Evidence for Learning: Students at Risk of Disengagement as a result of COVID-19

Students at Risk of Disengagement as a result of COVID-19

Identifying and taking action for students at risk of disengagement from school during the phases of COVID 19 response

Too many Australian students do not complete their schooling. In 2018, approximately 17% of Australian students were not retained from Year 10 to Year 12 and about 70,000 students did not attain a Year 12 certificate or equivalent qualification. The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic increase the risk of more students disengaging from school and not completing their school education.

In 2020, Evidence for Learning built upon earlier work on students at risk of disengagement from school to produce an insights paper on identifying and taking action for students at risk of disengagement from school during the phases of the COVID‑19 response.

The project aimed to produce an insights paper to assist school leaders identify and take action for students at risk of disengagement from their education during the phases of the COVID‑19 response – meaning both the periods of learning from home and in the transition and adaption back in school sites. The paper covers indicators, processes and enabling conditions to support school decision making that is relevant to both these phases of the response.

This paper is based on selected academic literature and insights from five Victorian public schools’ activities during the COVID‑19 phases. It draws heavily from the findings of a systematic global literature review and a case study investigation conducted with ten Victorian public schools in 2018 as part of the Insights for Early Action project.

  • The COVID‑19 pandemic increases the risk of disengagement from school for some students due to challenges in learning from home, health and wellbeing factors, and potential learning losses and risks associated with the transition back to school.
  • The participating schools used similar indicators of disengagement during the COVID‑19 phases that they used prior to it. However, the emphasis on indicators was different. Participating schools were less focused on using indicators related to academic progress, poor behaviour incidents, and educational aspirations during the learning at home phase of COVID‑19, prioritising indicators related to immediate issues such as communication, access and wellbeing.
  • The participating schools used various tools to collect and analyse data related to these indicators of disengagement. Most were already using student information management systems such as Compass, but as a result of remote learning are now substantially increasing their use of online and phone surveys of parents and students, online meeting technologies such as Microsoft Teams and tools such as social media (Facebook) and text messages communicate with parents.
  • Participating schools with comprehensive lists of students and families at‑risk and a clearly defined and well understood process to identify and support them prior to the pandemic found it easy to adapt to the COVID‑19 phases.
  • During the learning from home phase of the COVID‑19 response, many of the participating schools focussed on parents rather than broader community engagement and significantly increased the frequency and modes of communication with parents.
  • During the phases of the response to COVID-19, the participating schools prioritised supports for students and staff that addressed their immediate needs e.g. access to technology and or other basic materials to ensure learning could continue (for students), access to professional learning in technology (for staff), frequent communication and clear expectations (for staff, students and families), and support for wellbeing (for both staff and students).

The following paper is free to access and download for the E4L website.