Pandemic’s Impact on Education Laid Bare

School children leaving Year 6 in the year after the first lockdown saw a drop in their literacy rates.

Education Minister Julie Edge was asked by Daphne Caine (Garff) about a post-pandemic decline amongst Year 6 students before they went to high school.

Ms Edge said that due to a combination of the pandemic and industrial action, the department didn’t have figures for the school year 19/20, the year which would’ve been most affected given the long lockdown period in the spring of 2020. 

However, they did have figures for 2020/21, during which time schools were of course closed by two subsequent shorter lockdowns. 

Ms Edge said that compared to 2018/19, 2020/21 saw a 10.6% drop in the expected levels for speaking and listening, 10.3% for reading and 13.3% for writing. That same period saw a drop in the number of students exceeded the expected levels of 19.3% in speaking and listening, 7.7% in reading and 17.3% in writing.

The Minister said: ‘Schools and the department are aware of the impact of these figures on future pupil outcomes and we are working with schools to ensure that measures are taken to narrow the gaps. Schools are best placed to decide on the most appropriate interventional support and this will vary depending on the context and need.

‘This may take the form of specific interventions, matched carefully to the identified needs of the pupil and will be delivered by appropriately skilled adults with results monitored carefully.’

The work to help children catch up will include working with a strategy group to ensure children get the help they need.

Cold Hard Cash

Responding to the answers, Mrs Caine said that ‘across the board, there seems to be a reduction in attainment’ at the end of Year 6 and asked if the island will follow the approach in England of further investment in per-pupil spending and a £30,000 starting salary for new teachers. She asked: ‘What hard cash is the department putting in to invest in our young people?’

The UK scheme has now been pushed back at least a year to 2024.

Ms Edge said that the department was working towards the best outcomes for all students regardless of age and would be doing so within current budgets. 

She added: ‘With regards to additional funding, I am working with the Treasury on ensuring that there is a full funding review to make sure that the funding is appropriate for the department. In regards to catch up, I hope we don’t become the catch-up generations, we, as a department are looking at the best way forward and working with our schools and school leaders to deliver that.’

Catch Up

Dr Michelle Haywood noted that a recent report in the UK said children going to primary school were lacking in communication skills, which some have blamed on mask-wearing. The Rushen MHK said while the DESC Minister didn’t want this to be the ‘catch up generation’, Dr Haywood said ‘we are indeed in the catch-up generation’ and warned it would work right through education. 

Ms Edge said the gov was ‘doing our utmost’ for the best outcome for all students and that the new childcare strategy would help to improve education amongst young children on the island.