Digitalisation of schooling: Balancing young people’s education and their wellbeing

Andrea Greystoke, founder of Abercorn, a family of schools in central London, comments on the need for face-to-face education in the remote learning era

As children across the UK find themselves adjusting to new Covid measures in schools on return from the Christmas holidays, we must do everything possible to ensure that schools can open remain open to prevent further social and educational suffering for children.  

At Abercorn School, we quickly and successfully adapted to online learning throughout the pandemic to ensure a quality learning experience for our pupils during periods of school closures, but I believe that classroom-based learning remains the best environment for children’s personal development and wellbeing. Technology assists but is no substitute for the impact of a talented teacher physically present. 

Covid-19 has had and continues to have a detrimental effect on the livelihood of many, and young people, who have faced continued disruption to their education, have been hit particularly hard. The disruption to education has undoubtedly led to learning losses, which many are calling the ‘Covid gap’, across the country, but the pandemic has also had a huge impact on children’s wellbeing and has “made child misery endemic”, according to a recent Ofsted Annual Report published in December 2021. 

I believe that happiness is an essential pre-requisite to the acquisition of knowledge – academic excellence and personal wellbeing go hand in hand. As quickly as most schools around the country adapted to online learning, for many children it was not a comfortable experience, and at best a considerable inconvenience for their parents. We must also remember that not all households have adequate or any internet resources, and therefore were not able to access education at all. The pandemic can no longer interfere with the vital learning and development of the future leaders of our world.   

Pupils learn best in the classroom with face-to-face, on-site education. Learning in a structured, supportive, safe and above all enjoyable schooling environment is essential to help nurture happy, successful individuals who are well prepared for the real world. Activities like sports are, of course, also best enjoyed in person in the company of school friends, while they also help to keep children active and healthy, both mentally and physically.  

That said, the pandemic has certainly fast-tracked elements of the digitalisation of schooling and induced positive changes which will remain in place to afford more flexibility for pupils and parents. At Abercorn, we will now offer online learning for pupils who would like to continue the Abercorn journey, but aren’t able to attend in person, for instance, if they travel with their parents frequently.  

Additionally, the introduction of Zoom meetings with parents has proved popular, particularly for those with busy schedules. Many parents have commented on the convenience of Zoom meetings over in person meetings, so this is something that we will continue to offer at Abercorn. These digital changes will certainly benefit some pupils and parents for the better but resorting totally to remote learning again should be a last resort. 2022 cannot be yet another year of disrupted learning. Keeping schools open will protect our future.

You might also like: 79% of children feel remote learning has disrupted their education

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