Talking about pandemic ‘learning loss’ is not helpful or accurate - Eisteddfod presentation

Homeschooling - reading together

Homeschooling - reading together

28 July 2022

Contrary to the often-used phrase ‘learning loss’, many Welsh school pupils benefitted from different learning experiences as they adapted to the change to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to research involving Aberystwyth academics.

The research, which was funded by the Welsh Government, is among a number of education-themed studies being presented at the National Eisteddfod in Tregaron on Monday 1 August.

‘Exploring the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Learners in Wales’ was conducted by a team of academics from the universities of Aberystwyth and Bangor and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

Prysor Mason Davies, Senior Lecturer in Education from Aberystwyth University, who was a co-investigator on the research, explained: 

“There is a risk that we stigmatise a whole generation as having suffered ‘learning loss’, when in fact this descriptor is neither helpful nor accurate.  Our research shows that overall the pandemic was a period of learning for all involved in education.  

“It is true that disadvantages experienced by the more vulnerable learners were exacerbated or made more evident by the pandemic school closures. Access to appropriate hardware, internet connectivity, the varying ability of parents and carers to be able to provide a supportive home learning environment, and challenges to maintaining access to specialist support services, did create barriers for learners.

“However, some learners flourished because of their greater independence, being able to work at their own pace, and with the support of their parents or carers. 

“Also, children involved in our research learned new skills during lockdown, such as wood chopping, bread making, gardening, cooking, and playing musical instruments.  Children learnt a lot on family walks - gaining knowledge of their local areas and habitats - or by taking part in home improvements.

“So rather than ‘learning loss’, perhaps it would be more appropriate to adopt the descriptor ‘curricular loss’, emphasising that pupils may not have achieved the specific learning goals set in the school curriculum.” 

The study made a number of recommendations to inform the immediate response of the education system and planning for any future disruption.  One recommendation was to enhance current provision in initial teacher education to better cover areas such as the home learning environment, home–school relationships, blended and distance learning, additional learning needs and mental health and wellbeing.

The discussion 'Education, time and place: Recent research on current issues in the world of education in Wales' will be led by researchers from the School of Education at Aberystwyth University at 2pm on Monday 1 August at the University’s stand (Stand M05)at the National Eisteddfod in Tregaron.

Information about other Aberystwyth University events at the Eisteddfod is available here.