1st Edition

Lessons from Lockdown The Educational Legacy of COVID-19

By Tony Breslin Copyright 2021
    240 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    240 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Lessons from Lockdown explores the impact of COVID-19 on our schooling systems, on the young people and families that they serve and on all who work in – and with – our schools, and asks what the long-term ramifications of the pandemic might be for the pedagogy and purpose of formal education. Drawing on the voices of more than a hundred pupils, parents and professionals, it reveals how teachers and learners are adapting practice in areas such as curriculum modelling, parental engagement, assessment and evaluation and blended and online learning.

    In this timely new book, Tony Breslin draws on his experience as a teacher, researcher, examiner, school governor and policy influencer to assess what the educational legacy of COVID-19 could be, and the potential that it offers for reframing how we ‘do’ schooling.

    Whatever your place in this landscape, Lessons from Lockdown is a must-read for all concerned about the shape and purpose of schooling systems in mature economies – schooling systems and economies set on recovering from the kind of ‘system shock’ that the pandemic has delivered.

    1. Schools during lockdown
    2. Parental engagement and the experience of learning at home 
    3. Economics, education and inequalities
    4. Breadth, balance, the curriculum and its assessment
    5. Making the grade: the class of 2020
    6. Catching up on ‘lost’ learning
    7. Pupil well-being and emotional recovery
    8. Leadership and governance
    9. Inspection, research and system performance
    10. Recasting the learning blend: technology and pedagogy

    Next Steps

    Appendix A: Research methodology

    Appendix B: Research participants

    Appendix C: Recommendations


    Dr Tony Breslin, a former chief examiner and local authority school improvement adviser, is a public policy analyst, educational commentator, curriculum development specialist and governance trainer. Director at Breslin Public Policy Limited and formerly chief executive at the Citizenship Foundation, he is chair of the governing board at Bushey Primary Education Federation and a trustee at Adoption UK.

    ‘Tony Breslin’s highly readable and engaging book works on three levels.

    First, it offers a comprehensive chronicle of the impact of lockdown on our education system. Through clarity of narrative and the voices of a wide range of participants, we are reminded of the multi-layered and capricious events of Spring and Summer 2020. I have a strong sense that those interested in education will return to these pages for many years to come.

    But Lessons from Lockdown provides much more than a captivating narrative of schooling during the pandemic. Breslin is a knowledgeable and experienced educator and articulates several decades of change within education, thus contextualizing the various responses to the closure of schools across the UK.

    Finally, and most powerfully, the book makes a series of clear-eyed, well-balanced recommendations. These stimulating suggestions will, unquestionably, be discussed in staff rooms across the nation and, if we are to have the future we desire for our children, by those in power.’

    Daniel Coyle, Headteacher, Newman Catholic College, Brent

    ‘This book captures a vital moment in time and offers a highly readable and engaging account of what happened when education was thrust into lockdown early in 2020.

    But it goes further than that, placing the decisions taken in a broader context of educational policy and practice. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that it tells a tale of how many individual schools and teachers were left largely alone to make the best of the situation. In many ways Lessons from Lockdown demonstrates how the pandemic has shone a light on the injustices, inequities and poor political leadership that are endemic in our education system.

    Tony Breslin’s extensive research, drawing on the immediate experiences of a range of key players in the education sector, does us all a service in making sure that those decisions, actions and consequences are not all left to be reimagined with the benefit of hindsight, but chronicled here and now.

    As we see the longer-term impact of lockdown on our children, our schools and on the wider educational community, researchers of the future will be intensely grateful for this book’s ability to present a broad and deep narrative of what the lockdown of the first part of 2020 felt like to those involved.

    The arguments that Breslin marshals from these experiences to challenge us all to reimagine what our education system should seek to achieve and how it should be structured are provocative and engaging.’

    Nick Johnson, Chief Executive, British Educational Research Association

    ‘A lesson or class is a structured period of time where learning is intended to occur. Lessons from Lockdown: The Educational Legacy of COVID-19 opens wide many doors to learning at the same time: principals' and policymakers' office doors, staffroom and classroom doors and, in particular, the doors to pupils' homes. 

    Drawing on extensive discussion and research, Dr. Tony Breslin argues that one impact of COVID-19 lies in the way that the resultant lockdowns have challenged the success of traditional educational practice. As such, there are opportunities for change in every classroom, every school and every schooling system, and in local and regional agencies.

    Lessons from Lockdown provides an immediate provocation of the work to be done while at the same time acknowledging the critical driver of such change: the collective capacity of all of those involved in supporting young people to thrive.

    Breslin calls for direct engagement between policymakers and experienced educators, and identifies opportunities for change that span parental engagement, family learning, the development of schools as community hubs, the need for a stronger social curriculum, the wellbeing of both students and staff, and the growth of digital literacy, and offers detailed recommendations on each. 

