Following a year of disrupted learning, the DfE (Department for Education) has released research showing levels of attendance in education during the coronavirus pandemic (the 2021/22 academic year) within England.
Findings have shown that 24% of schools were missing at least 15% of teachers, up from 18% at the start of term this year. The number of pupils missing school with Covid had also doubled, up from 159k to 322k in a fortnight.
Other key findings from the report include:
- Coronavirus related pupil absence in all state-funded schools was 5.1% on 20 Jan, up from 3.9% on 6 Jan.
- Attendance in all state-funded schools was 87.4% on 20 Jan, down from 88.6% on 6 Jan.
- As an estimate, 9.4% of teaching assistants and other staff were absent from open schools on 20 Jan (with 4.7% absent for Covid-19 related reasons), up from 8.9% on 6 Jan.
The government has asked schools to sign up to a daily attendance tracker trial which will collect real-time data from their registers to help address absences more quickly.
The new automated system may even replace other forms of attendance data collection if the trial is successful.
A hybrid solution
Simon Carter, director at edtech organisation RM Education, stressed the importance of ensuring teachers are equipped with the right tools and given the confidence to provide students with hybrid or virtual learning in light of the attendance findings:
“As it’s been two weeks since schools returned after the festive break, and the mood of the country is one of the ‘beginning of the end’ towards the pandemic, it is concerning to see that infections amongst school children remains at record levels. The numbers of students and teachers forced to spend time away from the classroom is growing – not falling – with the latest data showing over a million children and over 100,000 teachers and teaching assistants missing school. The positive news – however – is that schools, teachers and pupils are much better prepared than a year ago, with many already switching to teach and learn remotely, confidently to offer lessons and work collaboratively online.
“And although Covid restrictions are gradually being scrapped, this is in part possible because digital learning has become a key component of the education landscape. Educators should continue to build on the recent fast-tracked digital transformation work they put in place during lockdowns one, two and three, to ensure that education remains a constant for all. Key to this, it’s imperative school staff feel confident using the right mix of technology, first and foremost. That means ensuring that every teacher has a proper understanding of how best to use it. Last year, research by RM found that 51% of teachers felt they needed a greater understanding of this technology to achieve better learning outcomes. Only, then, with the right training and technology in place can teachers guarantee pupils will receive the same high quality teaching online and off.
“The reality is that no one knows exactly when cases will ease, and that means some form of hybrid learning – alongside continued training to get the best from this approach – must be woven into the curriculum permanently. Whether it’s to help provision for a flood or snow day, education can now remain consistent even when the rest of the world is in flux.”
Keys to educational success
A recent study from GoStudent found that:
- The majority of both parents (77%) and children (79%) in Britain believe the pandemic has posed significant educational and developmental challenges.
- 60% of parents feel learning gaps might continue into the new academic year.
- Only 67% of children preferred to learn in-person in a classroom, compared to online or a hybrid approach. 13% of children preferred online-only education. As such, there is scope for online experiences to be improved and modified, as there is an openness to this approach, when it is needed.
Felix Ohswald, CEO and co-founder of GoStudent, added: “One of the biggest keys to educational success is consistency. With The Department for Education reporting that 9% of teachers and one in 20 students were absent from school last week due to Covid, it is going to be challenging for schools to offer the stability that students need – particularly as these figures are unlikely to decrease in the immediate future.
“From our recent research we know that nearly four in five children in the UK felt that remote learning during the last academic year had negatively impacted their development, and it would be devastating to see these figures replicated. While in-person classroom learning is always the first choice, it may not be possible to offer this to every student right now.
“To ensure that children are able to properly catch up, the government needs to really support teachers and schools, and help them to provide a high quality digital education experience to students that are forced to stay home, and give teachers that are isolating the tools to deliver a truly meaningful remote lesson.”
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