Covid-19, Higher Education and the rise of video-based learning

Given the rapid shift to focus on online video-based learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is evident that we need to develop understanding of how this mode of learning will impact student engagement with their course and learning. Also, what measures can be used to determine its success?

Video-based learning has a long history in its use as an educational tool in various forms, like instructional videos, demonstration videos, knowledge clips, and web lectures. As such, Higher education institutions have often supplemented their curriculum with alternative and complementary learning resources to support students from different educational backgrounds and learning needs. Along with the advancement in technology such as high-speed internet and personal devices, the shift towards the use of video in in higher education had begun before Covid-19.

While all university campuses are physically closed, educators and lecturers are working hard behind the scene to educate, support, and ensure that students can progress with minimum disruptions to their studies, through online lectures, video-based resources etc. Organisations and private companies such as Coursera, Future Learn, Udemy and Google, are also taking this opportunity to promote and expand their in-house online learning platforms by offering students free access to video-based academic courses.

Evidence has shown that using video technology as a way to learn can impact students directly and positively (Kay & Kletskin, 2012). Students generally describe video-based learning as enjoyable (Winterbottom, 2007), motivating (Hill & Nelson, 2011), and effective in enhancing learning performance (Salina et al., 2012). However, less is known about whether the use of video in learning will facilitate knowledge development and critical thinking within a higher education setting. The current methodological approach typically relies on post-experimental tests of basic concepts as a measure of effectiveness when comparing video-based learning with other models. This results in a research gap that requires further exploration on whether video-based learning could be used to encourage deeper and broader application of knowledge and critical thinking skills (Carmichael, Reid, & Karpicke, 2018).

Moving forward, a new era of learning will rise with the popularity of video-based learning. While we acknowledge the shortfalls of this methodological approach in the field, video-based learning has the greatest potential to be explored further to serve the demands of learners post Covid-19.  It also gives us an opportunity to find out if it works – in the longer term!

Angel Tan, PhD Student, Department of Psychology, Edge Hill University

References:

Carmichael, M., Reid, A., & Karpicke, J. D. (2018). Assessing the impact of educational video on student engagement, critical thinking and learning. Sage Publishing. Retrieved from https://us.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/hevideolearning.pdf

Hill, J. L., & Nelson, A. (2011). New technology, new pedagogy? Employing video podcasts in learning and teaching about exotic ecosystems. Environmental Education Research, 17(3), 393-408. doi: 10.1080/13504622.2010.545873

Kay, R., & Kletskin, I. (2012). Evaluating the use of problem-based video podcasts to teach mathematics in higher education. Computers & Education, 59, 619-627. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2012.03.007

Salina, L., Ruffinengo, C., Garrino, L., Massariello, P., Charrier, L., Martin, B., Favale, M. S., … Dimonte, V. (2012). Effectiveness of an educational video as an instrument to refresh and reinforce the learning of a nursing technique: A randomized controlled trial. Perspectives on medical education, 1(2), 67-75.

Winterbottom, S. (2007). Virtual lecturing: Delivering lectures using screencasting and podcasting technology. Planet, 18, 6-8.


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Creative Resilience and going OFFLine during Lockdown

As part of Voluntary Arts’ Creative Network, I was recently invited to talk with Nick Ewbank, Chair of ISR’s External Advisory Group, about everyday creativity in the context of the response to COVID-19. In particular, we were looking at David Gauntlett’s definition and how he emphasises the idea of ‘making is connecting’, and advocates the importance of the internet for creative people.

Nick subsequently published his own compelling, and more nuanced, understanding of everyday creativity and its potentially vital role in helping to heal the damage done by the lockdown, in an article last week for Arts Professional. In calling for a paradigm shift, Nick argues that the ‘initial goal should be to reach a shared, science-based understanding of the central importance of everyday creativity in our lives’.

Certainly, the cultural sector has done much to try to support people through what has been a distressing period, if we consider the ways in which theatres, museums, dance companies and musicians inter alia have made their work available for free online. However, the way people have applied themselves to creative challenges at home, supported by various initiatives such as Voluntary Arts’ Get Creative at Home or Fun Palace’s Tiny Revolutions of Connection, is potentially more significant, most especially because not everyone has access to the internet or smart technology. If nothing else, what the pandemic has laid bare is the stark digital divide that pertains in the UK; wherein large swathes of the population remain isolated, unable to benefit from these online cultural resources and opportunities.

In my own recent article with Tristi Brownett, we argued that community cultural festivals can be important generators of wellbeing through their ‘collective effervescence’. Even if physical distancing means festival spaces are not open to us at the moment, community initiatives are heartwarmingly proving that people are not socially distanced. They remain collectively effervescent, and creative in their resilience. The Leigh Film Society volunteers, for example, have been busy delivering orange bags containing DVDs to families who do not have access to online streaming services. Meanwhile, in Leeds, Mini Playbox is a community partnership project between artists distributing boxes of creativity, activities and fun during lockdown. The emphasis here is on OFFline activities for families and individuals within communities, and this is happening within communities all over the UK.

The value of everyday creativity, both online and off, should be at the heart of a resilient, sustainable, caring society that supports, protects and nurtures the health and wellbeing of all its citizens.

Prof Owen Evans is a Professor of Film in the Department of Media at Edge Hill University.


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Streaming and CGI? The future of TV and Film after COVID-19?

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the film and television industries. Production has been halted on all UK feature films and television series, cinemas were closed, and film festivals migrated on line.

The onset of the virus has, however, accelerated changes that were already forecast. The enhanced subscription take up  for the streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon and Disney is one such example; a second being the straight to digital strategy of film releasing, thereby eschewing cinemas, as recently happened with ‘Misbehaviour’, Philippa Lowthorpe’s film of the 1970 Miss World and its feminist disruption of the contest.

