In August, 2021 the Royal Society of Canada’s COVID-19 Working Group on Children and Schools published a report entitled Children and Schools During COVID and Beyond: Engagement and Connection Through Opportunity. Available in French and in English, the report, which includes work by CHENINE members Andy Hargreaves, Jessica Whitley, Joel Westheimer and Michelle Schira Hagerman, brings together research to inform phases of pandemic recovery in education across Canada. Each chapter of the report includes specific recommendations for policymakers and educational leaders working to build healthy, sustainable, systems of schooling where every child feels safe, valued, connected to their community, and able to learn. The following ten recommendations, provided in the report’s executive summary, offer a framework for priority actions for the greatest good.
- Prioritize safe (re)opening of all schools and work toward ensuring schools stay open. Schools must be the first to open and the last to close.
- Prioritize educators, school staff, and support works in vaccine rollout plans. Earmark federal funding to schools so they can effectively implement infection prevention and control measures.
- Address educational gaps through the development and provision of programs that are free of charge to children and families, that focus on academic and social-emotional development.
- Take steps to reduce inequities, including the systemic inequities that disproportionately affect historically marginalized groups.
- Create a national strategy that emphasizes children’s mental health.
- Invest in comprehensive, population-based follow-up studies that document who was affected by the pandemic, and how so that measures can be taken to mobilize essential supports.
- Improve Internet and digital access. Make access to digital learning platforms, high-speed Internet and digital devices for learning public, universal and free of charge.
- Include a focus on digital pedagogies in all pre-service teacher education programs.
- Support teaching as essential work.
- Prioritize recess and other forms of breaks in nature.
As the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic affects communities across Canada, we recognize that this is the third consecutive year of pandemic-related disruption for children, for their families, and for their teachers. As a research collaboratory focused on engagement, innovation, and change in education, we are looking for ways – beyond the writing of reports -- to contribute to strategy and programs informed by these recommended priority actions. If your work and priorities align with ours – please get in touch. Let’s find ways to create the systems of schooling that children and teachers need and deserve.