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UK Researchers Say Lockdown Isolation Harming Children

(Noted News) — COVID-19 restrictions that require children to isolate themselves at home for long periods are, perhaps not surprisingly, detrimental to their mental development and other aspects of wellbeing. 

In a report published by UK governmental watchdog Ofsted, researchers say that children forced to self-isolate at home for the school year are facing a number of threats to their welfare, especially for those who were already in uncertain circumstances.

After conducting almost 2,000 visits to educational and social care providers during the fall, Ofsted found that many children were at least 6 months behind where they should’ve been, and others were in some way lacking normal learning progress compared to the year before. 

Amanda Spielman, the UK’s chief inspector of education, admitted that though remote education is better than none at all, it’s significantly less effective than regular education. 

“While remote education is better than nothing, it’s no substitute for the classroom…Schools are struggling to assess whether remote learning is effective or not. For many, the measure of success is whether or not children are engaging with the work at all, rather than whether they are developing their knowledge and understanding—a case of remote attendance, rather than remote learning.”

The report also outlined that children in social care homes were also facing threats to their mental health; when a child in the UK first arrives at one of these care homes, they have to go into isolation for 14 days. Something that researchers said was a form of torturous solitary confinement, which made kids anxious and prone to violence against themselves and staff.

Remote education was being provided in two main circumstances: bubble isolation and individual isolation. According to the report, schools were making meaningful progress with figuring out how to conduct education in the bubbles with live or pre-recorded online classes. But pupils who were self-isolating for weeks at a time “often had a poorer experience.”

Suggesting that parents have had enough of Britain’s current educational state, inspectors also reported that schools were describing a larger than normal increase in parents pulling their kids out and homeschooling them. Almost three-fifths of schools told the inspectors that they had at least one student whose parents took them out of school to be home educated since the beginning of term. Some of the schools said that some parents just wanted to homeschool their children temporarily or until the pandemic was over.

The older students in the UK are feeling the same sentiments towards the new remote style of education. A survey by Quizlet found that the majority of university students in the UK wanted a full refund on their tuition fees. It found that 91% of students experienced difficulty in making friends during their university courses, 77% of students felt that the lockdowns have negatively affected their mental health, and that 66% of students know someone who is considering dropping out. 

Here in the US, a similar controversy has arisen, with students across the country completely unsatisfied with the remote learning method and demanding refunds for tuition. Students at the University of Delaware filed a lawsuit requesting a full reimbursement of tuition fees, with a suit claiming that “the online classes that UD provided were not even remotely worth what the school charged for the full Spring Semester 2020 tuition.”

Legal representatives of the university asked the courts to throw out the case, stating that “as a result of the herculean efforts undertaken by the university, the students completed the spring 2020 semester on-time and with full credit hours, while continuing on pace towards their graduation.”

Princeton University faced a similar suit, with sophomore student Reid Zlotky slamming the iconic Ivy League school.

“While Princeton has used the current COVID-19 shutdown circumstances to excuse its duty…Princeton continues to demand that all students perform their contractual bargain to pay all tuition and fees for the Spring 2020 term.” 

Princeton also denied the allegations, saying that they were “misguided” and “without merit”, and that the school planned on constructing a rigorous defense in response.

Though optimism from the newly deployed vaccine signals a possible end to remote learning for educational institutions, COVID-19 cases in the US still show no sign of plateauing or falling, and many lawmakers have been accelerating restrictions.  

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