The Knowledge

Research: So…what has the pandemic changed?

As teachers prepare to start enjoying their holidays again, Iain Ford delves into Teacher Tapp research to pick out the silver linings from the past two years

As teachers prepare to start enjoying their holidays again, Iain Ford delves into Teacher Tapp research to pick out the silver linings from the past two years

11 Jul 2022, 5:00

It’s not been a simple few years, has it?

Having swept across the globe many times over, the pandemic appears to be rearing its head once again. Alongside growing domestic and international uncertainty, it continues to dominate headlines, and not least in the education press as schools struggle through ongoing disruption to attendance and exams and focus their efforts on mitigating learning loss.

Amid the noise, it can be difficult to see the smaller, positive changes that have occurred in that time. Two and a half years is a long time, and lots has changed. Not all of these changes are because of the pandemic, and even among those there is plenty to celebrate. So for my last article of the school year, I wanted to end on a high and focus on the silver linings that may have gone unnoticed in this tumultuous period.

At Teacher Tapp, we’ve been tracking a wide range of aspects of school life before, during and as we learn to live with Covid. So we have dug into our archives, and re-asked lots of questions to our 8,000-strong teacher panel to see what’s changed. Here’s a round-up of a few quirks and oddities we’ve noticed.

Greater awareness of mental health

Video calls opened windows into colleagues’ lives that some had never seen before. This window also opened people up, leading to more conversations about self than before. The pandemic encouraged people to talk about mental health ̶ and it appears to have had an effect on schools too.

In the pre-pandemic days of 2018, just 42 per cent of teachers reported that they were encouraged to speak openly about their mental wellbeing in their schools. Today, that number has risen to 65 per cent. In fact, headteachers appear to be actively encouraging this, with 98 per cent of heads saying such conversations are encouraged.

This marks good progress, but there is still some way to go. While 43 per cent of teachers say their school has a mental health policy (up from 23 per cent in 2018), almost one in three teachers didn’t know! So, if you’re a headteacher who has one and have any reason to suspect some or all of your staff may not be aware of it, a reminder won’t go amiss!

More relaxation about exams?

This year we’ve said goodbye to TAGs and CAGs thanks to the return of exams. Only time will tell how effective the government’s halfway-house approach will be in awarding grades. But despite this year being the first cohort of students since the pandemic to face exams, teachers appear more relaxed than previously.

On average, teachers thought that a student should do between one and two hours of revision per day in the Easter holidays, dramatically less than when asked in 2018! Back then, teachers thought they should do between three and four hours per week. And this is in spite of Easter being almost two weeks later this year.

Something has changed ̶ but we’re not sure what. One reason may be because more teachers said they comfortably completed their GCSE course this year than back in 2019 – 43 per cent in 2022 compared with 32 per cent two years ago. It’s not implausible that the advanced information released by exam boards helped in this regard

Holidays to look forward to again!

While some things have changed, others are now (thankfully) back to normal. After two years of disrupted summer breaks and limited opportunities for holidays, it appears that teachers’ ability to rest has returned. This year, 35 per cent of teachers say they have already booked a summer holiday to go abroad ̶ the same percentage as in 2019.

So as the summer term draws to a close, here’s hoping teachers and school leaders get their well-earned breaks. Flight cancellations remain a possibility, but even if you don’t get above the clouds, there are plenty of silver linings to admire from your deckchair.

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