When we experienced the first lockdown, there was a message that schools were ‘childcare’, and the national curriculum was suspended. That message eventually changed, and schools were expected to provide some form of education, although being new to the idea of remote education, the vast majority (especially primary) scrambled to photocopy workpacks and organise log-in codes for online systems like PurpleMash, TimesTable RockStars and MyMaths.
From September, the message has changed, and schools were expected to have in place a remote learning process that ensured a continuation of learning. I’m sure that when the DfE wrote their guidance they were thinking of complete bubbles closing and the teacher switching from teaching a whole class in school to providing something online. Instead, what we saw was individuals or small groups isolating and a degree of juggling education for those in school with those at home.
This latest lockdown has resulted in far more children in school than was probably planned for and teachers remain trying to balance the remote education with the in-school offer.
I think my schools (I’m the chair of governors for 3 of them, 1 secondary and 2 primary) took the most sensible decision they could. That teachers would deliver remote education and those children attending school would access the same offer as those staying at home under the supervision of the staff in school. This meant that the students with EHCPs who were offered a place could access their support as normal, where parents of students with EHCPs have chosen not to send their child in, we endeavour to deliver the best we can.
I read with interest the Ofsted report published last week (11th January). https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/whats-working-well-in-remote-education/whats-working-well-in-remote-education
Class Charts is used in many schools to support with their remote education offer. Even back in September, staff were able to set homework tasks (as normal) and also blended learning tasks for those pupils self-isolating or not attending.
The Ofsted report busted a series of myths:
- remote education is fundamentally different to other forms of teaching/learning
- remote education is a different curriculum/offer to the content that would be delivered normally
- the best forms of remote education are digital
- the best way to deliver remote education is always through live lessons
- the most important thing is pupils’ engagement
And gave us 7 things to consider:
- Remote education is just a different way of delivering the teaching/learning. It is built on the same fundamentals as face to face teaching.
- Keep it simple is key. A classroom environment can be controlled of distractions. 30 children with 30 different environments none of which you can control makes it considerably more complicated. Chunk information, don’t overcomplicate things and beware misconceptions.
- Focus on the basics. When we have the fundamentals secured then it is much easier to build on those with deeper knowledge later.
- Feedback, retrieval and assessment remain important. OK, the thought of delivering a formal assessment remotely sends shivers down my spine. Having watched one of my sons expected to print an exam paper and then sit, camera and mic on and focussed on the paper with my son’s hands expected to be in shot at all times (no Google for those answers) whilst his younger brother was told to log into a particular website and complete the assessment on there by the following week. One child completely under the pressure caused of being observed, the other tasking his older siblings to support his responses! If you are delivering live/synchronous lessons I’m sure classroom feedback will enable you to gather more accurate data.
- The medium might matter. Digital remote education (logging into Nessy, Century Learning or Corbett Maths) all require a device with a decent sized screen and stable internet connection. Live lessons drain bandwidth. Recorded lessons don’t always allow for misconceptions to be addressed. Ask your SENCO and they will tell you that the progress made on digital platforms is very often not transferred onto paper without further input.
- Live lessons are not always best. (Despite contradiction by the government itself…for once we get to agree with Ofsted.) I’m that parent you’d hate. I was working in the same room as my eldest son as his tutor attempted to explain a particular concept and got themselves into a complete and utter tangle. I spent 10 minutes cringing, debating whether I needed to interrupt (I kept telling myself, I wouldn’t have been able to if he was in school) before eventually grabbing his keyboard and typing a quick message in chat to ‘clarify’ what had been said. Lessons in the UK are usually around an hour long, but our ability to concentrate on a screen (Call of Duty or Minecraft excluded) is generally a lot less than this. We even have rules for workers around the amount of time they should be spent staring at a screen without a break and ergonomically designed items are not likely to have been high on the shopping list when the child chose their Fortnite or Trolls designed bedroom.
- Engagement matters…but so does everything else.
Why not check out how Class Charts can help you fulfil the DfE requirement to have a suitable platform for sharing remote education with your students?
And don’t forget your remote learning policy must be on your school websites by 25th January. (Template available on the DfE website.). https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/providing-remote-education-information-to-parents-template