840 million school days lost: The impact of the pandemic on the Class of 2021

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Education Correspondent Elodie Harper

The outgoing Children's Commissioner has warned that thousands of pupils are being left behind, and that this is being made worse by the Covid crisis.

According to Anne Longfield, by the 8 March children will have lost the equivalent of 840 million school days due to lockdown. She has urged the government to make children's welfare their top priority.

The loss to education is especially acute for the Class of 2021 - those pupils who would have taken their GCSE and A level exams this summer and instead still face uncertainty about how they will be graded.

For 15-year-old Serai Matthew-Ekuku, who is from Great Dunmow and in her final GCSE year, lockdown has meant being home schooled alongside her seven siblings.

GCSE student Serai Matthew-Ekuku helps her siblings with home schooling at home in Essex Credit: ITV News Anglia

Serai said:"It's been very unusual, I do think there's been times it's been quite stressful especially in a family as big as mine, but personally for me I think it's been a time of growth, a time for me to develop and mature in terms of my character and my work ethic."

Tim Lane, like Serai, is a student at Saffron Walden County High. He is 17 in his final year of A levels.

He currently works weekends at a supermarket, but cannot be in school which is what he desperately wants.

Tim said: "I think it's just lonely you spend a lot of time thinking what would I be doing now if life was normal? We've missed a year of normal school pretty much and it's quite sad in some ways thinking about that." 

Tim Lane from Saffron Walden High School is studying for his A Levels at home Credit: ITV News Anglia

National exams have been cancelled this year but students still don't know exactly how their grades will be assessed. 

School leaders say greater clarity is urgently needed.

Ryan Kelsall, Deputy CEO Eastern Learning Alliance Trust said: "It's imperative we make decisions for Year 11 and 13 now but then very quickly move on to ensure that we are providing reassurance and clarity for those young people in Year 10 and Year 12 who have missed half of the last year of their education and will be sitting exams in 15 months time."

But just getting back to school is not a simple solution to all students' fears. Rahan Chowdhury is in his final GCSE year at Impington Village College. 

Like many children he is afraid of bringing the virus home from school to his family.

Rahan Chowdhury is in his final GCSE year at Impington Village College Credit: ITV News Anglia

Rahan said: "I'm actually really mixed because on the one hand I need to learn what I've lost out on really really badly but then I'm also afraid of the coronavirus cases that will be at my school so it's kind of a mixed bag right now."

The Class of 2021 has sacrificed so much to keep the rest of the country safe from Covid-19.  

The Conservative MP for Harlow and Chair of the Commons Education Select Committee, Robert Halfon said: "We need urgent remedial action once the schools re-open."

"To be fair to the government, they are fire-fighting the coronavirus. It has been very difficult as it was hoped originally for the exams to take place because they bring order and structure"

The Class of 2021 have missed out on education, time with their peers, music, sport, drama, all the coming of age rituals other generations took for granted.

The question now is what will be done to make sure they don't miss out even more.