Earlier this month, Gavin Williamson called for a “transformative” reform to the school’s system following the pandemic. What this can be assumed to mean is lengthening the school day and altering holidays to make room for catch up lessons and the missed hours of in-person teaching that has come as a result of the pandemic.
The Education Secretary has confirmed that the government would examine ideas including a five-term school year or an extended school day. There is a lot of backlash against these ideas, as parents look to defend the wellbeing of their children. Young people are known to be the least directly affected by the virus, but that does not mean that they are exempt from feeling the brunt of this lockdown.
Why does learning need to be reformed?
As schools closed, teaching was moved online. This is not a simple task by any means as there are many families that do not have access to the internet, meaning that there was a gap of up to a month whilst laptops were being sourced. Last week was the first week back at school for children in England, after being in lockdown since the end of last year.
Talking to my younger brother recently, it became evident that a lot of his friends were not engaging with online learning. Not because it was difficult or boring, but because it just did not enthuse them in the same way that in-person learning does. I’m a university student, and I find that I am distracted a lot during lectures as having access to the internet means it’s very tempting to look away from the Zoom call.
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The distractions of being at home will have hindered many young people in their learning, especially in households with more than one child. Children will have missed out on important parts of education that simply need to be taught in person. There is definitely a demand for the quality of education to improve, but whether that will come as a result of a longer school day is uncertain.
The Walden University Group explored the impact of longer school days and found that while some studies have concluded that longer instruction time can improve achievement, the correlation is not exact and depends on other factors, such as classroom environment, quality of instruction, and student ability. In short, it’s likely that longer school days won’t be an effective way to raise achievement without other factors already being in place. A lot of children will be hesitant to extend their hours of learning time, and will as a result be less open to learning, which is quite counterintuitive. This could be potentially a waste of teacher resources and a disaster for student engagement.
Why is this such a big problem?
There is already a huge disadvantage gap regarding the quality of education, which Covid-19 has only made bigger. The gap between the advantaged and the disadvantaged is continuing to grow, and there are concerns that there are many children that are going to need the extra one-to-one support. This is a challenge that isn’t just affecting the students, but it will come down to the teachers to provide these extra lessons. Teachers are already being overworked as a result of the pandemic, and there’s only much they can do.
If you’re a student, teacher or someone who has been affected by online learning, I think it is really important to take a step back and take a break where you can today.
Last week may have marked ‘back to school’, but it is far from being ‘back to normal’.