The impact of the virus has also exposed the economically vulnerability of many of those working in the screen sector, who are on short term self employed contracts, moving from project to project, and from one part of the country to another. Yet, the response of both the public and the private wings of the industry in supporting the laid off work force has been admirable. Not only the British Film Institute and the film union, BECTU, but Netflix and Mubi have also set up funds to help those in need.

As production looks to reboot after the lockdown, a whole host of questions need resolving: including social distancing rules on set and on locations; requirements to quarantine foreign cast and crew; how to deliver catering and transport arrangements; the vexed question of insurance . Will PPE be required for hair, make up and costume preparation? Will daily health screenings need to take place? Will all crowd scenes be replaced by CGI?

Industry discussion suggests that cinemas will open again in August. But will the public be attracted back to venues that due to social distancing rules will only at their maximum be a possible quarter or third full, and thus lack the essential communal ‘atmosphere’? Will the pipeline of product, stemmed in March by the virus, be in enough quantity and quality to satisfy an audience’s appetite? 

During lockdown, the streaming platforms have been the saving grace, but will that lead to a total shift away from cinemas as we move into a new, post-corona culture? I guess we will find out!

Professor Roger Shannon is Emeritus Director of the Institute for Creative Enterprise (ICE) at Edge Hill University.


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Epidemics: A View from Italy

Italy’s first two cases of the coronavirus pandemic were confirmed on 30 January 2020 by the Istituto Spallanzani which specializes in infectious diseases, the first research centre in Europe in fact to isolate the genomic sequence of COVID-19. The patients were a couple of Chinese tourists, both of whom had recovered by 26 February. Just over a week earlier, on 18 February, the first case of secondary transmission was recorded at Codogno, a small town outside Milan, in the Plain of Lombardy. Over half of the deaths in Italy attributed to COVID-19 have occurred in that region, one of Italy’s wealthiest.

Italy was the first European country to go into lockdown, with some other western countries learning lessons from its experience; others not.

The experience of isolation may have led some Italians to reflect on the book they will all have read (at least parts of) in school, Alessandro Manzoni’s I promessi sposi (The Betrothed), a sweeping historical novel which has as its backdrop an epidemic in the hinterland of Milan.

Two chapters of the novel (31 and 32 for those who want to dig deeper) are dedicated to the plague year of 1630 and indeed Manzoni expanded them into an independent work, Storia della colonna infame (History of the Monument of Shame), which tells a tale of authorities slow to appreciate the size of the problem, slow to act, and then rather swifter to deflect blame.

The 1630 outbreak of bubonic plague – aka The Plague of Milan – during Lombardy’s long Spanish (Hapsburg) domination, was filtered through the religious lens of God’s punishment on the ungodly, with barefooted processions through the city streets – the antithesis of social distancing – caused the infection to spread exponentially. In all of this misery there circulated rumour and suspicion. Stories gained currency of certain ‘smearers’ (‘untori’) who, it was alleged, engaged in nocturnal smearing of deadly unguents around the city of Milan, on door handles and other surfaces to spread the contagion. The Spanish authorities, rather than displaying good sense and proper leadership, had suspects identified, rounded up, horribly tortured and publicly executed.

Manzoni’s history of the 1630 events, written over 200 years later, drew on not just on contemporary accounts and court transcripts but on a classic text of the Italian Enlightenment; Cesare Beccaria’s Dei delitti e delle pene (Of crimes and punishments), 1764. The Monument of Shame was erected in 1630 on the site of Gian Giacomo Mora’s barber shop after he had been executed along with Guglielmo Piazza as the ‘smearers’. A symbol or imperial Spanish superstition and injustice, it was removed under Austrian rule in 1778.

Thankfully there will be no physical moments of shame erected this time – but the final analysis may lead to some figurative ones.

Prior to his appointment as Dean of Arts & Sciences, and subsequently Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at Edge Hill University, George Talbot was Professor of Italian at the University of Hull


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Main image by Peter H from Pixabay; Second image: Storia della colonna infame (History of the Monument of Shame) image by Francesco Gonin for the 1840 edition, Pubblico dominio,

Emerging from Lockdown: Shared Experience as we (re)commune together

Since late March we have been separated from those whom we love, our friends and even our business acquaintances. We stand two metres apart in our shopping queues. We see poignant, yet often painful, pictures on our televisions of grandparents with spread hands on panes of glass trying to ‘meet’ their grandchildren. On our daily walks out, we actively try to avoid those walking towards us; we step into the road and apologise, or cross over to avoid any kind of contact. In all these different forms of interaction, we are worried about our vulnerability when coming into contact with others. Stories on the news about continuing death rates from the virus running into the hundreds each day, does little to ease the nagging doubts.

In his book Creative Fidelity, first published in 1964, the French philosopher, drama critic and playwright, Gabriel Marcel, reflects on how, as human beings, we are in relation to others. Of course, Marcel was not writing during a global pandemic, but he was writing at a time when he saw an increasing tendency towards our human relationships being marked by a kind of utility, resulting in forms of what we might call distancing. In trying to counter such tendencies, he argues for relationships marked by openness to others, and which are signified by a certain exposure or vulnerability that he refers to as ‘porosity’ or ‘permeability’.

