By September, a full 6 months will have elapsed with the majority of students having had no physical contact with school. The delight of this extended summer holiday for many will quickly become a nightmare as the severity of missed education comes in full force once schools reopen.
That is of course, if schools can fully reopen at all.
From my personal experience of education through lockdown, the continuation of limited class time and the perseverance of online learning would be catastrophic to the intellectual and social development of millions of children across the UK. A recent BBC report has suggested that lost school time ‘will hurt [the] economy for 65 years’ as the future skills of the workforce are negatively impacted, costing billions in a reduced growth rate.
During lockdown, limited contact at my school in Guildford was allowed for those in Year 10, who were given lessons in Maths, English and Science only. Ofqual (UK exam regulating body) have made plans for some subject areas in English Literature and History to be able to be dropped for GCSE students, for fear of a lack of teaching time. As GCSE students return to be taught up to ten subjects in September, it remains to be seen how successful a full school opening will be in delivering the wider range of subjects for all students, when health is placed as a priority. Most notably, we can question whether lessons on the mitochondria will be more beneficial for students reliant on potentially neglected vocational subjects in hope of a career away from the academic world.
Regarding remote education, the quality varies upon teacher, subject and year group. But most importantly, the income of your parents. The Sunday Times reported that students studying at independent schools in Surrey start the day online at 8:20 am and finish at 4:00pm. Contrast that to the teaching I have been provided which had a best-case scenario of one or two lessons a day lasting for between thirty and sixty minutes. Therefore, if some measures remain in place, the growing connection between quality of education and affluence will be exacerbated even further, as the mother who has to share one mobile phone between four children to access learning competes with those more fortunate.
Universities have also been hit hard by the pandemic, with international student numbers expected to drop dramatically, correlating with an already present issue around funding. This may result in reduced offers to attract more UK students, but is unlikely for highly ranked universities who must preserve the integrity of the course they are offering. There have also been many calls to reduce university fees as lectures move online, pushing the funding crisis even further. The credibility and accuracy of this year’s exam results may also be put into question as both the GCSE and A-Level grades are set to be higher as exam boards are more lenient.
Whilst the option to defer a year of university and resit is a possibility, it won’t be attractive for many, particularly with the travel restrictions resulting from Covid-19, limiting anyone’s gap year to the Devon coastline.
When students return, it will be highly likely their first conversations will be centred around their time during lockdown, focussed more on the Netflix shows they caught up on, and not the vital education that they missed. With both A-level and GCSE results day now within three weeks, the future of a generation is set to be decided by the outcome of a pandemic, the knock-on effects of which we will continue to see seemingly for the rest of our lives.