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You are reading: The impact of ‘learning at home’ on the educational outcomes of vulnerable children in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic

Catherine Drane¹, Lynette Vernon² and Sarah O’Shea¹

¹National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education — Curtin University
²School of Education — Edith Cowan University

Executive Summary

This review provides an overview of current approaches to managing school closures as well as recent literature related to young people learning “outside of school”. A range of material has been drawn upon to both highlight the educational issues of this learning context, as well as the psychosocial and emotional repercussions. This summary literature review combines research on technology and learning, online learning and distance learning with very recent analysis of the educational impacts of COVID-19. Globally, while some countries have opted for a mass school shut-down, many schools remain open for more vulnerable students (UNESCO, 2020a). This “partial closure” is not only to enable learning in smaller targeted groups but also to offer a “safe” sanctuary for those who desperately need a regulated and secure environment including the provision of “free” hot food and
also, company.

In summary, currently within Australia if there were mass school closures there is potential for around four million students to be affected:

  • In 2019, there were 3,948,811 students enrolled in 9,503 schools, with 2,263,207 primary students and 1,680,504 secondary students.
  • If 20 per cent of these young people are living in financially disadvantaged or low socioeconomic status (SES) communities and are required to study off campus then around 800,000 will be subjected to a range of barriers and/or risks including:
    • long-term educational disengagement
    • digital exclusion
    • poor technology management
    • increased psychosocial challenges.

UNESCO (2020b) have developed 10 key recommendations to ensure that learning remains uninterrupted during the COVID-19 crisis (see Appendix One). There is global evidence of countries adopting, to some degree, at least seven of these recommendations during mass closures, which include:

  • examining the readiness of the school for closure (including the technology available)
  • ensuring distance learning programs aim for inclusivity
  • prioritising solutions to address psychosocial challenges before teaching
  • providing support to teachers and parents on the use of digital tools
  • blending appropriate approaches and limiting the number of applications and platforms used
  • developing distance learning rules and actively monitoring students’ learning process
  • creating communities that enhance connection.

Read the full report:

Drane, C., Vernon, L., & O’Shea, S. (2020). The impact of ‘learning at home’ on the educational outcomes of vulnerable children in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Literature Review prepared by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, Curtin University, Australia.

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