The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted our lives in many ways and will continue to do so for a good while yet. In terms of education, we have all seen the headlines: children have lost their way; school closures will affect classroom progression for years to come; young people from deprived backgrounds have been particularly badly hit. Yes, in many ways, all these points are true – but with the right intervention and support, such gaps can be addressed. But what about the flip side? Surely, despite the ubiquity of such negativity, there are some positives.
Learning remotely, for many, has its benefits – there are few distractions compared to those that might be found in a classroom of 30 teenagers. Students can work at their own pace, extending their learning in ways which might not be possible in a classroom setting. Using technology to learn can mean that a thought-provoking video clip can be watched time and time again, as opposed to just once in a conventional learning setting. Of course, there are always going to be students that do not have their own laptop or are regularly disturbed by everyone else in the family working from home. But it is important, I feel, to realise that not everything about education in the pandemic is doom and gloom.
This summer’s A-Level and GCSE results were largely decided by a combination of different assessment methods, given that national examinations didn’t go ahead. In terms of A-Levels, those attaining at grades A and A* were up almost 6% on 2020’s results. Admittedly, the run-up to finishing courses would have been stressful for many, particularly considering that examinations did not take place. Some Sixth Form students felt that studying remotely helped them to focus – and avoid the distractions they might ordinarily have had to contend with. During the different lockdowns, some students were limited with what they could do, socially, and therefore this meant that studying was prioritised. After the difficulties of the first lockdown early in the pandemic, schools upped their game in terms of provision for students: live lessons, one-on-one feedback, keeping close tabs on progression.
The pandemic has affected us all in many ways, and this is not going to disappear. Having said this, it is important to remember that it is not all bad news – and when it comes to education, we want the best for our students. Young people will not forget the challenges over the last 18 months (and yes, many of these challenges will have been extremely difficult). But as a way of moving on and progressing, it is important to have a ‘glass half full’ approach. After all, we can’t change what has happened – but we can make the best out of a bad situation and this, I feel, is essential.