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Schools will feel impact of COVID-19 in 2021 – ERO

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New reports published by the Education Review Office indicate the impacts of COVID-19 on learners will continue to be felt this year.

The newly released suite of ERO reports outlines the impacts of COVID-19 on the education sector and sets out lessons for how the sector can continue to support children, whanau, principals and teachers with the ongoing challenges of COVID-19.

“We know that schools and early learning services continued to see an ongoing impact of COVID-19 on students’ learning, engagement and wellbeing,” says Nicholas Pole, ERO chief executive.

“For example, only a quarter of NCEA students told us that they were coping with their schoolwork and many schools and services reported that COVID-19 has negatively impacted attendance.”

The research also shows that Auckland and schools serving the lowest socio-economic areas have been hit the hardest by the impacts of COVID-19 and are likely to face the greatest challenges this year.

Nearly 80 per cent of low decile schools told the ERO they were concerned about student achievement, with only a third of these schools confident their students would catch up.

“It’s important to recognize that students and children starting in services, schools and classrooms this year will not be where they would have been in previous years.

“Both their learning and wellbeing have been impacted. It is important that teachers understand where their learners are at, have good plans in place to support them and keep engaging with whanau. These reports provide guidance on how services and schools can do this.”

The reports show there has been a step change in the use of digital technology in the system, and teachers, schools and services intend to continue to use digital technology in their curriculum.

“This significant increase in use of technology to facilitate learning has been a real gain with regards to changing practice in 2020.

“Continuing to build on this integration of technology has the potential to further support and prepare the education sector for any further periods of change and ERO recommends schools and services be deliberate about their use of technology in teaching and ensure that effective strategies are put in place to address the needs of learners who do not have access to technology.

“We also saw schools and services go above and beyond to support their communities in 2020 and there was a big increase in whanau engagement in learning and strengthened relationships between teachers and whanau.

“Another key learning from these reports is that maintaining and building on these relationships with whanau has the potential to support attendance and is essential for preparing students for any future lockdowns or shocks as a result of COVID-19.”

With this research highlighting ongoing challenges for school and service leaders, ERO has identified practical actions that teachers, principals and leaders can take to support learning and engagement this year.

The reports also provide examples of good practice to provide schools and services with tools to expand their ongoing COVID-19 response.

In this suite of studies ERO has also produced a report looking specifically at the response of the Maori-medium sector to COVID-19.

“Our research in the Maori-medium space shows that the Maori-medium sector successfully joined forces with their communities to respond quickly to the many challenges presented by COVID-19 and went above and beyond for learners, whanau, hapu and iwi,” says Nicholas.

“Through high levels of shared responsibility, communication and collaboration across all levels of education, ERO saw supportive learning environments over lockdown and higher levels of learner and whanau engagement.

“There was also strong focus on supporting wellbeing and connectedness, which ensured an effective response from the sector to the diverse needs of all learners and their whanau.”

ERO’s findings also show Maori-medium learners were more engaged and more likely to experience wellbeing and continuity of learning when they had access to meaningful and differentiated learning experiences, when technology was accessible and used effectively, and when communities kept connected and upheld tikanga practices.

“For both English and Maori-medium education, we hope that this suite of reports provides examples of good practice and useful recommendations to help schools and services support students as they return this year,” says Nicholas.

“Finally, we hope that parents will also find these reports useful to help support their children to transition back to school.

“Moving into a new school year after the summer break can often be a hard time of transition, and this year will be particularly challenging as a result of the impacts of COVID-19. Understanding where your children are at and acknowledging that starting this year may differ from what we would usually expect will be particularly important.”

As the impacts of COVID-19 continues to be felt into 2021, ERO will continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on students and release further reports and resources to support schools and services.

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