To encounter another, he writes, is to,

‘devote our attention to the act of hospitality…Hospitality is a gift of what is one’s own. i.e. of oneself’

Gabriel Marcel, Creative Fidelity (p. 28)

While we are rightly constrained from offering hospitality to each other in the way in which we commonly understand it (inviting people into our homes, sharing meals, and so on), Marcel is thinking more of a kind of hospitality to the other which he describes as disponibilité, commonly translated as ‘availability’. Being available – freely, emotionally, temporally – has still been possible to do.

As restrictions are eased, there is a risk that as we relate to each other, we will be warier, or in Marcel’s words, we will be ‘present, yet in a mode of absence’ (p. 33). What is clear, though, is that the possibilities for what Marcel calls our ‘communion’ with each other will be based on our shared experiences. As he writes:

‘What brings me closer to another being and really binds me to him [sic]… Is the thought that he has passed to the same difficulties as I have, that he has undergone the same dangers… It is only in these terms that a meaningful content can be ascribed to the term fraternity

Gabriel Marcel, Creative Fidelity (p. 8)

Perhaps it’s almost impossible, at the moment, to think of relationships in Marcel’s terms; but perhaps it has never been more urgent and important.

Prof Amanda Fulford is the Associate Dean Research in the Faculty of Education at Edge Hill University.


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How to Stay ‘Engaged’ at a Distance: Youth Work and COVID-19

Youth work is all about engaging with young people, engaging them because it is what they want and exploring things that they are interested in. For many, the relationship with their youth worker is the only one where they’re recognised in their own right. Recent research has shown that two million young people need such direct support. So how have youth workers continued to give that support during this time of social distancing?

The overwhelming response has been to pivot online. A monumental effort has been put into holding meetings, debates, competitions and one-to-one sessions over PCs, laptops, tablets and smart phones. The degree to which this has been successful is still unclear. There is anecdotal evidence that levels of engagement are dropping with some young people not joining in online at all. On the other hand, the digital offer seems to suit those for whom physical engagement was always tricky, for example young people in rural areas with transport challenges, and those with disabilities. What we have learnt is what we always knew; that relationships are fundamental to youth work, and where there is a pre-existing relationship online contact has largely been maintained. There have been many hurdles to overcome, not least safeguarding and risk adverse local authorities.

Youth work hasn’t completely disappeared from our streets. Some buildings, in one or two areas, are very slowly being opened up for one-to-one sessions for those young people deemed to be the most vulnerable. Detached work, going out and meeting young people where they are, is still happening. It is now, though, more from a safeguarding perspective, finding out why young people are out, whether they are aware of and adhering to the lockdown guidelines, whether they need support…physical, economic or mental.

For some in the sector the move online is long overdue and they point out we are way behind our European colleagues. Others worry it will take away from the face-to-face contact that has been the key feature of youth work for so long. Such questions about what youth work should look like in a post Covid19 world are starting to pre-occupy youth workers. Many of them work in local authorities, charities or the voluntary sector, all of which face a hugely uncertain future.

Elizabeth Harding is the former CEO of Youth Focus NW, she is a Visiting Fellow of the Institute for Social Responsibility, and now a freelance consultant with a focus and interest in youth work.


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Flattening the Acceptance Curve: Transitioning a more Inclusive World after COVID-19

The impact of lockdown on our daily life has been dramatic. We had to suddenly abandon our routines. Even those privileged with good health and steady employment have experienced severe disruptions. We had to undertake extraordinary tasks while socially-isolating, such as transitioning to online work and/or home-schooling. We have had to revise plans, goals, expectations. 

We have had to come to terms with omnipresent fluidity and uncertainty. We do not know if we are approaching the peak of the infamous curve we collectively aim to flatten or how the pandemic will unfold onwards. There is also a lot of uncertainty about the psychological, social, economic and political ramifications of this crisis.

As a result, most of us now show signs of fatigue. 

In the beginning, people might have recognised opportunities in this crisis – to slow down, reflect, spend more time with family, bond with their children, organise their households. As the crisis unfolds, however, we are accruing experiences of loneliness, boredom, tension in family relationships, failure in our home-schooling endeavours. 

But these effects are small in comparison to the potential long-term impact on those with disability.

How will the prolonged social isolation, and continuous exposure to uncertainty or health-risk messages affect mental health in vulnerable groups, such as children and adults with neurodevelopmental conditions? How will the compromised diagnostic, support and school services affect their wellbeing and learning outcomes? How could these effects be mitigated? There is an urgent need for widely available, effective interventions, tailored to the developmental and cognitive profiles and individual needs of vulnerable groups.

How will the employment prospects of individuals with neurodevelopmental conditions be affected in an anticipated era of recession? How could neuro-diverse individuals, who often struggle securing a job, be supported? Could the recent experience of extensive use of remote and flexible working patterns be applied to maintain and broaden so-called neurodiversity employment programmes? 

In these unusual times of unprecedented social isolation, we can learn a lot from marginalised groups, “the real experts of the lock-down”. For example, adaptations and strategies used by autistic people to deal with uncertain situations and address their sensory or social needs are useful to everyone struggling with their lockdown routines. Neuro-diverse people are also a fantastic community. 

In the UK, the autism community has advocated for and achieved the relaxation of lockdown rules for autistic people and other vulnerable groups. We all need to contribute to the collective flattening of the curve based on our strengths.

Adversities due the COVID-19 pandemic help us develop a better understanding of the life experiences and challenges of vulnerable groups. We should take the opportunity to transition to a more accepting, inclusive and sustainable world post-COVID-19.

Dr Themis Karaminis is Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader BSc (Hons) Psychology at Edge Hill University.


