UNESCO Pandemic Summit
Churchill Academy & Sixth Form teacher Anne Graham attended a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) summit to explore the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic on education. Here is her report:
Recently I was privileged to give a UK perspective on the effect of the global pandemic on education. The Panel included school and university students and teachers, Heads and Vice Principals, paediatricians and psychologists from around the world. The first session focused on the implications of lockdown and supporting home education. Session 2 considered the impact on universities and then the reopening of schools, particularly the possible health and psychological implications of the pandemic on students, teachers and parents and innovative interventions to support them. With contributions from around the world timing was critical, ranging from 7.30 am in USA to 09:30 PM in Australia; I felt fortunate it live in the UK with a midday start.
The thing that struck me most was how similar all our issues were despite working in very diverse countries. Young people reacted in similar ways, dividing into those who fully engaged with learning and even viewed the extra time as an opportunity to develop a new skill, with many turning to music and art. The second group of students for a variety of reasons found it harder to take advantage of the work provided by schools. Teachers were struggling with Google Classroom and working long hours to provide resources and support for their students.
It made me grateful that we do not have the additional challenges that others face. The Headteacher in Hong Kong spoke of the effect of social unrest, a teacher in India spoke of the recent earthquake and that the monsoon rain which causes power cuts, interrupting phone calls and cutting off internet connections for online work. A teacher described how many villages in Kenya do not have any electricity let alone access to computers yet all are finding ways to continue educating their students.
The students of all ages; Y7 to post graduate spoke of the challenges and their worries but also of their greater appreciation of their teachers and all their support. They all missed their friends but felt they had developed greater resilience and become more independent learners.
International colleagues were very interested in Churchill Academy’s work to support students and staff returning to school and I was proud to share our model and philosophy which was positively received with great interest and may well be used in a number of countries. Actively sharing good practice is a very powerful tool to support education internationally.
There was considerable discussion about managing the return to schools with care and compassion whilst not underestimating young people’s resilience and resourcefulness and remembering the lessons learned following lockdown.
Covid -19 has brought the world together and reminded us of our humanity. As one of the students said ‘It has made me a stronger person, more adaptable, resilient and proactive and more appreciative of what freedoms we had before’.