As some states start to open schools once again, we are being forced to think of what school life will look like after the passing of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like most things, it is sure to look quite different; it will see rise to several opportunities, whilst also presenting threats that will need to be managed accordingly. Life as we once knew it has changed - let's explore some of the likely implications that will affect parents, students and schools.
Student health & well-being
Gone are the days where well-being activities are deemed a waste of precious school time. Whilst in the past, school activities were primarily focused on the educational curriculum, there will now be an equal focus and prioritisation of activities that support the health and wellbeing of students. There may be a greater push for healthy food items in the canteen, educating kids on the importance of nutrition, daily activity and personal hygiene, and ensuring kids remain active not only at home, but at school too.
Throughout this pandemic, we have become far more reliant on technology than ever before. Whilst online learning has posed its issues as detailed in The Hard Facts around Online Learning, it has presented parents and children alike with opportunities to learn new technologies and systems, become better versed with digital resources available to them, and even gain access to resources that may have been unaffordable or unattainable to some families prior, for example - internet and screen devices. Let’s not forget, our Gen Z population have not seen the world without technology.
Businesses have been forced to innovate to better serve current market demand and the constantly evolving needs of schools, parents and students.
No doubt, the new skills acquired coupled with the new technologies available to us will have an impact on the education system, only time will tell of the significance of this impact.
Students will ALL go back to school, it’s just a matter of time. NSW will have a staggered start, on May 11th resuming one day per week of face-to-face learning. Victoria, ACT and TAS will continue with online learning. Queensland is advising to stay home, though will reassess mid-May. Northern Territory and South Australian are encouraging all students to attend school, as is Western Australia who is encouraging specifically the Seniors (Year 11 and 12) to go back to school.
In the support of going back to school, social distancing will be in full flight, schools will up the ante with routine cleaning, break times will be staggered, room capacity limits will be enforced, and systems and processes will be automated and cashless where possible.
Extra support needed for a greater number of students
"Some children are already at risk of school failure for a variety of reasons and having to learn from home brings with it some major additional challenges for them. Those at risk include a wide variety of students such as those who live in poverty, often characterised by low socio-economic status, those with a disability or additional learning needs, students in rural or remote parts of Australia, and those who are indigenous.” Professor Stephen Lamb warned. According to the University of Tasmania, nearly half of all Australian children and teenagers - 46% are at risk. This will be more difficult to recover for some cohorts of students, for others it may result in them being completely lost in the education system.
Many kids will have been subject to greater levels of stress and anxiety. They may have seen a member of their family become sick. They may have been privy to accounts of domestic violence or been in the middle of custody battle arguments, both of which have been on the rise since the start of COVID-19. The impact of emotional trauma on children is far-reaching and will have consequences, both at home and in school.
It is estimated that being at home risks not only the educational outcomes of our children, but the nutrition, physical movement, and social and emotional wellbeing of nearly half of all Australian students - two million out of 4.3 million children. Our children have been forced to find a new daily routine, find new modes of entertainment (most likely extra screen time) and good habits learned and enforced at school may have been forgotten. Sadly, there is no ‘quick fix’ to reversing this.
Schools will need additional resources and support to help handle students upon their return back to school. Not only will teachers be in high demand, but mental health workers, counsellors and learning support teachers/assistants.
Gratitude for teachers
The role of teachers in society is something we are all guilty of taking for granted. Whilst we all understand the important role teachers play in the learning and development of our children, the profession has never been given the credibility or respect that it deserves. As parents now try to fill the role of ‘teacher’ in the home, it is becoming apparent that teachers deserve a lot more credit than they’ve received yet. Their ability to educate our youth, teach them life skills, keep them motivated, stimulated and under control, all at the same time, is unfathomable. To all the teachers out there, it’s safe to say that your efforts will no longer go unnoticed!
The transition back to every day school life may be a slow and grueling process, but it’s uplifting knowing that it too will bring positive change. Whilst schools may be required to provide additional resources and support to get students back on track, students will be subject to a more healthy and sustainable lifestyle and have access to resources and technologies that can better meet their educational needs. Likewise, teachers will finally get the recognition they deserve, which may have positive implications on their overall job satisfaction, tenure and performance levels. As it may seem, we have a fair amount to look forward to and the education system will potentially reap much benefit post-COVID!