Edtech UK and the ISC Digital Strategy Group have published advice ahead of potential school closures caused by coronavirus.
With schools and universities in Italy now on complete shutdown, confirmed cases of the virus reaching at least 94 countries and the global death toll rising 3,594 (at the time of writing), Edtech UK and the ISC have established an ad hoc working group to update school leaders with emerging advice and practice should closures occur.
The UK experienced the biggest jump in confirmed cases in just 24-hours over the weekend, with 273 cases – 64 of which were confirmed by 9am on Sunday 8 March.
Responding to the rapid advance of coronavirus throughout Europe and the world, UK health officials are now attempting to delay the spread of the virus rather than simply contain it, hoping to shift the peak of cases away from the winter pressures currently straining the NHS.
The government’s four-stage plan – Containment, Delay, Research and Mitigate – is now moving into the second step, hoping to stave off the worst of the disease until summer, according to Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical adviser to the UK government.
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There have already been around 15 school closures nationally, some of which are pre-cautionary, due to the virus.
Edtech UK and the ISC’s Developing Leadership Bulletin for March 2020 cites advice published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US:
“Schools can play an important role in this effort. Through collaboration and coordination with local health departments, schools can take steps to disseminate information about the disease and its potential transmission within their school community. Schools can prepare to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among their students and staff should local health officials identify such a need.
“Schools should continue to collaborate, share information, and review plans with local health officials to help protect the whole school community, including those with special health needs.
“School plans should be designed to minimise disruption to teaching and learning and protect students and staff from social stigma and discrimination. Plans can build on everyday practices (eg. encouraging hand hygiene, monitoring absenteeism, communicating routinely) that includes strategies for before, during and after a possible outbreak.”
In the bulletin, Edtech UK and ISC promote the use of technology where there is value in online learning, with various tools, solutions and devices supporting remote teaching in the event of a school closure. The organisations propose a range of simple steps for school leaders to consider to help them prepare and continue to consolidate teaching and learning.
“We all have textbooks and online resources that staff can use to help students to continue to learn,” writes the bulletin. “Many schools are already using online platforms for managing student work and providing feedback on progress. [What] different schools and subjects find most effective will vary.
“The question will be how we continue to manage student learning and mentor pupils without the face to face interactions that we are used to. Communities of learners are important, and some schools and colleges may find it a challenge to continue the momentum without the structure of the timetable and the support of our colleagues,” it continues.
“We understand that there are schools with a lack of sufficient infrastructure, experience and training for staff to use digital resources to support teaching and learning. But there are steps to start thinking about teaching and learning during a potential closure situation.”
The bulletin suggests a number of questions to ask your institution to drive strategic, pragmatic discussion and help prepare for closures, including:
– Think about communications channels to parents, can you use them to maintain the momentum of the learning community and deliver more practical solutions?
– Do you have a shared online space (OneDrive, Google Drive etc) for staff to share information with each other and with students/parents?
– Does your institution or Parent Teacher Association have a Facebook group or similar solution you could use to maintain a dialogue with parents?
– How often would you aim to go online with your learners?
– How can you best mobilise and explain to parents the continued need to support learning?
– How can you best support pupils who need extra help from a distance?
– Should we consider different approaches for EYFS, KS1, KS2, SEND, etc?
– How can we manage students’ ongoing learning and set realistic expectations for ‘work’ in an evolving situation? Remember that teaching staff may have young children too.
– Have you tested the IT systems that you will use?
– Have you assessed staff and student skills? Can they use your systems effectively?
– Are there any things that could go wrong?
– Have you asked each department for a plan of action, including resources they will use?
– Consider the home learning environments for pupils – are they good for study and is online access actually available and protected at home?
– Are there any safeguarding issues regarding pupil study from home?
“We feel it is essential to initiate conversations about potential closure as soon as possible and this information may help,” Ty Goddard, chair of Edtech UK, told Education Technology.
Click here to read the full advice bulletin from Edtech UK and the ISC.