schools would likely remain open to all pupils. However, a UK-wide ban on the majority of travel and daily life activities would have knock-on effects for the health, social and education sectors, and all those who rely on their support.

Here are three ways that a second national lockdown could impact schools, teachers and students.

How A Second National Lockdown Could Affect UK Education

Lower Quality Teaching and Learning

Lost lesson time from Spring and Summer 2020 is further exacerbated by absences in the Autumn Term. The Department for Education reports that only 88% of pupils returned to classrooms in September – far below the 95% attendance figure for the same term in 2019 – with 1 in 20 pupils still at home. Self-isolating requirements for households and classes, shielding of vulnerable family members, worried caregivers and the lack of available transport methods for lower income families are all contributing to lost lesson time. A recent survey found that although 73% of parents were in favour of reopening schools and continuing classroom learning despite restrictions, the majority would readily defy Government advice and remove their children from schools under another national lockdown. Looked after children, vulnerable pupils and those with SEND needs have already been particularly disadvantaged by the pandemic, and would continue to suffer under a second enforcement of remote education.

Whilst Spring 2020 inspired some parents to consider home education as a permanent choice, another enforced period of home learning could further damage the quality of children’s education. Parents are now able and expected to work from home, and if charged with educating one or multiple children on top of a full-time job, balancing the quality of both roles would prove a monumental challenge for the most loving, dedicated and educated parents. Despite a wealth of online tools and advances in technology, the highest quality of education can only be provided by those with sufficient time, resources, qualifications and experience.

Students have been struggling to adapt to digital learning and would likely face the same issues under a second wave of enforced school closures. In June 2020 52% of parents said their child was struggling to continue their education while at home, with a lack of motivation the main culprit. Sibling distractions and the need to share devices had a significant negative impact upon productivity: children aged 5 to 10 years spent far fewer hours completing schoolwork if they had sibling aged 0 to 4, when compared with their peers who had no siblings. Whether or not schools remain open, a second shutdown would increase a reliance on home learning for children of worried or shielding parents, and would again likely affect quality of education overall.

Increased Teacher Pressure & Workload

Before the pandemic, mental health in the education sector was a rapidly growing issue. Teaching staff already rank amongst the world’s most stressed professionals, and educators are significantly more likely to suffer from a severe mental health problem lasting more than a year. One in every two NQTs leaves to change careers within five years, owing to a shortage of the staff needed to cope with rising class sizes. A second shutdown would create additional stress and mental health challenges for staff already bridging the gaps, and demand greater pastoral care responsibilities to support disadvantaged and vulnerable pupils.

Relying on online resources would result in additional stress: many have already found that with hundreds of thousands of students accessing digital resources simultaneously, website have crashed and entire classes are left without an alternative. Educators who have already exhausted their innovative lesson plans, creative ideas and solutions to sudden changes in pupil requirements and Government updates will be under further pressure to continue delivering stimulating, valuable lessons without support or resources.

As former teaching professionals, the team at Prospero Teaching understand the challenges that the coronavirus pandemic presents to schools and staff. Find out more about our free CPD-accredited training and the ongoing support we offer.

Delayed Development and Career Progression for Young People

Lost lesson time has already increased demand for intervention and tutoring services, and another difficult time period for struggling students would further delay their Academic progress. The effects of the pandemic have so far seen GCSE and A-Level exams postponed and cancelled, and many fear that yet another national lockdown could affect the examinations and assessments of students leaving school in 2021. Digital tutoring and intervention programmes look set to become a fixture of any future lockdown to facilitate learning whilst enabling social distancing requirements.

Thousands of students across Britain have opted to take a gap year rather than start their first year at University. Local lockdowns have left thousands of students unable to enter lecture theatres or attend seminars, relying on online tuition and food parcels whilst confined to University accommodation. In view of the effects of the first lockdown, and with 64% of older children aged 16 to 18 years believing that continuing their education at home will negatively affect their future life plans, delays in college and University applications are expected to accompany a second national lockdown.

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