SPI-B and DfE: COVID-19: Benefits of remaining in education – evidence and considerations, 4 November 2020 – GOV.UK
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Updated 26 October 2021
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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/spi-bdfe-covid-19-benefits-of-remaining-in-education-evidence-and-considerations-4-november-2020/spi-b-and-dfe-covid-19-benefits-of-remaining-in-education-evidence-and-considerations-4-november-2020
In this note, SPI-B and DfE have outlined the key evidence and considerations associated with the closure of schools. These have been grouped by theme:
a. Educational outcomes
b. Health, wellbeing and development
c. Vulnerable children and socioeconomic inequalities
d. Classroom learning outcomes versus remote learning
It is important to note that school closures cannot be understood in isolation and tend to be accompanied by other restrictions (for example mixing beyond school, cancellation of sporting activities) and increased pressure on households (for example parents working from home, financial pressures).
1. School closures put educational outcomes at risk, especially for disadvantaged students (High Confidence). Existing inequalities (High Confidence) and attainment gaps (Low to Medium Confidence) are already being exacerbated. Opportunities for early identification of emerging learning problems are also missed during school closures (High Confidence).
2. School closures cause impairment to the physical and mental health of children. Evidence suggests that the mental health of adolescents is particularly affected (High Confidence). Cognitive, social, and emotional developmental outcomes are also at risk (Medium Confidence) as is physical health (Low Confidence).
3. School closures have a particularly adverse impact on vulnerable children due to reduced access to essential services (High Confidence). Other lockdown-related stressors for children and parents, such as economic uncertainty, are also likely to be exacerbated (Medium Confidence).
4. Extended periods of remote learning can lead to poorer educational outcomes, although some sources suggest that in the short-term adverse outcomes may be limited (Low Confidence).
School closures put educational outcomes at risk, especially for disadvantaged students (High Confidence). Existing inequalities (High Confidence) and attainment gaps (Low to Medium Confidence) are already being exacerbated. Opportunities for early identification of emerging learning problems are also missed during school closures (High Confidence).
School closures cause impairment to the physical and mental health of children. Evidence suggests that the mental health of adolescents is particularly affected (High Confidence). Cognitive, social, and emotional developmental outcomes are also at risk (Medium Confidence) as is physical health (Low Confidence).
School closures cause deterioration in children’s mental health[footnote 1]. Even before lockdown, mental health problems and self‐harm were increasing in young people. Recent NHS data found that rates of probable mental health disorders have increased amongst 5 to 16 year olds since 2017, rising from 1 in 9 in 2017 to 1 in 6 (16%) in July 2020. Increases were greatest amongst 5 to 10 year olds (53%) compared with a 40% increase amongst 11 to 16 year olds[footnote 5]. Evidence suggests adolescents are particularly negatively affected by school closures, as are vulnerable children, those with particular conditions (for example autism), children in care and those with probable mental disorders1,[footnote 5]. A number of studies have reported that increases in anxiety and depression symptoms are greater amongst black, Asian and minority ethnicity (BAME) heritage young people[footnote 6],[footnote 7]. Failures to positively support psychological wellbeing are likely to have longer term negative implications for child development[footnote 8],[footnote 9]. Further data illustrating of the impact of school closures on the mental health of children are outlined below.
School closures have a particularly adverse impact on vulnerable children due to reduced access to essential services (High Confidence). Other lockdown-related stressors for children and parents, such as economic uncertainty, are also likely to be exacerbated (Medium Confidence).
Extended periods of remote learning can lead to poorer educational outcomes, although some sources suggest that in the short-term adverse outcomes may be limited (Low Confidence).
It is not clear that online interactions make up for the social isolation and lack of face-to-face interactions resulting from school closures. Data from the Co-SPACE study found that over 80% of children and 40% of adolescents had not communicated with friends via social media in the previous week during the first lockdown when schools were closed, indicating marked reduction in social contacts[footnote 33].
International evidence for primary and secondary schools suggests an extended period of remote learning is likely to result in poorer educational outcomes, particularly for early-years children, students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, those with English as a second language, those with special learning needs, and students who are generally less engaged with school, though data is limited and varied.
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