Since the start of the pandemic, NYA and the Centre for Youth Impact have been gathering a range of the surveys focused on the impact of coronavirus on young people and the organisations that exist to support them. The data these surveys produce may be useful to researchers, practitioners and policy makers, and the list of surveys with data available is here.
We recognise that the sheer number means it’s unlikely that many people will get the opportunity to really dive into the findings and so we will periodically be writing short and accessible blogs that will be looking at key themes across the surveys, and what they are telling us (and what they aren’t).
Most of the surveys captured ‘snapshots’ from different stages of lockdown. There are fewer ‘longitudinal’ surveys or ones concerned with ‘transitional’ phases for exiting lockdown or the reduction of other social measures, though this may change moving forwards.
In this blog we look at how education has been impacted during lockdown.
Education during lockdown:
Data from the surveys we collated highlight that experiences of education during lockdown have been varied for children and young people. Findings show that some have:
Whilst nearly all teachers estimate that their pupils are behind in their ‘curriculum learning’, the surveys show us that home learning has also not been uniform, with the quantity and quality of education most often affected by levels of young people’s and parental engagement with remote learning, household income, and any additional needs:
N.B. There are contrasting survey findings which means it is not yet clear whether there is a correlation between parental engagement and other factors.
Returning to schools:
The return to schools is therefore a complex time, even without the uncertainty of how they will operate. Some children and young people have lost family or friends due to COVID-19, and many are anxious about contributing to further spread of the virus and are unsure of how a return to schools may affect this. There is ongoing uncertainty over how exams and university admissions will operate next year.
These varied experiences and continued questions mean there will be differences in what young people may anticipate and associate with a return to schools, their relationships with teachers, and their potential levels of engagement.
However, most young people, whilst anxious, are looking forward to a return to schools because it provides a routine and opportunities to reconnect with friends and peers – factors seen as important for mental wellbeing. For many young carers, a return to school also provides ‘respite’ from their responsibilities at home. For a wider range of young people, a return to school is seen as a source of some external support.
Several responses also suggest that some young people and families are expecting that a return to schools is a return to ‘normality’. However, despite schools reopening in full, this does not signify a ‘return to normal’: there are variations in how schools will operate, local lockdowns and other restrictions for a significant period. This will mean altered routines and ways of learning.
There is a need for clear communication to both young people and their household so help alleviate some of the confusion surrounding this, especially where further lockdowns may be enforced.
Benefits of lockdown education:
Surveys have highlighted some positive benefits of altered education provision, especially for young people who suffered from or were at risk of anxiety pre-pandemic. For many of these young people the break from normality was beneficial, resulting in a reduction in anxiety. There is no single reason for this, but survey responses showed that:
Where asked, around 10% of parents or carers were ‘likely’ to consider more permanent changes such as flexi-time or full-time home education for their child.
For the latter, there is a strong indication that parents and young carers would benefit from extra support, as many reported feeling ‘exhausted’ during the initial period of home-schooling, and many others reported not getting adequate or relevant support.
Across multiple surveys, children and young people repeatedly stated that the two most important things schools could provide for their learning and wellbeing during lockdown were:
Where asked, parents and carers, and teachers and school staff consistently state that the most important things are:
To be most useful these should be situated in a context that recognises that the social or financial impacts of COVID-19 have hit many households – inequality and vulnerabilities for young people are on the rise, and many families are, or expect to be in, more challenging financial circumstances, burdened with concerns around employment, accommodation and food security.
Services should work together to identify such instances to provide appropriate support, and these survey findings build on such calls for a youth work response in formal education as outlined in this report.
The surveys are clear that time should be taken to understand each young person’s needs to provide tailored support, especially being:
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