The purpose of the report
Education is the key to our children's futures, and to Jersey's economic growth and prosperity and our ability to compete in the global economy. As well as shaping success in adulthood, it is the path to good jobs and higher earning power for Jersey's young people. It is also necessary for our democracy to work, ensuring equal access for all. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on education in all Jersey schools.
The report focuses on the impact of the enforced move to learning at home following the school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, from March to June/July 2020. The report places at its heart those directly affected by COVID-19: children and young people, their parents and carers, and the professionals working in Jersey schools.
The report demonstrates the dynamic responses of schools to the challenges presented to them during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our schools stepped up to these many new challenges. Their operational models in this unprecedented situation had to be amended and developed as each phase of lockdown was implemented, often at very short notice. Blended and remote learning practices had to combine with the safe opening of schools for critical workers' children and some vulnerable groups. The priority of fully re-opening schools had to balance with limiting the spread of the coronavirus. Supporting pupil learning had to balance with well-being support for pupils, their families and carers, and for their teachers and support workers.
Schools are to be commended for their remarkable efforts in responding to an ever-changing health emergency between March and July. Keeping open in the holidays, at Easter and May half-term, are examples of the approach to put the Island's needs first. The parent/carer survey and pupil interviews highlight considerable appreciation and gratitude towards school teachers and leaders for their commitment and support during this challenging period.
The report highlights five key areas:
1. Specific groups of pupils were significantly impacted by school closures: those in receipt of Jersey Premium (JP), those with English as an additional language (EAL), and those with a special educational need or disability (SEN/D). The vast majority of pupils found the long period of working from home extremely challenging. Nonetheless, there were specific groups of pupils significantly impacted by school closures.
2. Many parents and carers found the pressures of balancing work commitments and supporting their child's learning challenging to manage.
3. Some children struggled to access fully online learning because of limited access to IT devices. The problem was a significant concern in schools with higher levels of Jersey Premium funding and English as an Additional Language. In the event of a future lockdown, sufficient resources need to be provided for pupils to access planned activities provided by schools online.
4. Secondary schools faced particular challenges because of the number of teachers usually working with multiple classes. The reopening of secondary schools was more affected by the scientific advice for maintaining social distancing, room sizes, group sizes, and restricting the numbers of pupils being taught in classrooms.
5. Schools addressed the challenges of providing online support to their pupils; however, there is still a need to provide more training for teachers. Also, 'blended learning' by schools (online and classroom learning) needs to be carefully considered so that the impact of disruptive schooling on different groups of pupils is minimised.
The report's conclusion recommends what needs to be done from Autumn 2020 by schools and CYPES in order to address the main concerns raised in this report.