When will education return to normality?

As the Prime Minister confirmed that primary schools will open on the 1st June, questions are being asked about the standard of education received by students still at home.

Primary schools will reopen to pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6, as part of Boris Johnson’s plan for the reopening of the UK. It is also rumoured that children Secondary school pupils taking exams next year, may get some time with their teachers before the holiday, but most areas haven’t been addressed yet and haven’t received a lot of attention since the beginning of the lockdown.

Parents are becoming stressed at the notion of home-schooling and the uncertainty of when their children will return to school to continue their education. Worse still is the higher education sector, which largely operates separately from schools and have yet to plan or announce fixed return dates. Some have said that lectures will be online only, compromising the quality of the education received, lowering the output of lecturers and their availability when students need extended tutoring.

The University of Cambridge is holding all lectures online for the 2020 to 2021 academic year and Manchester University said that it will move lectures online for their autumn semester. Although both universities expect the students to be resident, and there may be a possibility of smaller classes, the majority of learning will be done via a computer monitor.

“support with physical play and a wide range of learning experiences and engagement”

Across the country, students were sent home in towards the end of March and courses did their best to adapt to online platforms. Many of these second and first year students would have been expecting to return to campus in September, however, with the progress made in digitalising university courses, it looks as though content will remain online for the foreseeable future.

This has caused problems in the appeal of the education sector and the quality of teaching being given. Parenting expert Roberta Smart writes for ‘The Local Answer’ and suggests that children need “support with physical play and a wide range of learning experiences and engagement” and feels as though isolated learning will not provide children with this.

It has also impacted the number of students applying for colleges and universities. Last year the number of university applicants rose for the first time in three years. It rose by around 10%, and this year some institutions are reporting a 40% drop across courses as students are hesitant to travel or embark on a course that omits the important social elements that make university study worthwhile.

The ambiguity around how courses will be taught and whether this could change again at the face of a second spike, is also causing concerns amongst students. The university watchdog says new students must be told with “absolute clarity” how they will be taught before accepting a place.  

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