Salma’s story: What is it like to conduct doctoral research during a pandemic?

Blog post by Salma Al Saifi, doctoral researcher at the School of Education, University of Bristol

The spread of the worldwide pandemic of Covid-19 with all the strict measures and restrictions applied to minimize its impact on people’s lives have posed a serious challenge to the conduct of my research project. For instance, conducting fieldwork such as interviews and classroom observations during such circumstances was problematic and challenging for me. (more…)

The effects of Covid-19 on pre-existing inequalities in the UK

Blog by Jáfia Naftali Câmara Doctoral Researcher, School of Education, University of Bristol

The Covid-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted not only lifestyle and work, but also how people access education and learning. The effects of Covid-19 on education have accentuated the inequalities already embedded within the UK’s education system and demonstrated the relationships between deep-rooted educational, systemic and economic inequalities.

Disadvantaged students, including refugees and asylum seekers living in Britain, face many barriers such as digital exclusion and food poverty. Poor immigrant children are also affected by immigration laws and procedures that exclude them from accessing vital services and support. In response to the effects of Covid-19, the UK government’s policy interventions have made centralised decisions enabling for profitable opportunities for education businesses and unsatisfactory support services for disadvantaged communities. (more…)

We need an evidence-based expert approach to the post-pandemic recovery of young people

Blog post by Patricia Broadfoot, University of Bristol; Roger Murphy, University of Nottingham

In December 2020, the Westminster government promised to set up an expert group to consider solutions to the huge variability of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on pupils’ educational experiences and progress. Two months later the Department for Education (DfE) announced that plans for this group had been scrapped. Instead, the DfE has appointed an education recovery commissioner to focus on so-called ‘learning loss’. Two successive children’s commissioners, the head of Ofsted and many others have expressed serious concerns about the current situation. There has also been widespread disagreement about the best strategies to employ and the resources required.

We need the best possible expertise to identify the issues that must be addressed if children are to flourish. We need experts to provide an integrated picture of the challenges that children face, and to suggest appropriate ways of addressing them. Without such expertise children could suffer lifelong impacts, as argued by two children’s commissioners and in a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (Sibieta, 2021). That report drew the following conclusions, which reflect our key concerns.

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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…)