Where to next? Schooling in a post COVID world
My prediction is that there will be a new enthusiasm for schools, but with a revaluing of the things they offer us as humans that go beyond the technical elements of learning. Dr John Tuckfield

As I write this we are in Level 4 Lockdown. The school is empty except for a couple of wifi-less teachers, and masked-up maintenance workers carrying out essential tasks. The classrooms that are normally humming, the grounds that are normally full of the happy noise of boys playing are all silent. Even the reception staff have admitted they miss the naughty boys who trigger the Roystead door to open and then run away (but don’t take that as license when school returns, chaps!). A school without people is a sad, depressing place.

And yet the gardens are bursting into full bloom: trees are in bud, flowers are appearing and green shoots can be seen everywhere. We are surrounded by signs of hope and the promise of a brighter future, and even the rise in temperature warms the heart. For some day this criss will be at an end. How will we look back at this period in our lives? As a horror show that we don’t even want to think about, or as the moment when everything changed?

The post-COVID education environment is far from certain. The crisis has caused major changes, but is not known what lasting effects these will have. Students have missed out on a face-to-face education, and some will have slipped behind where they would normally be; the next few years will be busy and hard, but I am confident that our students will be able to bounce back. This will mean hard work for teachers and students, but having experienced the absence of school, I think that all will be more appreciative of school when it returns.

For many industries, COVID will be a line in their history: pre and post COVID. Without a doubt the biggest change will be in remote working. Businesses have found that employees can work from home, and might need to come into the office only occasionally – or possibly never, with regular Zoom meetings. This has caused many companies to wonder why they are paying high real estate prices for offices in city centres when they might not really need them. For these businesses, COVID will be the time they realised that their workforce could work from home, and that the overheads of office space could be eliminated – or passed on to the employee to bear. The concentration of population in big cities that was the hallmark of the 20th century might start to retreat, with accompanying changes in the social structure of the country, reduced demand for infrastructure and environmental consequences. The shift to working from home has negatives, as humans miss out on the social interactions we gain from work, and the boundaries between work and private life start to disappear – but there is an economic gain that may well drive change.

What about schools? Schools, like many industries, are at a crossroad. The airwaves have been awash with webinars on the future of schooling, with many academics keen to leverage the changes we have seen. In particular there is increased enthusiasm for online learning to become a normal part of student learning. However, I think that this issue is much more problematic than some would have us believe. This article continues here in the latest edition of Spectemur.

Dr John Tuckfield

Director of the Murdoch Centre for

Educational Research and Innovation