2022 FFT Education Datalab Virtual Research Conference

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Well, it was rather pleasant to be able to sit back today and have no responsibility for steering an event or presenting, only contributing verbally or via the chat feed.  Advertised as ‘2022 FFT Education Datalab Virtual Research Conference: Where Next? Unpacking the real impact of Covid-19 on our pupils, teachers and schools‘ (https://fft.org.uk/fft-datalab-conference-2022/), this event was really insightful and thought-provoking.  An element of choice was also facilitated via ‘breakout rooms’, enabling delegates to tailor the experience to meet their own interests and needs.  With over 500 participants from across the UK, there were certainly plenty of questions asked and comments added to the chat feed.

After a formal welcome and introduction, Paul Charman of FFT handed the reins to Jason Bradbury from Ofsted.  Jason explored ‘Education in 2021/2022: The national picture from Ofsted’s perspective‘.  His talk was divided into two clear sections, namely:

  • An Ofsted view of education during the pandemic.
  • What can schools expect as Ofsted returns to full inspection?

Through a period of national challenge, Ofsted have continued a broad range of inspection and regulatory work; understanding the sector and taking action to ensure the safeguarding of children.  Jason discussed what Ofsted have seen during the pandemic, the current situation and Ofsted’s return to full inspection.  He also reinforced how good data and insight remain critical in understanding what works, where there are differences and in terms of informing policy, debate and decision making.

Next up were Katie Beynon & Natasha Plaister of FFT Education Datalab, who focused on ‘The story of the pandemic through data. What can we learn?‘.  They gave a review of the top findings and insights from Datalab’s research over the last year.  They concentrated on two key areas, attendance and the attainment gap, and discussed what they had learnt about how the pandemic has impacted different groups of pupils.  In addition, reference was made to cases where gaps in the data mean that they do not know as much as they should like.

Following a short break, we were directed towards a number of ‘breakout rooms’, all delving into different topics.  I choose to listen to Dr Hans H. Sievertsen based at the University of Bristol.  Hans’ session was entitled ‘Measuring the impact of Covid-19 on pupils and schools around the world.  How does the UK compare?‘.  He provided an overview of school closures around the world since the start of the pandemic, covering where, when and how schools and children were most affected.  It was really interesting to learn how the UK compared with other countries.  We may feel that there are widening gaps in our schools, but this is far from some of the issues that establishments in countries, such as Uganda and Bangladesh, are having to address.

My second choice of ‘breakout room’ was ‘The mental health and wellbeing of teachers and pupils. What does the evidence show?‘ steered by Professor John Jerrim from the Institute of Education.  John reviewed the evidence on the mental health and wellbeing of teachers and pupils, questioning how the mental health of teachers has changed over time, how it compares to other professions and how it has been impacted by the pandemic.  John also examined some of the latest evidence on the impact of national examinations on pupils’ mental health and wellbeing.   I was surprised to learn that teachers were placed close to the national average on a number of indicators and that KS2 SATs had very little impact on Year 6 pupils’ mental health and wellbeing; obviously, the rewards on offer post SATs must keep them going!

The conference was brought to a close by Paul Charman of FFT with the session, ‘Where next?  Ask the panel‘.  This provided a chance to consider the future educational impact of Covid-19 on pupils and how data can support schools, for the panel of experts to answer any questions that the audience had and to sum up and emphasise the key takeaways.

Many thanks for opening my eyes to a number of pieces of research and some enlightening evidence.



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