Pillar 2: What do children, young people and families say about needs, and impact of COVID-19?

Following on from the rapid assessment undertaken in Pillar 1, Pillar 2 examined the lived experience of COVID-19 on Australia’s children, young people and families experiencing disadvantage, its impact on their educational outcomes and engagement with school, and the response to COVID-19 of service providers. Pillar 2 summarises quantitative analyses of Department of Education population and sample data (New South Wales, Tasmania), semi-structured interviews with children, young people and their families in New South Wales, Tasmania, and Queensland, and 21 semi-structured interviews and an online survey from stakeholders representing non-government organisations providing education and support services for children and young people experiencing disadvantage across Australia.

Pillar 2 Report: Key Findings

  • Educational disadvantage in student engagement persisted but did not worsen, and there is a need to re-engage at-risk students whose attendance fell during the pandemic.
  • Children and young people struggled with remote learning and talked of feeling ‘stuck’ in one location, losing social, family and peer connections, and missing important milestones and events.
  • Sense of increased stress, mental ill-health and social isolation among children and young people.
  • Children and young people reported both loss and gain from their remote learning experience.
  • Online learning was less effective for students without access to devices, connectivity or digital skills, and those with less supportive home learning environments.
  • Online learning was beneficial for students who preferred self-driven and self-paced learning and those experiencing social anxiety or bullying.
  • For already disadvantaged children and young people, COVID-19 merely represented an additional factor exacerbating already highly complex life circumstances.
  • Four priority Action Areas were identified:
    • Student mental health, wellbeing and hope.
    • The future role of teachers, schools and communities.
    • Digital equity.
    • Protections for the most vulnerable students.

The findings from Pillar 2 highlight the complexity of educational disadvantage among Australia’s children and young people and identifies focused areas for action that will be taken forward in Pillar 3 to inform evidence-based options for action.