The last 2 years have been a whirlwind in schools and especially in the classroom. As an Assistant Head teacher and class teacher of Politics and psychology it has been an interesting 2 years, on the one hand providing interesting case studies for my politics and psychology students and on the other hand proving enormous challenges for young people parents and the teams of people running the institutions called schools. A few points to mention in particular are below, just observations but certainly ones to watch out for over the years. What will the long-term impacts be in terms of neuroscience:
- All schools spent significant amounts of time in year “bubbles” avoiding contact with other year groups meaning horizontal relationships and peer hidden curriculum learning was limited to nearly nothing.
- Blended Learning became a “thing” meaning online and classroom teaching were performed simultaneously. Definitely a steep learning curve for teaching staff but it certainly highlighted the huge disparity of IT knowledge of both staff and students. Also the huge discrepancy between those that have access to sophisticated IT facilities and those that don’t. Interesting to see the cognitive impact of this.
- Exams were obviously cancelled and now they are back with us, WOW!! So far exam anxiety levels have never been so high with students having not sat any public exams for nearly 3 years now being asked to invest their entire future on a system they have little knowledge of but are very worried about. Schools are certainly struggling to cope with the increase in demand for access arrangements and of course counselling for those in real need.
- Masks, hand sanitizers and the 2-metre rule are everywhere, aside from the impact on the microbiome and exposure to common germs there has certainly been an increase in students concerns over so called “sterile” environments. More deep concerns expressed by students over “germs” being everywhere is certainly something that will have some sort of longer-term psychological impact.
- Physical contact has really been limited from consoling hugs given to students who are bereaved or struggling to high fives and fist pumps to those that are doing incredible things. A school population of young people and adults devoid of physical contact has been produced. What are the cognitive impacts of this?
- Finally staff and I mean all staff from Head teachers to cleaners in schools, the impact on all has yet to be assessed but anecdotally there are problems, feeling that the society seems to see education almost as child care for the working population that they are under appreciated and their professionalism is undervalued. Coping with some of the new psychological traumas and physical problems that arose whilst the rest of society was focussed on treating covid. The impact on staff psychology has yet to be assessed but I suspect it will have had a deep impact in a variety of different ways.
We are still not close to being back to normality, but I can say that it has been an eye-opening experience. As someone who is deeply interested in cognition, educational neuroscience, and psychology it is probably a once in a lifetime opportunity to test, monitor and reflect. Let’s watch this space whilst we survive the next few covid related months. Join Learnus and join us on this journey.
Jeremy Dudman-Jones is Assistant Headteacher at Greenford High School, Middlesex