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The impact of school disruptions: Lessons from the pandemic

With school closures across the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions to students and teachers alike. New research led by CHÉOS Scientist Dr. Anne Gadermann aims to understand how these disruptions may be affecting students and teachers.

By the end of March 2020, there were 169 country-wide school closures. This affected approximately 1.5 billion learners, or 84 per cent of total enrolled learners worldwide, according to UNESCO.

In B.C., a recent report from the BCCDC discussed how adverse effects from school closures could include “interrupted learning, increased child stress, decreased connection, increased loneliness and mental health effects, decreased access to health promoting environments and declining healthy behaviours, decreased food access, and a lack of detection and support in situations of family violence.” It is likely that these adverse effects are experienced more frequently and more acutely by people affected by social inequities.

Dr. Anne Gadermann

In Dr. Gadermann’s new project, funded by a Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Engage Grant COVID-19 Special Initiative, the BC Ministry of Education and UBC’s Human Early Learning Partnership will join forces to generate greater knowledge on the immediate and long-term impacts of COVID-19–related school disruptions and the wellbeing of students and teachers. Such information could bolster key decision-makers’ efforts to respond to the constantly changing situation and help this cohort adapt to the unprecedented challenges faced.

“We will use a population-level monitoring platform, gathering data from February 2020 and February 2021, to examine changes in self-reported student wellbeing and how these changes may differ across students from diverse backgrounds,” explains Dr. Gadermann. “We will also gather information around students’ self-identified challenges and supports over the course of the pandemic.”

In addition, the team will conduct a survey to determine the self-identified challenges faced by teachers over the course of the pandemic, and how they are associated with their wellbeing and mental health, as well as support systems and strategies related to COVID-19

“There are several reasons why determining how COVID-19 has impacted student and teacher wellbeing is important,” says Dr. Gadermann. “We can identify groups who are particularly vulnerable to related challenges, providing insights into how school funding, resources, and programming should be targeted. The resulting information could help to identify ways, at the community and policy levels, for improving the wellbeing of students and teachers.”

COVID-19 continues to teach us about the ‘dos and don’ts’ of handling a global pandemic; albeit, they are lessons that have come at a cost and ones we hope never to need again. The pandemic has pushed many investigators like Dr. Gadermann to research its impacts in anticipation that the results will help people now and in future crises.

Health research in the heart of Vancouver