Education project launched to understand Birmingham learning at home during COVID-19

The University of Birmingham and Birmingham City Council are working together to study the implications of the shutdown on schools, teachers, pupils and parents due to COVID-19 pandemic.

The Birmingham Education and Covid-19 initiative is studying the transition from classes in schools to a wide range of socially distanced learning measures for children and young people across Birmingham and beyond, as well as the imminent return to school-based learning for some pupils.

As the transmission of COVID-19 in the UK resulted in the government issuing a lockdown and shutting down schools on the 20th March, it brought unprecedented change to education. The Birmingham Education and Covid-19 initiative is working with Birmingham City Council and a variety of further stakeholders across Birmingham to understand the educational implications of the lockdown. In a matter of weeks, schools across the country have developed distance-learning tools for students of all ages. While some results of polls of teachers are beginning to emerge, we know little about the detail or the ranges of the provision offered by schools in the context of enforced social distancing, how it is being received by children and families, and how schools will manage face to face and distance learning as some year groups return to the classroom. Nor is there a clear definition on the medium and short term implications of education for students, teachers, schools or societies.

The Birmingham Education and Covid-19 initiative will:

  • Examine what is being done to secure education provision now for children and young people in Birmingham and the city region.
  • Support education systems and other agencies in the short term as they move from emergency improvisation to more sustained innovation for learning and flourishing.
  • Map out possible strategies to effect sustained change to education systems, institutions and practices for the medium and long term, with an emphasis on education quality, in-demand skills, social justice and equity.

The project involves virtual workshops with strategic leaders in the region, intelligence gathering through online surveys and diaries of practitioners, community organisations and families, and the development of online resources.

Professor Deborah Youdell from the University of Birmingham’s School of Education who is leading the project says: "Education during school closures is a challenge that risks opening up old and new gaps and making disadvantages worse for some. But it might also show us new ways to facilitate learning for children and young people. Through The Birmingham Education and Covid-19 the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City Council will work together to ensure that we have a clear picture of the evolving education offer in the city; that we know what pupils are accessing and how they and their parents are doing; and that schools have the best possible support and resources. Longer term we hope that the lessons that we learn during COVID-19 might change education for the better, for everyone."

The team are particularly keen to understand the impacts of COVID-19 in relation to disadvantaged groups, looked after children, Black, Asian and minority ethnic pupils, young people with Special Education Needs and Disability, and Traveller children. They will also consider how the crisis affects assessment, transitions (from early years to school, from primary school to secondary school, from school to further and higher education), learning for those with lowand notech access, as well as institutional and systems leadership.

Cllr Jayne Francis, cabinet member for education, skills and culture at Birmingham City Council commented: "This is a vital piece of work; the closure of most schools to the majority of pupils is one of many necessary measures taken to protect lives, but we must not allow this to exacerbate already existing inequalities. We need to have detailed information about how and what young people are learning at home, and how parents and carers are coping, so we can ensure no young people and families are disadvantaged."

Through this project, the University and Birmingham City Council are working together to develop a clear picture of the evolving education offer in the city and to ensure that pupils and schools have the best possible support and resources. The Birmingham Education and Covid-19 initiative will at the end of the process issue guidance reports, online resources as well as recommendations for policy makers.

A dedicated website has been set up which provides more information for the Birmingham Education and Covid-19 project.

A survey of parents/carers experiences of learning at home can be found online.


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