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Pandemics, Prohibition and the Past: COVID-19 in Historical Perspective

The Coronavirus epidemic may be without precedent in living memory, but global pandemics are nothing new. In the sixth century AD the ‘Plague of Justinian’, an outbreak of bubonic plague, killed around 25 million people in Europe and Asia. The best known pandemic, the ‘Black Death’ of 1348-9, is thought to have killed up to 50 million people in Europe, or 60 per cent of the population. In 1918-19 the ‘Spanish Flu’ claimed the lives of 50-100 million worldwide, more than were killed in the First World War. By comparison circa 250,000 global deaths (at the time of writing) seems small in comparison.

Fear created by the alarming death rates of past pandemics was compounded by the fact that medical science was unable to identify the cause of contagion. In 1918 doctors attributed the source of the flu to a bacteria rather than a virus. In earlier pandemics things were even worse. Bubonic plague was seen as a form of divine punishment, or a disease spread by a poisonous miasma rather than flea infested rats.

The measures introduced by public authorities to contain infection were varied. Some restrictions sound familiar. In A Journal of the Plague Year in London, 1665-6, Daniel Defoe recalled that ‘all plays, bear-baiting, games, singing of ballads, public feasting’ and ‘tippling houses’ were prohibited. Churches remained open, but with appropriate social distancing, people going in ‘single at all times’ and ‘locking themselves into separate pews’. Public spaces became ‘so desolate’ that ‘grass grew upon the streets’.      

Self-isolation was enforced. Those infected with plague were confined to their homes with other members of the household and a red cross painted on the door. Nobody was allowed to leave until all within had either recovered or died, with a cart going around the streets after dark to collect the dead.

Albeit harsh in the extreme, such restrictions may have helped contain the spread of disease. In contrast the draconian proclamation that all dogs and cats be killed, as a potential source of infection, was, at best, misguided. The resulting destruction of some forty thousand dogs and two hundred thousand cats had one predictable outcome, ‘a prodigious multitude’ of ‘mice and rats’.

Then, as now, there was much discussion about the need for a test to determine who was infected. One suggestion was that physicians inhale the breath of suspected plague bearing persons as it had a distinctive smell. A proposition that, even if true, had at least one obvious drawback.     

If the current lockdown seems depressing there is, perhaps, some consolation in the thought that pandemics of the past were much worse. Similarly, if the thought of being unable to go to a pub or a wine bar for the foreseeable future is hard to bear, then spare a thought for American drinkers a hundred years ago. No sooner had they emerged from the horrors of the First World War and the ‘Spanish Flu’, than the introduction of Prohibition, in January 1920, banned the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol for more than a decade. At least Prohibition is unlikely to be repeated!

Kevern Verney is Professor of History and Associate Dean Research for the Faculty of Arts and Science at Edge Hill University.


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Main image: “Bring Out Your Dead” A street during the Great Plague in London, 1665, with a death cart and mourners. Image: Wellcome in Creative Commons

COVID-19 and Child Abuse in Institutions

The implications of measures taken to reduce the impact the lockdown for children (and adults) who reside with violent, abusive or exploitative partners and family members have been widely highlighted. For those in such circumstances, ‘keeping the NHS safe’ and ‘saving lives by staying at home’ comes at a very high price.

It is well recognised that the majority of child abuse occurs in the home. However, government inquiries into child abuse within institutional settings have been ongoing since the early 1990s. The current national inquiry (see IICSA) into sexual abuse within institutions in England and Wales has been running since 2014.

At the Centre for Child Protection and Safeguarding in Sport, our research focuses on abuse and maltreatment in sport contexts. In my research with ‘survivors’ of child sexual abuse in sport, I hear repeatedly how they felt trapped within the relationship and unable to tell anyone about the abuse they were experiencing. For some, home was a sanctuary that offered some temporary respite.

So, for at least some children and young people experiencing abuse, home isolation and ‘social distancing’ may feel like a dream come true rather than their worst nightmare.

For any type of abuse, including that perpetrated online, opportunity is fundamental. Often (but not always) the opportunity to be physically close to a child, in an isolated space, is a key facilitating factor. Thus whilst close proximity with those outside the home is currently restricted, there may be a small window of opportunity to break the connection between some children and their abusers, permanently.  

Families are crucial to this. But – if you are a parent/guardian of a child who is being sexually abused or exploited, it is highly likely that your child will have made the decision to conceal what is happening to them. An abused child’s life becomes a near permanent exercise in deception. They quickly learn to employ all their creative resources to prevent those closest to them from discovering their secret. Of course, this does not mean they aren’t desperately searching for a way to escape the abuse.

Enforced social distancing may have presented some children with an alternative version of their reality. A glimpse of something different, better. Undoubtedly their abuser(s) will be working hard to maintain their hold, to keep the child trapped within their version of reality. Children who find themselves in a sexually or physically abusive relationship outside the home are hopefully experiencing some relief. But as they observe our determined national efforts to ‘return to normal’, they also sense this will be short-lived.

So, for some children, the current crisis does present an opportunity, but it is one that adults – within and beyond the family – must take advantage of.

Specialist organisations provide useful support on talking to children and young people and identifying signs of sexual abuse and exploitation. Further safeguarding advice, information and resources relating to COVID-19 are also available from the GOV.UK website. If you’re worried that a child or young person is at risk or is being abused contact the children’s social care team at their local council.

Dr Mike Hartill is Director of the Centre for Child Protection and Safeguarding in Sport (CPSS) at Edge Hill University.


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Temporary or Fixed? Changing Business Models in a Global Pandemic

From lack of hand sanitiser to toilet paper, cargo stuck in ports, crops unpicked in fields and a work force relocated to their homes; organisations and consumers are adopting new approaches to deal with these shortages. With amazing flexibility and agility some firms have shifted their business models, invested in people and processes, explored new markets and created new products, whilst others appear to be lost and floundering.

