The Coronavirus outbreak has caused schools all over the world to shut their doors indefinitely. Over one billion children around the world are now missing out on education. It’s time we start to think about how this will affect children, and how we can reduce any negative effects that come from school closures.
Education is usually at the heart of childrens’ day-to-day lives and it’s hugely important for preparing children for later life. School helps children develop the social and cognitive skills they need in life to solve everyday problems, form relationships and navigate the working world.
So how are the coronavirus school closures going to affect children? Here are some of the effects that missing education can have, and how you can reduce the impact of school closures on children.
Children Won’t Progress at the Same Rate
One of the main purposes of education is to ensure all children develop the skills and abilities they’ll need in adulthood. These skills include social skills, the ability to solve problems, make calculations, read, write and understand different types of discourse. But with many children now out of school, they’re missing out on these valuable lessons.
While some parents will be able to homeschool children during lockdown, others may not have the time or resources to do so. As a result, children will progress at different rates. Some will fall behind while others will continue to learn in line with the national curriculum. This will leave some children at a disadvantage when the time comes to return to school and take assessments.
To help children continue developing vital skills, parents can encourage children to attend virtual lessons (if this is something their school is organising). There are also downloadable educational resources such as maths worksheets and reading activities, or online resources such as interactive videos. Many of these activities just need supervision — you won’t need to actively teach, you can just keep an eye on children while they work. If you work, you can encourage your children to complete these activities alongside you.
Missing Education Can Impact Children’s Mental Health
For many children, current events are stressful and upsetting. Their usual routine has been disrupted, and there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding when they will be able to return to school. This uncertainty can leave children feeling worried and insecure.
Children may also miss their social life, as the lockdown is a drastic change from seeing their friends and classmates almost every day. This can affect children in different ways — they may feel lonely, unmotivated, stressed or depressed.
It may help to talk to children about what’s going in the world, explain the reason for the lockdown, and the importance of staying safe. Listening to, and acknowledging their thoughts, feelings and worries can also help children feel better about the situation.
Parents can also encourage their children to stay in touch with their friends, other family members, and classmates using technology. There are video calling applications, messaging platforms, and online games that children can play together.
School Closures Can Affect Children’s Nutrition
School meals are designed to give children the nutrition they need, and some families rely on free school meals for their children. But with the coronavirus school closures, children are missing out not just on education, but potentially on nutritious and affordable lunches too. The World Food Programme estimated that around three hundred million primary school children who depend on free school lunches will miss out on them because of school closures.
If children aren’t attending school and receiving these free meals, the need to buy more food for weekday lunches can place financial pressure on parents. Parents may also find it difficult to come up with lunch ideas that are affordable and nutritious.
However, the government has launched a voucher scheme to help families who usually rely on free school meals. Schools can now provide every child who is eligible for free school meals with a £15 voucher every week to spend at supermarkets while schools are closed.
Children May Be Reluctant to Return to School
Eventually, schools will open to all children again, and when they do many children may be reluctant to return. After many weeks, or potentially months off from school, getting children to return to 6-7 hour days of learning is likely to be a challenge.
By encouraging children to continue engaging with education while in lockdown, you’ll make it easier for them to transition back to normal life when schools reopen.
School Closures Will Affect Assessments
Many children have upcoming exams and assessments that they’ve been preparing for. But SATs, GCSEs and A-Levels have all been cancelled. So for children who have been working towards achieving their best grades, this can be particularly disappointing.
In some cases, grades will be awarded based on past and predicted performance, but this can be problematic as it doesn’t give students the chance to outperform expectations. There are also fears that cancelling exams will hit minority students and students from low-income families the hardest.
A Professor from Birmingham University stated that:
“There’s a lot of evidence to show that there are stereotypes around particular types of students, so their predicted grades are lower, and when they do the exam they do better than their predicted grade.”
So if you have children who are affected by cancelled GCSE or A-Level assessments, keep an eye on updates from Ofqual. You will get the chance to appeal predicted grades, and there are talks that students will be given the chance to sit exams later in the year.
Primary school children may also feel stressed about missing their SATs. The KS2 SATs are used to set learning targets and target grades for secondary school. Without the chance to demonstrate how they’ve progressed through primary learning, children may worry about how this will impact their transition to secondary school.
However, given that these really are unprecedented times, SATs are unlikely to influence secondary learning targets. Children may be retested when they join secondary school or learning targets may be based on performance during the start of secondary school.
Children Are Missing End of Year Celebrations
School isn’t all work and no play. Children look forward to celebrations at the end of the year, but because of the coronavirus lockdown, these are unlikely to take place this year.
Primary school students will miss end of year discos or parties, and Year 6 students will miss the chance to celebrate with their classmates before moving on to secondary school. Older students will miss events like prom and graduation.
This can dampen children’s spirits, but you may be able to cheer them up with an at-home celebration. You may not be able to see other friends and family members, but you can mark the end of the school year by having a special day at home. You could cook your children’s favourite meals, bake a cake, or have a day of game-playing.
Master the Curriculum is here to help parents and teachers minimise the negative effects of the coronavirus school closures. We have many free primary school learning resources that parents and teachers can use to encourage at-home learning. All of our resources are designed to make learning enjoyable, so that children really engage with education and have fun doing so. Sign up for a free membership to access our resources.