COVID-19, education and the immediate policy response

Post written by Victoria Bowen, PhD Researcher in Education, University of Bristol.

On 12th March 2020, the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak to be a pandemic.  What followed this announcement was to become the largest global disruption to education in history.  1.6 billion learners in 190 countries were affected, as nations implemented regional lockdowns and school closures to curtail the spread of COVID-19 (UN, 2020).  Since then, as the virus circulated widely in society across the globe, school closures have been implemented nationally, regionally, locally, and reactively based on infection rates.  This article follows on from my presentation on ‘COVID-19, school closures and inequality’ at the TLC roundtable event (March 2021).  It summarises the immediate education policy response relating to COVID-19 in English schools. (more…)

No education, no protection

Blog post No protection, no education by Leanne CameronBlog by Leanne Cameron, School of Education. Originally published by Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

In April 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, UNESCO estimated that more than 1.5 billion children and youth – nearly 90% of students worldwide – were out of school, disrupting the academic progress and social and emotional development that education provides. For nearly a year now, with schools closed across the world in response to the pandemic, many children and young people have traded classroom desks for kitchen tables.

For many millions, however, the reality of COVID-19 related school closures has been far less comfortable, leaving them unable to continue their education and exposing them to increased risk of exploitation and abuse. For children and young people in crisis-affected, post-crisis, and refugee hosting countries, school closures compound the risks and harm they already face from the effects of the crisis around them. (more…)

‘The significant return to normality’: Back to school in England, but who is missing?

Blog post by Lucy Wenham, University of Bristol  Iqra Din, School of Education, University of Bristol  Liam Eaves, School of Education, University of Bristol

As part of the gradual lifting of lockdown measures in England, following the ‘second wave’ of the Covid-19 pandemic here, schools reopened wholesale on the 8 March 2021. For many parents and their children, the return to a semblance of educational normality is accompanied by a sigh of relief.

Our research (EBI, 2020), which is currently exploring the experience of 65 families resisting the return to school and is drawn from reflective surveys and interviews, indicates that this sense of relief is far from universal. Indeed, for some parents, the expectation that all children will return to school is not only unwelcome, it also brings deep unease, pressure and worry. Over 1 billion students have been out of school as a result of similar national school closures across 134 countries over the past year (UNICEF, 2020). As schools reopen, similar concerns are likely to resonate across the globe. (more…)

Mental health during a global pandemic

Claire Plews, EdD student, School of Education, University of BristolBlog post by Claire Plews, EdD Student, School of Education, University of Bristol.

Claire is an EdD student at the School of Education, interested in researching the experiences of counselling students in HE training.  She is a HE lecturer for a counselling degree training programme in the UK, has worked in mental health for 20 years and is interested in the use of compassion and mindfulness in therapy. 

To be betwixt and between a global pandemic and ‘normal’ life undoubtedly has the potential to greatly impact on daily life and our mental health.

How interesting and difficult it has been to observe the mental health journey of others whilst navigating my own during this last year!  Most of us have been coerced into a period of self-reflection on what does and does not help us keep mentally well and coping. It has been the best of times and the worst of times and the end is not in sight just yet.

Here are a few themes that have come out of my observations of working with clients, students and my own research and experiences this year and a suggestion of what we can do to help our mental health during the pandemic. (more…)

COVID-19 school closures are threatening children’s oral language skills: but whole-school based interventions could help

Dr Ioanna BakopoulouOral language skills are critical for learning, and they matter now more than ever, writes Dr Ioanna Bakopoulou, SoE, University of Bristol

Capabilities such as vocabulary knowledge, narrative skills and active listening are foundational for young children’s learning. Developed both at home and in school, these capabilities are known as oral language. Oral language is essential for young children’s learning, in particularly their literacy development and their ability to access the curriculum.

Oral language skills have always mattered, but they matter now more than ever. (more…)

Reflections on Blended Learning

Mark Neild  blog by Mark Neild, EdD student, SOE, University of Bristol

This article is a personal reflection on the best and worst of blended learning from the perspective of a senior lecturer in innovation and entrepreneurship teaching a unit with 35 and another with 160 students, who is also a student at the School of Education.

The positives of online learning

In some ways the forced move to “blended learning” has enabled us to accelerate a move towards the “flipped classroom” in which students consume prepared material individually and come together for “meaning making” through shared dialogue. One advantage of individual consumption is that students can learn at their own pace, stop and rewind in a way impossible with a real time “lecture”. This has benefits for interactivity, particularly for students whose first language is not English.  Such “asynchronous” interaction allows those who (for whatever reason) process new information more slowly to still engage in online discussions rather than missing out because by the time they are ready to contribute, the discussion has moved on. We have also been able to invite visiting experts for 20-minute guest Q&A sessions without the need for hours of travelling and recorded some great guest interviews.  The weekly outline for our unit of 160 students looked like this. (more…)

Painful Endings, New Beginnings

Dr Zibah Nwako

Blog post by Dr Zibah Nwako School of Education, University of Bristol

Having recently completed my studies during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been thinking a lot about managing life within these confines and how it affects my career aspirations. It’s one thing to shut one door and try to open another one in normal circumstances, but given the pressures of today’s uncertain world, these endings and beginnings are an entirely different challenge.

Whether it’s to do with our work, relationships, health, finances – some of us may have been standing at a crossroads for a while, seeking answers, wondering which direction to turn or even grasping at what we believe to be opportunities but are not quite in tune with what we desired or envisaged. This can be quite an uncomfortable, even painful, in-between place to be. If you are in this space, please know that you are not alone. (more…)

Children’s reflections on home education during the COVID-19 pandemic: Implications for the return to school

Claire LeeDr Lucy WenhamBlog post by Claire Lee and Lucy Wenham, School of Education, University of Bristol

As school leaders plan the return to school following the global pandemic, it is crucial that their educational decisions are informed by research into the everyday realities of enforced home learning for children. Much research attention until now has focused, importantly, on lost learning and widening inequalities (e.g. Andrew et al., 2020; Green, 2020). (more…)

Mirror Mirror on the wall. Who, is the fairest of them all?


Jessie AbrahamsDr Jessie Abrahams (Lecturer in Education and Social Justice, School of Education, University of Bristol)

As results time for the COVID cohort hits, and anxiety mounts for young people, the four nations of the UK have begun a worrying battle to prove that their system of allocated grades as a substitute for summer examinations is the fairest of them all. In reality- none of them are fair. As many academics have already exclaimed, they are all set up (much like our whole education system), in favour of white, middle (and upper) class pupils and families (see for example: Ingram, 2020). (more…)

Chart toppers from School of Education Summer 2020

By Helen Aberdeen,  Director of the Document Summary Service

Greetings from my local café in Bristol, which I can now frequent to have a change of scene. The music is a little too loud, and I am slightly distracted by 3 ladies at the next table (over 2 metres away) discussing mortgages, but it is an otherwise pleasant environment in which to write a blog post.

A couple of weeks ago, we finished our rollercoaster year here at the Bristol University School of Education where I work as subject coordinator on the MFL PGCE course. We celebrated with our student teachers via a Zoom meeting with quizzes, films and awards. I the won prize for the worst Spanish accent – always good to be reminded of one’s weaknesses.  Like many of you in education, we are now embarking on planning an autumn term programme amidst ongoing uncertainty. (more…)