Covid and the Classroom
With most pupils now back in school it’s a good time to reflect on how the Covid-19 pandemic has changed education.
The closure of schools was something of a shock to everyone. No-one could have foreseen a world where classrooms were suddenly moved online - and remote teaching was certainly not what most teachers had trained to do. Similarly, most parents were aghast to find that they were required to become fully fledged educators alongside their day jobs.
Education during this time varied from school to school, region to region and family to family. Whilst this is probably consistent with education outside of ‘Covid times’ the differences became more pronounced once children were required to stay at home.
The independent sector was (generally) reported to have fared pretty well
Ian Daniel, Principal of the Rushmoor and St Andrew’s Schools Alliance in Bedford told us how they kept things moving...
“Rushmoor and St Andrew’s Schools Alliance provided a remote learning service throughout the lockdown period, using Microsoft Teams for students in Year 3 up to Sixth Form; SeeSaw was used for the younger students in EYFS to Year 2. They kept to the normal timetable as much as possible, meaning pupils were able to progress despite lockdown. They also provided a private Facebook group for their Nursery parents, suggesting ideas of how to occupy the youngest children during lockdown.
The remote learning included live lessons, together with assignments and projects. There were extra sessions for those who have specific learning needs. Sports challenges were set, together with suggested books and podcasts. The online community shared ideas for ‘virtual’ school trips, such as the Bushcraft campouts; the children enjoyed sharing their pictures with their classmates.
Good work was celebrated via the online Principal’s Award and ‘Star Student’ postcards were sent home. End of year school reports were still issued, focusing on effort during the lockdown period, and the end-of-year awards were still celebrated in the online Review. Online assemblies took place and even a motivational video featuring the staff and pupils dancing and singing.
Parents were kept informed and were invited to ‘question and answer sessions’ with the leadership team using Microsoft Teams. The whole school community kept going incredibly well online throughout the entire period, even welcoming new students to the schools during the lockdown period.”
A different picture for maintained schools and academies
Maintained schools and academies reported a different picture and most were unable to offer the same level of agility.
The level of resource available to both schools and families differed wildly, meaning that most schools (in particular, primary schools) couldn’t offer video classrooms in the same way that the independent sector could.
"In many cases, even if schools had the resources, families didn’t."
We heard tales from up and down the country of parents trying (and, understandably, in many cases failing) to home educate their children. For many maintained schools and academies, remote education consisted of work being set by teachers and the occasional phone call home.
Special schools were generally exempt from school closures because of the vulnerability of their pupils, however, the impact of Covid-19 on staff resources meant that many such schools had to close anyway. In many cases, online learning simply wasn’t a possibility for these children and they received little to no education during this time.
Regardless of whether schools could offer online learning, no school was able to deliver the social and emotional support that most children thrive upon and, even though schools were required to update their safeguarding policies, ensuring the health and welfare of all children was clearly made more difficult without children present in school.
So does this mean remote education is a waste of time?
As the pandemic continues to evolve, we expect to see periods of time where whole schools will be required to close or where ‘bubbles’ of pupils will be sent home to isolate. The remote classroom (in whichever form that takes) is certainly not perfect but it does at least offer some continuum of education for the short period that pupils are required to stay away from the classroom.
In addition, pupils that have previously struggled to attend school as a result of their special educational or health needs many now be better able to access some semblance of an alternative education.
So whilst many offices (EMW included) have adapted seamlessly to the world of remote working, it’s probably fair to say that the education sector wasn’t able to adapt in quite the same way. No-one considers ‘remote education’ to be a complete substitute for the classroom, but it certainly has helped (even if only a very little bit) in making the best of a decidedly tricky situation.
Get in touch
For more information on this update, please contact Laura Thompson.