Some firms have found that the key components and products they might need are just not available. This might be because their suppliers are temporarily/permanently shut down, transportation issues, or there just isn’t enough stock to meet demand. How are they managing these challenges?

Going local? This might mean (re)localising their sourcing (either regional or national) even when the costs are higher. A key question would be what happens to the ‘new’ suppliers when the break in the supply chain is repaired? Will firms stay loyal to those that helped them out?

Ramping up production. We see flour mills and toilet paper manufacturers etc all maxing out their production lines. Investments in short term ramp up will need to be repaid, and major alternations need to be worth the investment on a long-term basis. Flour mills and loo roll manufacturers are cleaning up right now (some literally) – but what about tomorrow?

New sources of supply. Across the UK firms are reimagining their business models to meet this demand. In Scotland the Wee Farm Distillery has switched production from Gin to hand sanitiser. You can even have the refill bottle posted out – just be careful as it comes in an ex-Gin bottle! Will this become a permanent side-line, or just an opportunistic diversion?

Extending business models. Other firms are being creative in switching their delivery modes and customer base. Wholesalers like Delifresh have moved from supplying cafes and hotels to household delivery. New items get added almost daily to their inventory. Will this investment pay off in a new customer base post this crisis? Even the big supermarkets have reimagined and invested with Morrisons quickly scaling out (with some teething issues) a click-and-collect service. Can these firms use these opportunities to take this market share long term?

Investing in stockpiles. We may see firms increase their inventory. Opposite to a just-in-time approach this will include costs – for storage facilities, monitoring and the cost of these stockpiled assets. Organisations need to be able to absorb these costs and to manage those inventories which might have expiry dates -like personal protective equipment. Longer term, will shareholders agree to absorb these costs? 

Ultimately sourcing will be a balance between risk, costs and convenience. An article in the Journal of Psychology says it takes an average 66 days to form a habit – from the first day of lockdown that’s the 27th May. So I wonder how many of these changes become permanent?

Professor Diane Holt, University of Leeds, Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Studies and contributor to the ISR/Edge Hill Business School Research Training series.


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Lockdown and Educational Inequality: Some Reflections

In 1970, Basil Bernstein famously wrote that education cannot compensate for society.

Bernstein may have been writing fifty years ago, but recent reports on the impact of school closures on disadvantaged children and young people resonate with his conclusions. Despite decades of government rhetoric about inclusion, the empirical reality of social inequality has been exposed by the pandemic. Elena Magrini (2020), describes the impact of school closures as a ‘learning loss’ that will likely have greatest impact on the most disadvantaged children. The result is a likely widening of the ‘education gap’.

To their credit, the government has responded to this educational crisis through a commitment to provide disadvantaged children with laptops, tablets and 4G routers. This is to be welcomed. However, the practical challenges of providing on line education raises some pressing additional questions about equality and inclusion in late modern societies.

In 1992 Gilles Deleuze wrote that social inclusion is determined by possession of the ‘Password’. Nikolas Rose (2004) developed these ideas in his work Powers of Freedom.  Rose draws attention to ‘circuits of inclusion’ which require constant proof of ‘legitimate identity’. Rose provides examples; computer readable passports, driving licenses with unique identification codes, social insurance numbers, bank cards. Each card provides the bearer with a virtual identity and access to certain privileges. Governments, employers, insurance companies and banks can all utilize databases to monitor individuals, provide or deny access to training, benefits or credit. To achieve an admissible existence in postmodern societies of control requires access to these circuits of inclusion, which leads us back to the issue of educational citizenship and access to educational inclusion in the lockdown.

The problem is summed up by Tom Middlehurst of the Schools, Students and Teachers Network (SSAT) in an interview for the Guardian where he states that,

‘The kinds of parents who will be having discussions and making the effort with home schooling are likely to be “middle class parents”

In other words, those that have the ‘digital’ capitals and the ‘passwords’ that provide access to computers, on line learning, reliable broadband provision and technological skill amongst other things. For young people and their families outside of these groups it is questionable if panicked provision of lap tops and routers will enable access to wider educational inclusion in a meaningful and enduring way. What is required is a sea change in policy that leads to universal, sustainable and equitable provision for learners and families. It shouldn’t take a national emergency to refocus debate on issues of social justice and educational inclusion.

Dr Francis Farrell is Senior Lecturer in Theology and Religion at Edge Hill University.


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Coronavirus and Calais refugees: How can you stay safe without soap?

“There is sickness and we can’t wash our hands” – Iranian refugee.

France has been in lockdown since 16 March with strict rules limiting movement outside homes but what does this mean if you haven’t actually got a home?

There are around 1200 refugees living rough in the pas-de-Calais region. They are in constant fear about their health and supplies of food and water as COVID-19 takes away much of the support they had.

Care4Calais (C4C) is a volunteer run charity delivering essential aid and support to refugees across Northern France and Belgium.  It is a charity well known to many staff and students at Edge Hill who have raised funds or worked for the charity as volunteers.

These refugees live in very poor conditions, exposed to the elements with a poor diet and a lack of readily available medical care. They are now living in constant fear of the virus due to the lack of running water and soap.

An emergency appeal by Care4Calais recently resulted in a fast response from three companies, The House of Botanicals (a gin distillery in Aberdeen), International Water Solutions in Romford and L’Oréal Paris. However, there is a constant need to replenish supplies as the French authorities deny access to running water for washing.

Since the start of the lockdown, many of the NGOs who previously provided essential support to these already vulnerable people have made the difficult, but understandable decision to suspend their operations. One of these, Refugee Community Kitchen had provided hot meals to refugees in the area every single day since December 2015.

