England’s education recovery plan should focus on well-being, not ‘catching up’


The most recent lockdown and school closures have, once again, plunged education provision in England into crisis. Almost a full year of school interruption will have had a serious effect on children’s education. Outgoing Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield has called for children to be at the heart of the recovery from COVID-19.

The government has released £ 1.3bn for the resumption of education in England. But it would be a mistake to focus on finding ways to push children through the parts of the program that they missed. Instead, an educational stimulus package should focus as much on well-being as it does on learning, and should recognize the efforts made by students over the past year.

In recent weeks, senior education officials have come up with different ways to help children catch up. Sir Kevan Collins, the newly appointed commissioner for restoring education, told the BBC the children would need extra learning hours. Nick Gibb, the Minister for Education Standards, recently questioned aloud about the possibility of longer school days and reduced summer vacation.

Education unions pushed back: Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, warned against any attempt to “work more hours” for tired children.

First of all, there is a problem with the idea of ​​“catching up” students. This implies that there is a deficit on the part of the pupils, who have spent the last year doing their best under extremely difficult circumstances.

The best approach would be to dismiss this idea and instead focus on reconstructing skills and knowledge gaps without the pressure of arbitrary expectations as to where students should be. This means that expectations of what students need to know and understand at each stage need to be adjusted.

This has implications for assessments that will replace canceled summer exams – which have yet to be announced – as well as colleges and universities. Plans for freshmen will need to be adjusted, and students will need additional help with the transition to university and college. Without exams, universities and colleges will have a much less clear picture of the knowledge acquired by new students, regardless of the “catch-up” plan adopted.

What children need

It is important to fully understand the current needs of students, both educationally and from a broader perspective that views their well-being in a more holistic way. Teachers know their students better. Any education plan should put the power and resources in the hands of these skilled and dedicated frontline workers. In addition, schools must be provided with funds to enable teachers to work effectively during the remainder of this school year and beyond.

Funding plans must recognize that in order to recover from last year’s experience, improved mental health support must be available to all students. Many schools already have strong pastoral care and links with specialist support and guidance, but this often falls victim to overburdened school budgets.

The mental well-being of students should be seen as a double priority with academic success, as the latter cannot be sustained without the former. With the long-term emotional and social impact on young people yet to be manifested, pastoral care will be essential to enable students to succeed in their studies.

Students must have access to pastoral care.
New Africa / Shutterstock

While the whole country is hoping summer will bring better times, the prospect of spending August in a classroom may not appeal to many children. A recovery program must include opportunities to rebuild social bonds and personal resilience. This could be done through sports, outdoor activities, and the performing and creative arts as well as classroom learning.

Across the country, educational programs for children and young people have been on hiatus for almost a year – from boy scout groups to local football clubs and events in theaters and galleries. This is a vast resource of opportunity and expertise, and harnessing it could make the summer of 2021 one to remember for children for all the right reasons.

Finally, despite the plethora of evidence of disadvantage and lost opportunities for students, some children and youth have been able to develop new skills over the past year, including digital skills, self-regulation and independence. Students engaged with their teachers and their learning in new ways, using new tools.

In the coming years, schools and education organizations in England will be able to learn from the experience of the pandemic, assess what can be improved in education and integrate this gain in digital skills into teaching and learning. learning. But for now, we need to focus on integrating a holistic stimulus package throughout our education system.

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