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Education insights: Childhood ‘schoolification’, lockdown language skills and exam uncertainty

With most children back to school, the ramifications of the pandemic has reared its ugly head with gaps in knowledge and skills amongst younger children becoming increasingly visible. This week’s news also explores the uncertainty of GCSE and A Level grades, with some schools across the country still tackling the fallout from the predicted grades fiasco last summer.

Call for more play time amid ‘schoolification’ of UK childhood

According to various education experts, we are seeing an increasing “scholarisation of childhood” as the focus shifts from free play in and out of school to more academic activities. There are calls for greater reflection on what childhood looks like, coupled with recognition of the importance of play to wellbeing, prompted by the pandemic’s continued disruption to normal life. The challenge here is that with many schools under pressure to catch up on perceived ‘lost learning’, how will play be prioritised?

Lockdowns hurt child speech and language skills

A new report suggests that lockdown has had an adverse effect on young children’s language skills. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) released findings from 50,000 pupils and a survey of schools across England to reveal that a number of four and five-year-olds required assistance with language. Of 58 primary schools surveyed across England:

  • 76% said pupils starting school in September 2020 needed more support with communication than in previous years
  • 96% they were concerned about pupils' speech-and-language development
  • 56% of parents were concerned about their child starting at school following the lockdown in the spring and summer

Whilst the longer term impact isn’t yet apparent, the findings show the importance of communicating at a young age when it comes to developing these skills. Whether making new friends in the playground, learning in the classroom or interacting with wider members of the family, the pandemic has sadly taken away these privileges for most children.

Appeals against 2020 grades stutter on eight months after fiasco

Some pupils and their families are still appealing teacher grades eight months after they were awarded last year. Next week, Ofqual is expected to announce how many appeals remain outstanding. Whilst Ofqual cautioned against a direct comparison, appeals increased to 2,215 last year from 745 in 2019. Following last year’s criticism surrounding the predicated grade algorithm, it will be interesting to see how this year’s results, which will be determined by teachers, will shape up.

GCSEs 2022: No 'leap back to normality' after pandemic

"There is no leap back to normality in 2022 or, for that matter, arguably in 2023, and the reason I would say that is, we’ve got a whole generation of students here who’ve been impacted by this pandemic, and we’ve got to think very carefully about doing the right thing by them.’ - Comments made by Colin Hughes, Head of AQA, on Wednesday.

Speaking at the Schools and Academies Show, Hughes’ comments echoed that of Ofqual interim chief regulator Simon Lebus, who questioned the return to the usual format of GCSEs and A levels in 2022. The pandemic has generated debate surrounding the most appropriate course of action for future exams. Whilst some have an appetite for exams to return to normal, some critics point out that the return to the exam format must be considered in the context of learning loss and disruption, as well as taking into consideration the results of this year’s cohort of students taking their respective assessments.

About the author

Richard Brown

Richard's clients include Barclays, Shell, Vodafone and Kellogg's. Richard graduated from the University of St Andrews with a 2:1 MA Honours in English and Modern History. Having guided hundreds of young people through the National Citizen Service, Richard joined Hopscotch in 2018 to develop education programmes that bolster the skills of young people both inside and outside of the classroom.

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