Recently, C4C surveyed 150 refugees across Calais and Dunkirk to gather data on the impacts of Covid-19. The results are interesting.

Almost half (48%) of those surveyed have been in Calais for three months or less. This is a reminder of how transitory the population is. It contrasts with ideas of a ‘permanent’ unwanted presence in the region.

Coronavirus was a primary concern for only 14 of the 150 refugees who responded. Nearly three times as many said they were most fearful for their most basic needs of food, sanitation, shelter or clothing. How can this be? Perhaps when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, a potential illness no matter how threatening, becomes secondary.

As the lockdown has continued, C4C has had to focus almost entirely on supplying food. The regular distribution of clean clothes and supplies of washing facilities more or less ceased resulting in many refugees having to survive wearing the same dirty clothes for weeks.

This has resulted in a rise of conditions associated with a lack of basic hygiene. The need for clean clothing including footwear is a major concern for the refugees while C4C’s ability to meet this need has been compromised by the difficulties in obtaining donations and the lack of volunteers needed to deliver them.

C4C’s survey also showed that most people (86%) had serious reservations about using the shelters set up by the French authorities. This was mostly because the refugees knew this would mean abandoning their dreams of reaching the UK but also because they feared heightened exposure to coronavirus in confined spaces.

The refugees are in more need than ever before.

Dr Mike Stoddart is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education and a member of the Action For Refugees Network at Edge Hill University.


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COVID-19: Lockdown when you are Locked Up

The onset of COVID-19 has made an impact on every aspect of our society. But one group in particular is facing real difficulties in coping with the crisis, a group so often ignored by society, and that is people in prison. It is shocking that reportedly up to 60% of prisoners could become infected with COVID-19. A custodial sentence punishes an offender by taking away his or her liberty. But can justice be served if restrictions on a person’s liberty places that individual in mortal danger? 

Overcrowding, run-down prison buildings and the close-knit nature of prison itself means that the pandemic has been, and will continue to be, exacerbated for prisoners, prison workers and families connected to these groups.  To counter this, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has also announced its intention to temporarily release pregnant prisoners, but, at the time of writing, very few pregnant women have actually been released. The MoJ has also said that to assist with social distancing, around 4000 prisoners will be released early on licence – yet by mid-April only a small number of prisoners had been released; highlighting a lack of urgency in providing care, safety and protection for prisoners.

The pandemic is also likely to exacerbate the mental health problems of prisoners. The uncertainty of this situation will leave many prisoners more vulnerable to stress and anxiety, triggering incidents of self-harm and paranoia, with isolation intensifying the symptoms of trauma. With experienced officers leaving the prison service in large numbers, those that remain are struggling to curtail social interaction – particularly as many prisons officers themselves have had to self-isolate – it has become incredibly challenging for prison officers to identify and respond appropriately to the individual needs of inmates; particularly those with underlying health problems.

Despite the above, there are still some positives. In these challenging times a group of young people from social justice charity Peer Power Youth in London, working in partnership with NHS England, have produced something extraordinary. In an act of collective compassion, they have created an educational video for young people in custody. The young people from the charity explained what the COVID-19 pandemic is and provided support and guidance on how to stay safe in prison. These young people – with experience of care and/or criminal justice – know what it feels like to be in distressing situations, how to offer empathy and overcome types of adversity. All of this is demonstrated in the video they have produced.

Dr Sean Creaney is a Lecturer in Psychosocial Analysis of Offending Behaviour, and a member of the Institute for Social Responsibility.

Dr Michael Richards is a Senior Lecturer in Health and Social Care, and Deputy Director: Centre for Arts and Wellbeing at Edge Hill University

John Marsden is a Senior Lecturer in Counselling and Psychotherapy at Edge Hill University .


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Ministry without the Ministered: Reflections from a Vicar in Lockdown

As a Church of England Vicar, like other professionals called to work in local community the idea of this lockdown has been a tremendous shock. I am learning to cope (but not very well!). Ministers of the Gospel are called to preach, teach and minister God’s love in community; isolation is a very painful and difficult antithesis to that.

The lockdown challenges the Church and all of us in a number of ways:

Firstly, the physical isolation from people whom we love in our wider family and friends including members of our flock. For someone like me – who has been suspicious of social media, fearing that people forget what real friendship is, a new movement has arisen to inform people of what we are offering using Facebook and Twitter, Zoom and other social media platforms on PCs, phones and tablets. I created my first ever video sermon last week. In common with all public speakers (including stand-up comedians!) we know that preaching is about reacting to the people who are ‘present’ as well as just sharing your pre-prepared thoughts. Reaction is stifled as I always look to discern the Holy Spirit at work within each individual.

Secondly, with strict rules in place, most people have cancelled their weddings due to numbers being limited to 5. Church funerals are no longer permitted; each ceremony in cemetery chapels and crematoria limit mourner numbers to around 10 with the option of live streaming services for family and friends who are blessed with access to IT. We have recently lost two members of our congregation; there will certainly need to be a number of memorial services after lockdown as people are feeling extremely cheated from expressing their grief. The pain of not being able to properly mourn or celebrate their contribution to the community is palpable.

As well as concern for relationships distanced, bereavement and sacramental isolation there are also severe financial implications for churches and Dioceses. As with other charities and businesses the Church is losing fees, charges and collections along with other forms of financial and volunteer support. For many organisations, large or small, this will be critical.

However,  the major questions for us all are theological and social. I do want to ask what sort of society we want to be in the future, when we seek to bring justice for all which is at the heart of Christianity. Perhaps appreciating each other more, looking out for the poor, elderly and vulnerable, keeping fit, learning how to cook healthily, polluting the planet less and taking the NHS and other public and shared services much more seriously.

