Recovering from Covid-19: What Pupils and Schools Need Now - Policy Briefing

Caroline Sharp and Julie Nelson

14 July 2021

Though most pupils returned to school full time in March 2021, education was still profoundly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. This study provides insights into pupils’ and schools’ needs in summer 2021, based on in-depth interviews with senior leaders in 50 mainstream primary and secondary schools predominantly serving deprived populations across England.

Key Findings

  • Most senior leaders reported that some of their pupils were suffering from Covid-related anxiety and a substantial minority reported an increase in incidents of self-harm. The pupils most affected were already vulnerable (for example, due to family circumstances or special educational needs), but pupils not previously identified as vulnerable were affected too.
  • Senior leaders were not always able to get the support they needed from specialist services such as Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), speech and language and social services.
  • Most senior leaders said in-school social distancing measures were posing challenges to the quality of teaching and learning. For example, teachers were unable to provide immediate feedback on pupils’ work and pupils had limited enrichment, both within and outside the school day.
  • Schools were responding to pupils’ recovery needs in a variety of ways, including providing support for wellbeing alongside academic recovery.
  • The over-riding message from these school leaders is that they need the funding, support and autonomy to make decisions in the best interests of their pupils’ recovery. They want the Government to provide clear guidance on future plans for assessment and accountability, and to take urgent action to free up capacity in critical health and social services for children and their families.