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Thoughts from the network: Remote learning

Welcome to the latest in our regular series of articles where we share the thoughts of SSAT members on national developments happening in education at the moment.

This week, our members offer their views on remote learning, highlighting all of the hard work of their teachers and wider school community in supporting their young people over the last few months.

If you are a headteacher or senior leader in an SSAT member school and would like to get actively involved and share your views on future policy developments, get in touch with Alex Galvin, Senior Education Lead, via your school’s Relationship Manager.

Making it work

“When we have had to send groups of students home, we have always continued to teach the normal curriculum via live online lessons. During the current period of lockdown, we are continuing with live lessons for KS4 and 5 lessons and are offering a mixture of live feedback lessons and work set on Google Classroom (based on programmes of study) for years 7-9. I think the most important thing about remote learning is the opportunity for feedback and the monitoring of student progress. It is difficult to stipulate whether it should be live lessons or online curriculum or a mixture because so much depends on the context in which the school is operating, the age range and level of ability of students. Our tracking data showed that, during the first lockdown, our higher ability students made extremely good progress but some of our SEN learners actually appeared to go backwards. That has shaped what we are doing differently this time.”

“The biggest thing I would note is the need to curb colleagues’ desire to deliver ‘live’ lessons (we’ve now added synchronous and asynchronous to our lexicon!). The conflation of remote learning and online learning has now been cleared up, I believe. A teacher wouldn’t ‘stand and deliver’ for a full hour (or indeed two as we have double lessons) with face-to-face learning, so why online? A degree of live teacher input is important, for a whole host of reasons, but that combined with pre-recorded elements, independent learning, use of break-out rooms, use of a good ‘old-fashioned’ textbook and much more besides are now being employed to provide variety to lessons. Limiting screen time is essential for both student and teacher. Colleagues now ‘get this’ and are already better at ‘pacing’ themselves. I was fearful of burn-out after the first few days, given the added intensity of online delivery and the time colleagues were spending on preparing lessons.”

“My view is that schools need to provide a balanced diet of remote learning – asking staff to deliver all lessons live is not great for their wellbeing and sitting on a computer for five hours a day is not great for student wellbeing either. FFT and Ofsted both suggest a mixed economy and schools need to be brave enough to develop a principled remote learning policy that reflects this advice – not be bounced into all live lessons by parents who just want childcare. I do think we need to have plenty of interaction with the students as many felt isolated over the summer lockdown – plenty of ways to do this.”

“With regard to remote learning, we expect staff to be live for students at the start of every lesson for registration, to touch base and set up learning and again be live at the end for some sort of plenary. We then allow staff to use their professional judgement about how they format the rest of the learning. We do ask them to be available to answer any questions, but these questions might be sent to them via an app (Show My Homework or Showbie) or in the chat function on Zoom or spoken live. Again, it is very much their professional judgement as well as understanding individual circumstances. I think many parents, particularly in leafy suburbs, have many misconceptions about what good remote learning looks like and think that ‘live learning’ is the gold standard. However, it is good to see that the DfE and Ofsted are starting to address these misconceptions.”

“Remote learning has some distinct advantages, which have the potential to improve pedagogy for all students in the future. For example, some students have been able to contribute to discussions online in a more profound way than in class, and it is possible for teachers to gather feedback from students very efficiently and effectively. There is clear potential for remote learning to become an established part of wider provision, including through more flexible timetabling, to support individual students or in times of forced school closure.”

Teachers deserve recognition for the creativity and flexibility they have shown

“The strides teachers have made, in what is a very short period of time, in developing their confidence and expertise in using (for many) these new platforms is nothing short of remarkable.”

“The current pandemic has necessitated a dramatic shift within the education sector to develop its practice in online, distance, blended and hybrid learning. The sector as a whole has demonstrated remarkable agility in this respect.”

“Teachers have proven themselves once again to be an incredibly resilient, adaptable and stoical bunch. All that being said, I’d still rather be back in a classroom.”

“With regard to remote learning, it goes without saying that the expectations on schools have increased since lockdown 1. Unsurprisingly, teachers have once again stepped up to the plate at very short notice and are doing an amazing job.”

Reporting to Ofsted?

“The thing I feel most strongly about is the suggestion that parents should be encouraged to report schools to Ofsted if they feel their child’s school’s remote learning provision is not good enough! Schools don’t need this ‘threat’ on top of legislation and all the other challenges (mass testing…!!) that they are having to do.”

“The Secretary of State’s invitation to parents to contact Ofsted if they were not happy appears to have backfired somewhat with countless emails of support sent last weekend to our Inspectorate. We received a good many such emails directly to school. Sadly, Gavin Williamson’s remarks reflect the low esteem in which he holds the profession and exposes his complete lack of knowledge of what has been going on in schools since March. Fortunately, his opinion matters far less than that of parents, young people and teachers, and they know the score.”

Your opportunity to get involved

If you are a headteacher or senior leader in an SSAT member school and would like to get actively involved and share your views on future policy developments, get in touch with Alex Galvin, Senior Education Lead, via your school’s Relationship Manager.

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