Whilst experiencing this lock down we can all reflect on the kind of society we want to build; perhaps now appreciating things we had forgotten. As a person of faith I want to challenge us all to look forward with hope to build a better, more inclusive and safer future for everyone in our world. Love, justice and peace must be paramount.

Rev John Davis of ‘Together Liverpool’ and the Church Urban Fund is an ISR Visiting Fellow.


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COVID-19 lockdown: What are the implications for individual freedom?

Central Edinburgh under lockdown on Easter Saturday 2020. © kaysgeog, Fickr

The Coronavirus outbreak is having a profound impact on our personal and work lives. Like many countries around the world, UK has been placed under lockdown for more than four weeks now. Unlike some European countries who have declared a state of emergency under Article 15  of the European Convention on European Rights (ECHR) to deal with COVID-19 pandemic, the UK Government has armed itself with the emergency powers through the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 outlining rules on business closures and movement restrictions. The Coronavirus Act 2020 increases the powers of the government to restrict or prohibit events and gatherings and to close educational establishments beyond those set out in the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984. This allows police to restrict, prohibit events and detain people who may be infectious to slow down the spread of the virus. It is also worth pointing out that while these powers may seem to impact on individual right to liberty and freedom of movement, they are ‘temporary’ in nature and specific to deal with the pandemic.

The Police is using its powers to  issue fines to those who have ignored the ‘stay-at-home’ restrictions in breach of coronavirus lockdown rules. However, criticism has also emerged against the  ‘overreach’ in use of virus lockdown powers. Recently, former Supreme Court Judge Lord Sumption warned that that excessive measures were in danger of turning Britain into a “police state” while criticising one force for using drone to film walkers in the Peak district. Using these powers judiciously and avoiding an overzealous response is crucial to build public confidence. Notwithstanding the calls for greater consistency and reissuance of  new guidance, confusion created by different interpretation of official guidance by cabinet ministers during the lockdown has been quite unhelpful.

Public opinion remains divided between the fears of turning us into a “nation of little tyrants” and positive support for the current measures. The situation is further exacerbated  by the mixed messages given by the government over the lockdown amidst very  different approaches taken by other European countries for easing the lockdown.

The pandemic has raised important questions around individual freedom and role of the State to ‘curb’ the free movement and assembly of people even during a health emergency such as COVID-19. With the PM Johnson’s  announcement to continue the lockdown after his return to work, the debate between ‘everlockers versus the liberators’ will only become more fiercer.

Paresh Wankhade is Professor of Leadership and Management, and Director of Research in the Business School at Edge Hill University.


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Fingerprints, DNA and Policing Powers during COVID-19

Lockdown measures have now been extended by a further three weeks and may last until mid-June. So, you might be wondering what the mechanisms are behind such structures. How can the police force people to disperse from large gatherings? What in fact are large gatherings? What about leaving your home for anything other reason than essential travel? What penalties are in place? Well…Law is the answer, specifically Public Law. Broadly speaking public law governs the relationship between the individual and the state. Many Acts of Parliament fall into this category, none more so than those covering police powers, counter-terrorism powers and human rights.

Enter the Coronavirus Act 2020 and the conjoined Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. The Act and Regulations restrict an individual’s movement during the emergency period, specifying that no person may leave their fixed abode without reasonable excuse. Large gatherings, defined as being two people or more, are also banned for the duration of this emergency; again unless you can satisfy certain necessities.

Enforcement of these restrictions and penalties applicable are provided by an increase in current legislative powers brought about by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). An officer is now permitted to arrest an individual without a warrant, in order to maintain public health and to maintain public order.

Arrestable offences have undoubtedly increased under these provisions. Should an individual, without reasonable excuse contravene a requirement under the regulations, they essentially commit a criminal offence. If an individual does not follow a direction given, or fails to comply with a reasonable instruction, they likewise commit an offence, and are liable on summary conviction to a fine, a maximum being £1000.

What is perhaps most interesting, is that section 24 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 goes further, without rationale, providing an extension to the time limits for the retention of fingerprints and DNA profiles.

The UK Parliament introduced the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 which stated that all DNA and fingerprint samples taken from persons who are not convicted of a criminal offence should be destroyed. Prior to this Act, the UK had the largest database in the western world. Whilst PACE already allows for indefinite retention of those profiles taken from convicted individuals, and for up to three to five years of those merely charged, the Coronavirus Act 2020 allows for a maximum 12-month extension to these times.

It is far from clear why in these times would need to be extended in the first place given that Magistrates Court hearings in England and Wales are taking place remotely. The law already provides for retention beyond that of many other jurisdictions, so why the necessity?

There are pros and cons to retention; some solving old cold cases and bringing about justice for all. But the science is not 100% and can lead to unfairness and wrongful arrest. Your DNA/fingerprint profile belongs uniquely to you, but now it seems, increasingly to the authorities; kept on a computer system to which you have no control or access. This fact, conjoined with the ever-increasing use of computer algorithms, such databases hold enormous power, a gold-mine for national and international policing agencies. These can be used positively for fighting crime, but they come with huge risks to privacy. Mission creep can easily lead to such databased being employed in terms of racial profiling, medical history and psychological profiling.

Thankfully, the master-control-programme behind the increased measures, namely the Coronavirus Act 2020 and the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020, have sunset clauses, bringing them to an abrupt end once this crisis has abated. The question remaining of course, have these measures inadvertently altered public perceptions regarding the relationship between collective security and individual privacy? Will the line spring back or stay overtly state supportive?

