Williamson, J., Suto, I., Little, J., Jellis, C., & Carroll, M. (2021) Learning during lockdown: How socially interactive were secondary school students in England? Research Matters: A Cambridge University Press & Assessment publication, 32, 22-44.
For countless students, national lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 caused serious upheaval in their education. Across England, decisions to close schools engendered much anxiety, as did Government expectations that most students continued their schooling from home. In addition to lost opportunities for learning and even loss of learning, students’ wellbeing was a significant concern for parents, teachers, and other stakeholders.
Students’ social interactions with their teachers, each other, family and friends are critical to both pedagogy and wellbeing. We report on a survey of over 600 secondary school students’ perceptions of the extent and nature of such interactions during England’s national lockdown in early 2021. We found that the activity types that occurred both within and outside of lockdown schooling changed markedly compared with during pre-pandemic schooling. Students reported spending less time interacting with their teachers and peers though whole class work, small group work, and pair work, and more time working independently. Over half of the students surveyed perceived working independently to be helpful or really helpful, apparently valuing the autonomy they had gained. Patterns of activity types for students who learned mostly or entirely at home were strikingly like those of students who continued to attend school during lockdown; the nature of face-to-face schooling appeared to have changed temporarily in the direction of remote schooling.