Following the government’s announcement that a national lockdown will proceed due to the ongoing pandemic, schools across the UK are forced to close.
Just four days into the new year, Boris Johnson declared that the increase in COVID-19 cases will result in a one month national lockdown. This means that schools will have to close so as a result, students and teachers will have to partake in online learning; But how exactly will this affect education across the country?
The UK has already experienced a period of online learning in the Summer term of 2020. This was the first time schools, teachers and pupils had to adjust to a new method of education. Now, from January up until the February half term, the UK will resume digital learning, uncertain of when schools can open again.
While for some, learning via video calls and other communication is simple and favourable, others prefer regular school. A 15 year old student from Hampton School, South West London, commented, “I prefer on-site schooling as opposed to online learning as a more relaxed and genuinely more enjoyable learning atmosphere is created through being with your friends.”
He continued, “however, this is not possible through digital education and, although you may keep in touch with your friends via social media, it doesn’t help to produce the same learning experience throughout the course of a day during which you are able to talk with your friends in person, on a somewhat regular basis.”
Despite online school lacking face to face communication which enhances students’ learning, it provides its benefits towards a pupil’s education in a different way. “I find doing work easier via online school because I can usually go at my own pace and have all the work on offer to do when I feel able to,” says Henry Hughes, 14, student at Hampton School. This raises an argument that learning online may have benefits which outweigh its disadvantages as some students exceed when having the freedom of learning and working in their own time.
However it isn’t just the pupils who are affected by the closure of schools, Mr Green, teacher at Hampton School says, “it is no substitute for face to face contact and, as a teacher, it feels much more difficult to get a sense of how everyone is working, who is struggling, who needs pushing a little harder and who needs to be refocused.”
He continues, “even more than the academic side of things, the current reliance on online learning emphasises the broader life skills that are gained from being in a school environment, learning to work with and around other people.”
So to summarise, whilst virtual learning can bring specific benefits such as increased productivity and focused education, it cannot fully compensate for physical learning in a classroom. It is highly subjective to the student, some thrive in the comfort of their home whereas other lack the structure of the schooling environment.