Dr Simon Hale-Ross is a Senior Lecturer in Law and Counter Terrorism Policing at Edge Hill University.


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Lockdown 2020 – The Impact on Social Care

During this unprecedented lockdown, serious concerns have been raised across society about the social care of the country’s most marginalised and vulnerable groups; and the safety and protection of those who provide their care.

Despite this, provisions within the Coronavirus Act 2020 undermine the Equality Act 2010 and the Care Act 2014, which guarantees disabled people and other marginalised groups the right to appropriate social care and support, and for their social care needs to be met.

The Act stipulates that local authorities will only have to provide care ‘if they consider it necessary’. The Act allows health bodies to delay assessment for continuing care in the NHS. In addition, duties relating to young people transitioning into adult social care have been suspended. People can also be detained under the Mental Health Act using one doctor’s opinion instead of two ensuring that it is easier to detain people. There is also potential for releasing people into the community from mental health care too early, or for people in care staying in care for longer than necessary.

The mantra of  ‘we can do’ and ‘let’s stick together’ oft repeated by the ableist and most powerful in society during this pandemic, runs contrary to the provisions within the Act and will likely ensure that the most marginalised in society will be worst off.

Ironically, the real experts of ‘lockdown’ are the disabled and marginalised. Perhaps we should be listening to their voices, and drawing on their expertise and knowledge, during this global crisis instead?

Dr Michael Richards is a Senior Lecturer in Health and Social Care and the Deputy Director of the Centre for Arts and Wellbeing at Edge Hill University.


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Where is the Balance – Democracy in the Lockdown

The arrival of CORVID 19 has changed our annual routines.  Every Spring we know to put the clocks forward, to expect events like the Grand National and the Cup Final and to expect the steady tramp of the political campaigners’ tread.  Because for politicians, May is polling day.  There is always an election somewhere in early May – except of course this year when the Government postponed a whole slew of elections to 2021.  Virus control measures, like social distancing and staying at home were seen as incompatible with public polling stations and crowded counts.

So here the balance was weighed, and after some delay, the Government decided that anti- virus action trumped democracy, or at least allowed democracy to wait a little.

The UK Government’s decision, and those in other places, raise questions about where the balance should be and can be.

One of those keenest for elections to continue this Spring was French President Emmanuel Macron.  France was due for a huge set of local elections.  More complicated than a UK polling day, these contests frequently involve a run-off round.  Citizens usually have to vote twice before any decision is made.  The first round took place despite the lock-down but the second round was then postponed.  Turnout was down with special precautions at polling stations around the country.

In the US we are in that part of the election cycle which sees a whole host of primary contests as part of the Presidential selection.  These are run by individual States or State parties, and we’ve seen many push their polling dates into June or move to absent voting – which usually means by post, except that is in Wisconsin where a bizarre stand- off led to court hearings and a row between the Governor and the State legislature.  At stake was whether and how to run polling day in early April and how to deal with postal votes.  The Republican legislature wanted the date and existing rules to stand.  The Democratic Governor wanted to postpone.  And this being America the judges got drawn in.   The result was few polling places,  slow moving queues of voters wearing facemasks, confusion over the postal vote deadline, and a lower than usual turnout.  One of the pictures of the year will be Jennifer Taff and her home made “This is Ridiculous” placard.   Wisconsin was choosing people for some other roles as well as the Presidential primary, but it is hard to see the urgency of any of them.

Another election to go ahead was the national contest in South Korea in mid-April in which the governing party was relected with in a landslide.  Turnout was up.  The election saw plenty of precautions though including voters’ temperatures being taken. Anyone suspected of being ill voted in a more secluded polling booth which was then sanitised.

In Poland the Governing Law and Justice party is determined that the Presidential election, due on May 10th, goes ahead.  This is not surprising as the party’s candidate, the incumbent Duda, is currently polling at more than 50 per cent with the closest challenger on 10.  Plans to carry on with the election have caused angry scenes in the Polish Parliament as first measures for some postal voting, and then measures for a completely postal vote were pushed through.   There are very real worries about whether, on such a tight timescale, everyone entitled to vote will get a correctly addressed ballot in time to take part.  But that’s not the only problem.  Coronavirus in Poland means public gatherings can’t happen.  And that in turn means parties can’t run their usual campaigns.  This has sparked critical comment at European level, with the Organisation of Cooperation and Security in Europe making a statement shortly after the Polish Parliament vote.  “Genuine elections require an authentic campaign in which voters can hear the programmes and opinions of all candidates in order to make a well-informed choice,” said [i]ODIHR Director Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir. “The current limitations on public gatherings due to the pandemic make campaigning close to impossible. I am concerned that if the presidential election goes ahead under the current circumstances, it may fall short of a number of international standards.”

Approaches to whether or not people should be able to exercise their right to vote depend on the progress of the virus.  But they also depend on political factors.  They also raise the issue of the importance of elections in democracy and the perception of democracy.  It would be hard, having seen the turnouts in some English local elections, to argue that all citizens are losing out.  Most don’t bother to vote.  But those who were dissatisfied with their current representative or their current council administration have lost the chance to say so.  And maybe it is the loss of opportunity that matters, not the way it has been used in the past.  And of course elections focus minds when politicians are making decisions.

The advance of the virus has seen more governments and more administrations take more powers.  For the most part the public have not disagreed.  The crucial test will be how that power, or whether that power, is relinquished and how citizens get back their say and use it.

[i] The Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights is part of the OSCE.  Its responsibilities include organising Election Observation Missions.

Paula Keaveney is Programme Leader for Politics at Edge Hill University.  She also takes part in Election Observation Missions.


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