United Kingdom

Ofsted warns damage done by Covid to education will be 'significant'

Busy parents, bad equipment and a lack of internet meant 'many children did not do' the virtual work they were set when schools were closed, Ofsted said today as it warned the scale of lost learning caused by Covid-19 will be 'significant'.

The watchdog said in its annual report it is still too soon to know how much damage has been done by the coronavirus crisis to the education of the nation's children. 

But it painted a grim picture for many pupils' development as it said the disruption will be 'reflected in widening attainment gaps'.  

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted's chief inspector, suggested a shift to online learning had helped when schools were shut but warned it 'can only ever be a partial solution to ensuring a good quality of education'. 

Ms Spielman said many children did not do the remote work they were asked to, often 'because they did not have the hardware, connectivity or quiet space to work'.

She also warned that just because a student was 'logged on' they were not necessarily 'fully engaged in the learning'. 

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said that while it is still too early to say how much damage has been done to pupils' education because of Covid-19, the impact will be 'significant'

Schools and colleges across the country shut their doors between March and June this year during the first nationwide lockdown as they moved lessons online.      

Ofsted said the shift away from classrooms will inevitably have had an impact on children's development. 

The report said: 'Many children lost not just a term’s education, but also the consolidation of what they were taught in previous years. 

'While we do not yet have reliable evidence on "learning loss" from the pandemic, it is likely that losses have been significant and will be reflected in widening attainment gaps.' 

The report, authored by Ms Spielman, said 'we cannot yet say how long it will take to retrieve lost ground'. 

The document said the Government's direction to schools during lockdown to provide remote learning was 'helpful in spurring development'.

But it said online lessons 'can only ever be a partial solution to ensuring a good quality of education and training where education cannot happen face-to-face'.

It added: 'Indeed, remote (including online) education can be, and is sometimes, delivered ineffectively.' 

The report highlighted a series of difficulties associated with asking pupils to work at home. 

'When schools set remote work, many children did not do it, or did little,' it said.  

'Sometimes, this was because they did not have the hardware, connectivity or quiet space to work. 

'Others struggled with the work without a teacher, for example because they have SEND or speak limited English, or simply because self-study is harder than being taught. 

'In many cases, parents had competing demands from other children, jobs and wider family responsibilities and were not able to give children as much structure and support as they would need to cope with schools’ expectations. 

Schools across the country were shut between March and June during the first national shutdown as lessons moved online

'Some children struggled with motivation in the absence of the structures and routines of school, being in a classroom with a teacher, and seeing and being seen by their peers doing the same work.'   

The report said pupils 'miss the face-to-face contact of the classroom, not only for social interaction but also for the instant feedback and opportunity to ask questions'. 

'Some providers say their learners’ engagement is good simply because learners have logged on to online sessions,' it added. 

'The reality may be that the learners have logged on but are doing other things, and so are not fully engaged in the learning. Some learners admitted to being frequently distracted.' 

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