Skip to main content

What will this period of online learning mean for children’s futures?

3 February 2021

The COVID-19 Committee will explore the long-term impact of the sudden shift to digital learning necessitated by the pandemic.

Over the course of the last year, most children have experienced periods where their education has switched from being delivered in-person in a classroom to being delivered digitally at home. Unlike other pandemic-driven digital shifts that the Committee has explored (such as home-working, e-commerce and online medical appointments), it is less clear to what extent aspects of digital learning will ‘stick’ post-pandemic. What does seem clear, however, is that this sudden shift to digital will have long-term consequences for at least some of the pupils affected.

Some pupils have been hugely disadvantaged by a lack of access to the internet or a suitable device for learning, and there has also been significant variation in the approaches to digital learning that schools have been able to offer. Many, if not most, children will not have had the chance to learn everything they would have done in a ‘normal’ year, and for some the level of ‘lost learning’ could be severe, with knock-on implications for their exam results and therefore their future education and employment opportunities. Most experts agree that a very significant programme of support will be needed to ensure the future life chances of this generation are not permanently harmed.


Tuesday 9 February 2021
at 10.00am, the Committee will hear evidence from:

  • Margaret Mulholland, SEND and inclusion specialist
  • Natalie Perera, Chief Executive, Education Policy Institute
  • Richard Sheriff, President, ASCL
  • James Turner, Chief Executive, Sutton Trust

Themes for discussion

  • The extent to which children have been able to learn digitally over the last year.
  • How quickly children will be able to catch up on the learning lost, once a return to the classroom is possible, and the action needed to support this.
  • How digital learning might increasingly be used in education over the next 2-5 years, including to reduce inequalities in education.

Further information