With schools being officially closed for the foreseeable future, it can certainly be an overwhelming and worrying time for most parents, especially when it comes to your child’s education. We know you have lots of questions, so we’ve compiled a useful list of FAQ’s which can hopefully give you some answers. For all official Government advice regarding the Coronavirus, please click here.
Schools are closed, what does this mean for our kids?
As the implications of the Coronavirus are hard to predict, it really depends on how long the schools are closed for. Currently, schools across the UK have been closed to the vast majority of pupils, which means most children will be having a significant break in their learning.
Most schools have supplied learning packets and curriculum focused content to be completed at home- however some have provided relatively little or nothing at all. If this is the case, please refer to our learning at home blog post for plenty of useful resources. The responsibility will now be on parents to take on the role of a teacher to ensure learning continues. As well as teaching children new concepts, parents will also need to check their child’s understanding in order for the work to be completed correctly.
How children will be impacted directly will vary greatly for each individual child. Some will take well to online learning and will be self-motivated to continue their education independently. Other students may not have the ability to do this and may need specialised instruction and support to be successful. Students will fall all over the spectrum from “I will learn on my own with what I am given and the additional things I find,” to “I can’t even get started with any of this.”
How long will schools be closed for?
For the UK, the Department for Education and local school authorities have officially stated that due to the COVID-19 outbreak, schools, colleges and childcare providers will be closed to the majority of pupils until further notice. However, schools will remain open for the supervision for children of NHS staff and other frontline workers, as well as for vulnerable children. While there has still been no official guidance from the Government on when schools and colleges will reopen, there have been hints that it’s likely they could remain shut until at least September 2020.
What happens if schools don’t reopen?
Schools will reopen eventually, but it may not be for the 2019/2020 school year. If this is the case, each locale will announce how they intend to handle the loss of 3-4 months of school.
The decision to close schools for this period of time will not be made lightly. School authorities will have to weigh the pros and cons of a full closure and will strategise how to handle issues such as the transition back to school for the 2020/2021 school year, how they will mitigate the lost learning, and what grade level students will return at. They will also have to consider students set to graduate this year and plan for ways they can meet the current requirements, or will set new one-time requirements, which will allow all students to graduate based on their current grades and achievements. Some school authorities have already cancelled the school year and have presented their plans for the above issues.
What happens if students were due to take exams this year?
The Government has officially announced that summer exams have been cancelled in England, Wales and Scotland. This includes GCSEs and A-levels in England and Wales, plus primary school national curriculum tests, known as Sats. In Scotland, Highers and Nationals will not be going ahead. The Department for Education has announced that in England, teachers will be asked to submit the grade they believe the student would have received if exams had gone ahead, based on their performance in mock exams and classwork. The exam board will then combine this information with other relevant data, including prior grades, and produce a calculated grade for each student. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also planning to award grades for equivalent exams on the basis of coursework, teacher assessment and prior grades.
Students will be provided with these calculated grades by the end of July. If they are unhappy with the outcome, they will have the right to appeal to sit the exams early in the next academic year, or to re-sit in the summer of 2021.
What happens when students go back to school?
This really depends on when students go back to school. If only a few weeks of time is lost, then education authorities will likely leave it up to school boards to decide how they are going to make up for lost time. In most cases, students will see some concepts or activities cut from the planned curriculum, but not any big changes.
As it is likely that the closures will go on much longer, if school is resumed for the 2019/2020 school year, students will most likely see that significant portions of the curriculum are pared down or removed and that concepts are being taught very quickly. Teachers will probably focus on the essentials that students will need in order to be successful at the next grade level and leave out the extras. For students who are not in the higher levels, we’ll likely see students focusing much of their learning on maths, English, and science with very little focus on the arts, physical education, or social studies. For higher level students, each class will likely only ontain the essential information they’ll need.
Regardless of if the schools are closed for a few weeks or if the rest of the academic year is lost, there will be a trickle-down effect. It is likely that most students will not have adequate learnings from this year to build next year’s learning on. As a result, next year’s teachers will be playing catch up, helping students gain the learning they have missed this year, while also helping them learn what they need to know next year. We may see this effect for several years before students are completely caught up to where they would have been had the closures not occurred.
A reduced curriculum, increased learning speed, and the need to play catch up next year will make learning even more of a challenge for those students who were already behind and struggling.
What will be the pitfalls for students?
It’s important to be realistic with the current situation and remember there will be pitfalls for passing students, as they won’t have the educational basis when starting the next academic year. However, if automatic passing is the solution the school authorities choose, then all the students will be in the same situation and teachers will work to build back the missing learning next year, as discussed above. We may even see some curriculum redesign to help spread the lost learning over several years to limit the impact to students. Overall, the average student shouldn’t panic about learning gaps too much. Schools, teachers, and educational authorities will put measures in place to help them catch up.
If you are concerned about the interruption to your child’s studies, our online tutoring resources can help.