by Steve McCracken
There is always a silver lining to every situation, even if, at the time, it is completely unknown. For secondary school students throughout the country, particularly those embarking on exams, this current COVID-19 regional lock down is far from ideal. This lockdown has increased the pressure on staff and students to ensure individuals meet their potential and make 2020 a meaningful year. For students that are transitioning out of secondary school, this loss of face to face teaching and learning is significant.
At this time of year, schools are busy preparing students for their final examinations coming up in November. It’s a time for placing the final touches on any new and reinforcing existing learning. It’s a time for giving students a final nudge towards the finish line and the ever-looming exams. And, for many students who have heavy, portfolio-based workloads, it’s a time when effective feedback can be a make or break. This COVID lockdown could not have come at a worse time for students sitting examinations and expecting to pass NCEA in 2020. There is, however, a silver lining, and in this case, it is twofold. We have done lockdown before and slipping back into the online learning world was relatively straight forward for many. We are also incredibly fortunate to have an assessment system that is flexible and meets the needs of individual students and schools. It is very different from when I was at school, with a one-off exam at the end of the school year that determined if you passed or failed the year.
We are also hearing that the gap of inequity has widened through this lockdown. As schools resume and a second new normal begins, the challenge for all schools will be to advance those who have had the ability to complete online learning, whilst putting in remedial measures to catch up those who haven’t had the same opportunities. What is important for everyone to remember is that we are all in this together. All schools will be doing their absolute best to bridge the gap and extend those who need it.
Students who are about to embark on life beyond school have possibly suffered the most in this current lockdown. Many tertiary providers have required the completion of applications for courses and scholarships over this period, whilst being limited in capacity to provide the support required to successfully do this. Students who were planning to join the workforce have also been impacted, with the effects of COVID on small business having a flow-on effect to all employment, not just school leavers. The silver lining to that though is that, as some businesses struggle to survive, the opportunity for creativity and ingenuity has never been greater.
There is no doubt in my mind that lockdowns are incredibly challenging. We are all hoping these challenges are short lasting so that some sense of a new, version 2 normal can resume. For secondary school students, it’s more than wearing a mask to the supermarket; it’s their futures that are being impacted. We can sit and dwell, but now, more than ever, is an opportunity to use the flexibility in our education system, close the equity gap, and create and chase our dreams. As the COVID raincloud clears, the silver linings are the new and exciting opportunities ahead for all young people.