    This book will help us to achieve the educational outcomes that we all hope for. If acted on, its recommendations have the power to create a new culture of schooling, a culture where ‘flourishing’ is a regular descriptor of not only the experience of students, but of staff, schools and their communities'. 

    Ross Dean, Teacher Educator, School Leadership, School Improvement and Adolescent Wellbeing Consultant, and Researcher, Learning Focused Communities, Founder, Victorian Educational Leadership Consortium, Australian Education Union, Melbourne, Australia

    'This book arrives just in time, as a new school year begins - albeit haltingly - under the continuing threat of the COVID-19 virus which, only a few months ago, abruptly interrupted educational systems around the world and created unprecedented chaos in the teaching and learning process.

    In exploring the implications of this health crisis, Tony Breslin focuses on the interrelatedness of factors that exert a collective and profound effect on all aspects of the educational system. As such, the book includes both a retrospective analysis of specific policies that shaped the pre-COVID-19 educational system and a rich description of the ways in which a broad cross-section of stakeholders experienced the recent school closures and ensuing confusion associated with the virus. This is followed by a thoughtful examination of the inequities inherent in the current educational system that have been laid bare by the pandemic. Readers are asked to consider the significant and potentially permanent nature of societal changes associated with this and future global health crises, and to resist the compulsion to return to the familiar. They are urged, instead, to view the crisis as an auspicious opportunity for re-thinking taken-for-granted educational policies and practices and collaborating with all relevant stakeholders, for the purpose of creating a more equitable education for all.

    Although this ground-breaking book focuses on a specific national context, the themes that emerge from this work are remarkably similar to those that are surfacing in schools across the globe, making Lessons from Lockdown a particularly informative and valuable book for all those concerned with schooling, regardless of the country in which they live.'

    Betty Merchant Ph.D., Henrietta Frances Zezula Lowak Endowed Distinguished Professor, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, College of Education and Human Development, University of Texas at San Antonio

    ‘Schooling in England needed a reset before anyone had heard of Covid19, but that ongoing crisis has also shone an unforgiving light on the limitations of the system. In this incisive and timely piece of research and analysis Tony Breslin make a powerful case for us to use the experience of crisis to pursue reform in areas ranging from school governance, to parental engagement to social inclusion.’

    Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive, Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA)

    'It has become somewhat fashionable to talk about building a better and a different education system following the pandemic. The fact that Tony Breslin has already written an informative and challenging book on the subject is evidence that he has been thinking of these things long before the recent difficulties caused others to also do so. 

    This is, therefore, a well thought out account of some of the questions we need to address and a good guide as to how to begin to put them into action. Tony Breslin’s experience and commitment to children and young people, as ever, underpins everything that he writes.'

    Estelle Morris, Baroness Morris of Yardley, Former Secretary of State for Education

    ‘In the rush to reopen schools after lockdown, the temptation to "get back to normal" and simply catch up on the months of lost learning appears to be overwhelming. 

    Tony Breslin argues this must be resisted. Instead, now is the time to rethink the entire system, from the starting age of formal education to the currently limited opportunities to learn in later life, to what is taught, how and why. For too long, changes to the education system have been driven by political considerations, short -term difficulties and even, at times, nostalgia. Lessons from Lockdown sets out why this piecemeal approach to reform needs stop and provides an invaluable contribution to the debate that now must take place.’

    Rosemary Bennett, Former Education Editor, The Times

    'A highly thought-provoking and significant contribution to the emerging educational literature on lockdown.'

    Steve Turnbull, Schools Week

    'Breslin weaves in media releases, policy shifts, his own knowledge, and testimonies to provide an important historical account of what happened to the UK education systems, with a particular focus on England, during the spring and summer of 2020... The book will be of value to school leaders, policy makers, and researchers alike.'

    Sinéad Harmey, Educational Review

    "Overall, a good book full of insights and ideas, which takes a thorough look at the impact of the pandemic, from the practicalities of returning to teaching face-toface to the long-term eff ects on our learners’ future education."

    Dr Anne Davis, inTuition Magazine

    "I would recommend this book to teachers and education strategy and policy makers. The book is essential reading for educational psychologists interested in recovery and change in the school curriculum and system, and how educational psychologists can reflect on lessons learned in Lockdown and support schools. For me, it was interesting to learn about Breslin Public Policy Limited and Breslin’s work in lifelong learning and the voluntary sector. Clearly, this author’s work has far reaching international impact in terms of changing schools and the future of learning."

    Dr. I. Broadley-Westerduin, Educational Psychology in Practice

    Breslin, an educational commentator, a curriculum development specialist, and a governance trainer in the UK, convened 108 educators in focus groups and through individual interviews and written submissions to develop six themes to follow for a successful recovery from COVID-19. These include putting well-being first; closing the achievement gap; rethinking curriculum and its assessment; growing digital connectivity and digital literacy; building new relationships between schools, families, and communities; and creating a teaching profession and schooling system prepared for an unknown future.

    D. L. Stoloff, Eastern Connecticut State University, CHOICE