As a result of numerous COVID-19 lockdowns and repeated social isolations, the education that has been received by students all across the UK, whether that is primary, secondary or higher education, has arguably been hit and has revealed it carries various holes. Likewise, to other institutions within society, including the economy and the state, the education sector had to bounce back from the unforeseen impacts of the virus which shook what was known as a relatively stable system. The main impact is school closures which cut down considerable amounts of term time and therefore time spent in lessons. Within the UK, a staggering 1.53 billion learners were out of school, as well as there being 184 country-wide school closures.
Yet, what this crisis revealed is the inequalities that are present within the UK which had been shown through material deprivation. As learning moved to its online, remote form, it revealed that around 700,000 children do not have a computer, laptop, or tablet with which to access online learning. Therefore, the poorest individuals in society are likely to be the most disadvantaged. It is also challenging for teachers to gauge the effectiveness of their online teaching and whether students are truly engaging with their lessons. In addition to the fact that COVID-19 has caused the structure of education to shift with most students requiring a recovery curriculum that will focus on the learning that they had missed, due to the multiple school closures which occurred. It is important to note how the amount of schooling missed was not evenly distributed across the country. In the West Midlands, on average, pupils missed the most amount of school, in comparison to those in the South West of England who missed the least.
The impacts of COVID-19 on students’ mental health can also not be overlooked, as the mental health and wellbeing of many learners across the country would have been impacted by the unpredictable nature of the crisis and the new form in which education has taken on. Survey data from YoungMinds in June 2020, revealed that 74% of teachers agreed that school closures had a negative impact on the mental health of young people. The effect that the pandemic had on teachers is vital to consider as they also had to accustom themselves to an entirely new way of delivering their teaching. The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the flexibility of education and teaching and how it is paramount to quickly adapt to society’s quick changes. This panel discussion will explore the ways in which COVID-19 has impacted education within the Midlands, in addition to how students, teachers, and the education system can recover post-lockdown.