Blog 35: Irish students’ reflections on the impact of COVID-19 on their transitions

By Colette Moran

 

It is indisputable that the Covid-19 school closures and subsequent lockdowns have had a significant impact on young people in Ireland. Children have missed many significant milestones including communions, confirmations and graduations. This period has been particularly difficult for children who are transitioning from primary to secondary level education as they have missed the rites of passage typically associated with this transition. However, it is unfair to assume that any transition young people face is entirely negative, and as the results of our survey have shown, many students have been able to identify both positive and negative experiences as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions.

 

School Completion Programme’s Covid-19 Impact Survey

A survey to explore students’ experiences of school closures due to Covid-19 was conducted by the School Completion Programme in order to help us meet the needs of the young people we engage with. Based in Dublin’s North Inner City, we work across a cluster of nine schools; six primary and three secondary schools. In order to meet the emerging needs for students effectively, we needed to understand what these needs are, and this was why the Covid-19 impact survey was created. The results of the survey informed the development of our Covid-19 transition support programme which was delivered across a number of schools to support students to transition back to traditional face-to-face teaching. We received a total of 85 responses from six of the nine schools in our cluster; five primary and one secondary school.

 

Happy/unhappy?

What emerged from the responses was a myriad of experiences resulting from the school closures. The majority of students reported feeling upset or unhappy about the school closures. However, some students reported feeling happy about school closing, and preferred learning remotely and managing their own time. Many students expressed they found remote learning difficult, and struggled with missing the social aspects of school such as being able to ask questions and see friends at break times. Although many students expressed a preference for face-to-face teaching, more than half of students felt they had adapted well to online learning. For some students, keeping in touch with their peers was only possible through online schooling, which may have led to increased feelings of isolation during school holidays when lockdowns were still in place.

 

Perception of time

A number of students reported a difference in their perception of time, feeling they had more time each day to spend with family and exercise, among other past times. Around 1 in 5 of students reported feeling not having to be up as early in the morning as a positive part of school closing, while others enjoyed not having to wear a school uniform each day. A number of students reported getting more sleep during the lockdowns as something they were enjoying about being at home more. These responses are relevant to the ongoing debate around whether later school start times can improve wellbeing and educational outcomes in schools.

 

Activities

Students reported enjoying a wide range of activities at home during the school closures, some of which were new hobbies started during the lockdowns, including baking, cooking, cycling, drawing, writing, art, learning an instrument  and reading. However, students also reported missing the social aspect provided by sports and youth clubs during the lockdown. Many young people reported exercise as a way of looking after their mental health during the school closures, and mentioned a number of forms of exercise including walking, cycling, dancing, yoga and football.

 

Time of reflection

The lockdowns appeared to be a time of reflection for many young people. When asked what they had learned from the experience; students reported being more aware of how quickly things can change, and the importance of being grateful and not taking things for granted. Some students said they had learned to appreciate their friends and family more during lockdown, while others reported learning how important school is.

 

Full results

If you would like to read the full report on our survey findings, please click here Covid-19 Impact Survey – Blog

 

Acknowledgements

I would like to sincerely thank all of the schools who distributed the survey amongst their students and encouraged them to take part. Many thanks also to each and every student who took the time to share their experiences with us.

 

Colette Moran is currently a student on the Professional Doctorate programme at the University of Dundee. She has worked across a variety of sectors in Ireland including teaching, early years, disability support services and mental health support services. She currently works with the School Completion Programme Dublin 1 & 7 providing support to students deemed as being at risk of early school leaving. She has a particular interest in educational transitions, cultivating resilience in students, and supporting students with additional learning needs.

 

Image copyright: Divya Jindal-Snape

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.