To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the effect of the changes in the way education is delivered in schools on children's (a) ability to learn, (b) mental health and (c) satisfaction with their schooling; and if he will make a statement.
Understanding the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on attainment and progress is a key research priority for the government.
We have commissioned an independent research and assessment agency to provide a baseline assessment of catch-up needs for pupils in schools in England, and monitor progress over the course of the year, to help us target support across the system.
This research will make use of assessments that schools are already choosing to use over the course of the next academic year. This will add no additional burden on schools, and pupils will not have to sit any additional assessments for this research, at this crucial time for the education sector.
This research will be based on a large sample of pupils from years 1 to 11, and will allow the department to understand how best to support the sector and which particular groups of pupils have been affected by time out of school.
There is growing evidence that the COVID-19 outbreak and associated interventions, such as social distancing and stay at home guidance, including school closures, have likely had an adverse effect on the mental health and well-being of children and young people. For some, the COVID-19 outbreak will have disrupted or removed protective factors for their mental health, such as social support, physical activity and routine, and this may be compounded by additional risk factors. There is also increasing evidence that many children and young people are coping well overall and some have reported benefits for their mental health.
While many children and young people have retained some access to mental health support during this period, we know that some children and young people will have struggled to access mental health support in the same way as before the COVID-19 outbreak, which has been associated with worse mental health and wellbeing for some children and young people with existing needs.
Supporting schools and colleges to stay open and provide catch-up support to their pupils, including time devoted to supporting wellbeing, will play a fundamental part in supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. To support the return to a full high-quality education programme, we have put in place a range of measures, including guidance for settings and a new £8 million training initiative for educational staff and local authority services, to support children and young people’s wellbeing.
Health education was introduced into the curriculum in September, including a range of specific teaching requirements on mental health and wellbeing. Training materials and support are available to schools.