NSN Director responds to NFER report on pupil engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic

Following the release of Pupil Engagement in Remote learning, published by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER). NSN Director Unity Howard comments on the report’s findings.

“The findings of this report confirm our fears that school closures have disproportionately impacted children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“According to the report, just under a third of pupils from a deprived school have returned their last piece of set work, in comparison to their peers in more affluent areas where around 49% of pupils have submitted work.

“Teachers have reported that over half of pupils who are vulnerable, children with special educational needs, and those who receive free school meals are less engaged while studying at home. Approximately 23% of their pupils have limited access to the internet or a device at home, while 27% of children state that they have to share a device with a family member. On top of this, children from a deprived area are less likely to receive help in their studies from a family member.

“These findings serve as a further wake up call about the impact of COVID-19 on this generation of children. Schools, local authorities and the Government need to urgently reassess how learning can be facilitated remotely to all pupils.

“Across all age groups, school leaders estimate between 29-37% of pupils are not engaging in set work at all. It is clear that a national, one-size-fits-all policy to get pupils learning at home does not exist. The Government must give schools autonomy to engage with local initiatives, with support from the Department for Education. Long-term, it must be made easier for local communities to set a free school – where disadvantaged pupils perform better than in any other type of state school – so the legacy of COVID-19 in their area can be addressed.

 “Unless we take urgent action the attainment gap will continue to increase and years of brilliant work from school leaders will go to waste. More importantly, the prospects for a generation of children could be wiped out.”

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