Covid learning losses: Schools will need extra teachers and funding for some time, inspectors say

SCHOOLS will continue to need additional teachers and funding to help students make up for losses suffered during Covid, Department of Education inspectors have signaled.

The gaps have not yet been quantified, but inspectors have no doubts about the long-term impact of the pandemic disruption on children’s learning and overall development.

Covid learning losses were raised in Chief Inspector Harold Hislop’s regular report.

It covers the period from September 2016 to December 2020 and also takes into account the impact of Covid since the end of 2020.

The report provides an overview of the quality of education in schools and other institutions, supported by nearly 10,000 inspections and other work.

While it indicates an overall high quality of teaching and learning, it also highlights problem areas, including Irish language learning in English-speaking primary schools.

Regarding Covid, inspectors warn that in some cases there may even be a slowdown or reversal in progress towards students in Deis schools that serve disadvantaged communities.

“A similar effect is also possible for pupils/students with special educational needs and those who need therapeutic support.

“These kinds of effects are likely to persist for some time, at least for some students.”

Inspectors say another vulnerable group are students, who have developed additional needs during Covid because they have isolated themselves from friends and their motivation to study has been diluted without the personal encouragement and support of teachers.

It has “prompted some students to restore the disrupted routines and norms,” ​​the report said.

There has been additional support in schools since September 2020, including a catch-up program called CLASS launched in 2021, but there is – at least not yet – a government commitment to continue this.

An influx of children from Ukraine into primary and secondary schools will further increase the demand for additional resources.

The report predicts that some erosion of students’ overall educational achievement will be evident in national and international research reports due to be published later this year and next.

But the inspectors are also addressing the impact of the pandemic on other aspects of young people’s development.

“There is evidence, for example, that the early language development of children, students; students’ social and emotional skills and well-being were impaired,” the report said.

It also refers to the negative impact on the “normal development and maturation that we expect in students’ ability to engage in learning”.

According to inspectors, the impact of Covid has been unevenly experienced, with students most at risk of educational disadvantage being disproportionately affected.

The report notes that no decision has been made on further levels of teacher assignments and that schools’ funding will be improved beyond the current school year.

It adds: “The long-term impact of Covid-19 on student learning, and particularly the learning of disadvantaged and at-risk learners, remains another factor to consider when staffing and finding schools.”

Among the report’s findings is that inspectors rate teaching and learning as very good or good in 85 to 86 per cent of primary schools and less than satisfactory in about 3 per cent of cases.

At the post-primary level, overall teaching and learning was rated as high, being described as good or very good in 90 to 92 per cent of schools and less than satisfactory in just over 1 per cent of inspections.

In general, they reported a need for more active and collaborative learning activities and greater use of assessment strategies to ensure students reflect on their own learning.

The report also raises questions about the voluntary school board system, saying a more effective and sustainable approach is needed.

Mr Hislop said the inspections had shown that there were “many strengths in the Irish education system”.

Welcoming the report, Education Secretary Norma Foley said the report sets out the areas where further initiatives and support are needed to make improvements. She said data from these reports would and would continue to influence the department’s plans. Covid learning losses: Schools will need extra teachers and funding for some time, inspectors say

Fry Electronics Team

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