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Primary schools invited to take part in University of Cambridge study on impact of Covid-19 on learning

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Primary schools in Cambridgeshire have been invited to join a University of Cambridge study exploring how Covid-19 has affected pupils’ wellbeing and learning.

Run by the Faculty of Education, the The Cambridge Ambassadors for Pupil Wellbeing Project aims to understand the coping mechanisms children have developed, the pandemic’s impact on their feelings and how they function, and the implications for supporting their progress during the academic year.

A boy learning at home
A boy learning at home

Primary schools and Year 5 pupils are now invited to participate. A phase focusing on secondary schools will follow.

Participating schools will receive detailed reports and recommendations about pupils’ wellbeing, the pandemic’s impact on their relationships, life satisfaction and flourishing, their psychological coping strategies and their learning mindsets and goals.

Pupils will get free progress tests in English and maths to help teachers gauge where they are in their learning, and schools will be given a detailed report and analysis of the results.

A pilot held during lockdown with 32 primary pupils and 132 secondary students suggested there were considerable developmental differences.

Primary-age pupils often resorted to ‘wishful thinking’ that the pandemic had never happened or that they could turn back time, while teens in Key Stage 4 adopted strategies that involved resignation to the reality of the situation, social withdrawal and seeking distractions.

Both groups engaged in ‘cognitive restructuring’ to cope, meaning they tried to turn negative thoughts into positives.

Tania Clarke, the project’s lead researcher, said: “Building on the methods used during the pilot phase, our aim now is to sample a wider range of pupils and expand the findings. In particular, listening to children’s accounts of their own experiences is vital.

“There is clearly a connection between how young people have handled the pandemic and its impact on their learning, and we need to understand this more so that schools are able to give appropriate support to pupils in changed circumstances that nobody would have expected a few months ago.

“Our project is timely as, even pre-Covid, the UK government had long recognised the need for a broader concept of education, which includes children’s wellbeing.

“The government’s introduction of new statutory mental and emotional wellbeing components as part of the PSHE curriculum in primary and secondary schools is testament to this shift.

“During our pilot we worked closely with Cathy Murphy – the PSHE lead at Cambridgeshire PSHE Service – to design wellbeing workshops for primary and secondary pupils, which are planned to be delivered in schools in spring 2021.”

Participating schools, which could also come from Peterborough or London, will need to complete a 30-minute questionnaire, while Year 5 pupils will need to complete two 60-minute standardised tests, in English and maths.

There will be an opportunity to take part in wellbeing workshops in 2021.

For details on taking part, Tania Clarke at tc409@cam.ac.uk.

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