'Learning Gaps': New Report Confirms What Many Parents Fear, With Students Expected To Fall Behind

Prolonged time away from classroom learning could strongly disadvantage almost half of Australian students, a new report says.

Almost half of Australian primary and secondary students are at risk of falling behind in their education if schools remain shut for too long, a government commissioned report says.

Learning from home could disadvantage vulnerable students if nothing is done to support them, findings by the Rapid Response Information Forum chaired by chief scientist Alan Finkel said.

"If this is not addressed promptly and directly, learning gaps can emerge and widen," contributing author and UNSW professor Andrew Martin said.



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Australia has responded to COVID-19 relatively better than most countries, but experts say when it comes to managing schooling, the government has fallen short.

"It is vital that students who are at academic risk receive the necessary instructional and other supports required for them to successfully engage in remote or blended learning."

The report was submitted to Education Minister Dan Tehan on Friday and is a synthesis of research from 35 organisations on the effects of online versus in-class education.

It says students from low socio-economic backgrounds, with English as a second language, who have special learning needs or are from remote areas are at particular risk of poor learning outcomes.

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Factors impacting the success of remote learning include digital access, home environment, family support, teacher and student readiness and capability.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are likely to face particular challenges with remote learning because of poor internet service, device availability, less interaction with Indigenous teachers and the absence of culturally appropriate teaching in online resources.

The report suggests "blended learning" -- a combination of face-to-face teaching and remote learning -- could be as good as classroom learning for many students.