As Aucklanders slipped back into their second level 3 lock down in two weeks, and the rest of the country into Level 2, once again our hearts went out to those in hospitality and events industries, to retailers, and businesses unable to operate, to those who have important medical appointments or weddings postponed.
My heart also went out to parents. A level 3 lockdown means juggling the stress of working and also homeschooling; guiding younger children through their studies, and keeping older kids on task, motivated and calm.
After the first lockdown last year many of us spoke about the silver lining, of being able to step back from our too-busy lives and just enjoy family time.
And I love family time. But after a lengthy summer holiday, two short school weeks thanks to public holidays, a three-day lockdown and another seven day lockdown –frankly I’m all good for family time now.
There’s been a lot of conversation on covid testing, self-isolating protocols and alert level changes over the last few weeks. There’s been comparatively little about education; specifically, the long-term impact of lockdowns on our children’s education.
In January, it was reported that schools have told the Education Review Office some children lost 10 weeks of learning in last year's lockdowns, but the overall impact of the pandemic is still unclear.
The ERO report said 59 percent of schools surveyed were worried the lockdowns had harmed student progress and achievement, especially in low-decile communities and in Auckland.
"Where schools have done learning assessments, teachers have identified some students who have fallen behind. For those students who had plateaued or regressed in their learning, teachers tended to estimate the loss of about a term's worth of learning," the report said.
The problem is many schools delayed testing of students until term one this year, so the extent of the problem isn’t yet known. I know schools and teachers are working hard to make sure their students are keeping on top of their learning, but when we’re looking at a lost term of learning then surely more resources are going to needed to make sure students aren’t left behind.
The report also stated it was concerned anxiety and under-achievement could affect children as they return to schools in 2021. The last two weeks won’t have helped students in Auckland whatsoever.
This is why we need to have more conversations about education.
I get it’s pragmatic to just get through in whatever way we can when we’re unable to attend our school campus, after all, when our kids are learning from home it’s about trying to find a way that’s manageable for the whole family.
But equally, the Ministry of Education needs to keep a very close eye on the long-term outcomes on students of all ages, and be prepared to address them sooner rather than later.
There should be special consideration for students in Years 11 to 13. Internal assessment has already begun and it’s the older students who feel the pressure the most. It’s also the more senior students who are at risk of becoming disengaged and discouraged with school, which could lead to school without qualifications.
When it comes to education, there is no time for hindsight. We can’t wait until the full impact of the disruptions caused by Covid 19 can be fully measured to realise there’s a problem to address. We need to move now to make sure students are not falling behind, and schools need to speak up and tell us what they need to do the best for their students.