The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Education
When entering into teaching no one expects to be on the front line of a pandemic, yet this is the situation teachers and other school staff are facing.
Teachers and schools are trying to plan and educate young minds with the backdrop of ever-changing government guidelines and expectations. From staff absences to online teaching and new Covid-19 testing to the mental health impact, schools need help to work out the new normal and be prepared for future changes.
Since teaching returned to the classroom in September, schools have struggled with teacher absences as a result of regular self-isolation periods. For some schools this has caused havoc as teachers isolated, in some cases, several times per half term.
“Given the widespread impact of testing on our staffing cohort, across all the schools in the Trust, being able to accurately and efficiently support staff in reporting on their current Covid-19 status has been a significant aid during this period.” Justin James, Lion Academy Trust, London.
The consequence of teachers self-isolating is that teachers and non-teaching staff have to cover lessons, taking time away from other tasks and adding more strain to staff already under immense pressure. One solution is for substitute teachers to cover absent teachers, although this can be costly.
In December, the government announced that students and staff would be tested when returning to school, initially planned for January although now hoped to be on the 8th of March 2021.
“In our primary schools, we welcomed the introduction of voluntary bi-weekly testing at home for staff, but equally needed to ensure the impact of this on the administration of these tests and any negative time pressures created were minimised. The ability to report test results through the app and share this in real time has been a significant benefit during this period.” Justin James, Lion Academy Trust, London.
Whilst the premise of testing within an education setting is a positive one; preventing the asymptomatic spread of Covid-19, it has created additional pressure on school administrators who are already managing the ever-changing landscape of education in a pandemic. However, it will be worth the effort, as although the number of teachers testing positive is reasonably low, the time they are having to take off to isolate due to contact is very high. Therefore, the introduction of testing in a school setting, as well as identifying potential spreaders, will also help reduce the amount of time a teacher has to spend isolating.
Changing role requirements for teachers
The role of a teacher naturally changes and adapts over time, however since Spring 2020 the role of teachers has been changing frequently. Since March 2020, there have been several periods of time, including now, when many teachers have had to work from home.
Numerous schools and students were unprepared for learning from home, especially those lower income families who struggled to facilitate online learning. During the first UK national lockdown, teachers were asked about the challenges related to teaching from home; almost half of them highlighted pupils not completing work as the most challenging aspect, as well as lack of social contact, the lack of timely government guidance and working whilst having other family members at home.
“Online teaching is very challenging. I teach 4–5 year olds and they are unable to learn in the same way, compared to when they are in school. We are all trying to adapt to a new way of teaching and learning, it is very difficult for working parents to support their children at home and I have a lot of sympathy for them.” Chelsea Shevlin, Reception Teacher, London.
“I have been teaching for 2 and half years now but due to Covid-19 I have only completed one full year. I teach 4–5 year olds and trying to do online learning with them is far from easy, especially trying to teach parents how to use online learning platforms too. The children are meant to learn through play which you can’t teach online therefore we are having to teach much more structured activities.” Emily Bennet, Reception Teacher, Kent.
In addition, when teachers did return to the classroom, they returned to a very different environment to the one which they left and their roles altered once again.
“One of the key issues throughout this period has been the need to reassure all staff working on-site that the workplace is a safe environment for them to operate in. Having real-time reporting on their health and wellbeing alongside the PPE provisions; the clear and well formulated risk assessments has been the key to how well our teams have adapted to the needs of delivering services to all our pupils — remotely and in class.”Justin James, Lion Academy Trust, London.
Mental health impact of Covid-19
The mental health impact of Covid-19 has been widely discussed, and teachers and pupils are certainly amongst those who have been largely impacted.
The charity, Young Minds, conducted a survey with over 1,000 teachers to understand their opinion of how Covid-19 and being away from school will impact children. A large proportion, 74%, of the teachers agreed that schools being closed over lockdowns had a negative impact on the mental health of young people, with 78% of them saying additional pastoral care would be helpful when pupils return to the school environment.
“The children are the true heroes here. They’ve now had two lockdowns stuck inside without seeing their friends — interactions that are so vital for their social development. Not only this, but they are spending most of their day in front of a screen, which can prove difficult for all, let alone children. The long term implications of this is still to come, something none of us can know for sure.” Luke Barker, Year 1 Teacher, London.
Teachers are also suffering; more than half of teachers say that their mental health has declined during the Covid-19 pandemic. While school teachers had the largest decline in mental health, senior leaders of schools and staff in other roles also saw declines in their mental health.
How tested.me can help
The solution which tested.me has developed, can help teachers and schools overcome several issues that they are currently facing.
The mental health of many teachers has decreased over the last 10 months and with reduced social contact between co-workers it is harder for schools to understand how teachers are feeling. Part of the tested.me solution includes a mobile app where individuals can inform their employer of how they are feeling, thereby putting valuable wellbeing information into the hands of employers to better equip them to support their employees during this time.
In addition, as testing becomes a part of school life, the tested.me app provides individuals with a safe and secure place to store their results. These can easily be shared between individuals and with employers to help make a Covid-19 secure workplace and care for each other. During national lockdowns or when staff are required to self-isolate, the ‘work from home’ feature on the tested.me app allows individuals to inform their employer about where they are working and why, which provides schools with valuable information about where their staff are.
“Schools have been stressful environments recently, there is lots of uncertainty and every day feels like a new challenge. Now the tested.me system has been implemented in my school, I feel safer knowing my senior leadership team has visibility into everyone’s health. The tested.me app is effortless and makes me feel safer when going into school. The system gives me peace of mind knowing my leadership team has a way of managing the risks of Covid-19.” Sophie Hoare, Year 3 Teacher, Kent.
If you would like to book a demo to see the tested.me solution click here or to find out more visit our website.