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Since the COVID-19 crisis began, the educational system has substantially changed. Students are at risk of getting infected with the virus, given the fact that they spend many hours in large groups at school. Most would quickly heal, but they would spread the virus to more vulnerable categories of citizens.
That was the reason why schools in the UK were closed in March 2020. We are still in a critical situation, but schools started reopening under new protocols. How did COVID-19 change the educational system? What risks do we face by reopening schools? How will the government handle potential school clusters?
There’s a lot to discuss!
How COVID-19 Changed Education
- Remote learning became a new standard
UK schools were closed with the intention to help protect the community from COVID-19. When it became clear that this wasn’t a short-term situation, we started wondering: how will students get their education? Remote teaching and learning were the answer.
Most schools started using resources from the Oak National Academy, and BBC offered the Bitesize Daily program for independent learning. In addition, students started getting tutoring and writing assistance from EduBirdie in Great Britain. Teachers made themselves available through video streaming services, instructing students and supporting their progress.
- The government education output became difficult to measure
The COVID-19 pandemic imposed a serious challenge for the government to measure education output. We still get information about education expenditure and school staff income. However, school closure made output and activity volumes difficult to measure.
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The existing measuring framework does not directly capture remote learning. We don’t get clear information about the effectiveness of this method in comparison with personal class attendance. That’s why the government developed a new approach that encompasses the contribution of remote learning towards the educational outcome.
How Will the New School Year Look Like?
The pandemic created a massive disruption in educational systems around the world. School closures impacted 94% of the global population of students. With the start of the new school year, most governments decided to reopen schools and guide the process through specific protocols.
In England and Wales, there was a major pressure for reopening schools before the end of the summer break. Primary schools in England started opening on the 1st of June. In the beginning of September, the full reopening of schools began across the UK.
The new protocols revolve around wearing masks, keeping the students in small groups, and practicing social distance. In Scotland and Wales, there’s an exemption from the physical distancing concept for pupils. Since it’s harder for small children to maintain physical distance all the time, they are allowed to stay in groups. Scotland issued guidelines that discourage all types of physical contact (including handshakes and hugs) for older students.
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In general, these are the measures that schools started following after reopening:
- Teachers must encourage frequent hand washing, as well as proper use and disposal of tissues for coughs and sneezes
- Whenever possible, the students should maintain the principle of physical distancing
- As soon as a student’s family member develops symptoms or the student shows symptoms, they should stop attending school
- All schools must enhance their cleaning protocols
These measures differ from region to region. Northern Ireland and Scotland have a rule about pupils in secondary school: they have to wear masks or other types of face covering in between the lessons. It’s more difficult for them to keep distance during those periods, so the masks will provide a higher level of protection. In England, students in Year 7 and above must wear masks when they are indoors, but not in class.
All UK students must return to school, unless they test positive, have been in close contact with a positive person, or develop symptoms of COVID-19.
What If the Situation Gets Worse?
It’s easier for pupils to stay healthy during quarantine. Isolation minimizes the chance of getting infected. However, the educational process is too important for such a large disruption. Students have to return to school, and the UK government is taking measures to make the process as safe as possible.
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If the number of coronavirus cases grows, colleges and secondary schools will turn to a two-week rota system. If the situation gets more serious, a larger group of students will return to remote learning from home, and the schools will remain open only for children of key workers and vulnerable categories of pupils.
BIO: James Collins is a blogger with great interest in education. He explores and compares different educational systems. The COVID-19 situation sure gave James enough to research and write about.