A new report from Home LearningUK lays out a series of recommendations for support educators, parents and students who are working or learning from home during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The report also details a sector-wide range of reflections and experiences amid the current pandemic. Produced at rapid pace ahead of UK school closures, the team, who derive from diverse backgrounds, came together voluntarily basis in an effort to help institutions “cope with and learn from the impact of school closures and the move to home/remote learning”.
Talking of the lockdown, Kirsty Cooper of Grayrigg C.E. Primary School in Kendal, Cumbria, said: “It’s a strange feeling opening up school for a few children. Supporting the children of frontline staff is something we were more than happy to do, although doing this whilst trying to apply the rules of social distancing feels incredibly alien. The hardest challenge has been setting remote learning for those at home and not being physically there to support the children (and parents) when they struggle. Being able to engage face-to-face through technology has helped massively. The key to this working has been taking the risk with our resources, lending out chromebooks and tablets where necessary to ensure all children can engage in remote learning.”
The paper notes that distance teaching presents a unique set of challenges for educators of all levels, as well as for students and parents; all of whom have varying communication needs, work well in different contexts and require different levels of support. If they hadn’t already embraced the use of classroom technology, schools have been forced to accelerate their digital transition, and the report lays out advice to help them through these extraordinary times.
The recommendations are as follows:
1. There needs to be immediate investment in digital infrastructure and digital devices to facilitate and protect learning at home. The crisis has exposed the digital divide across the UK sector, highlighting issues of social mobility and limiting pupils’ ability to access leaning remotely.
2. Greater emphasis, attention and investment must be placed on teacher wellbeing. The sector must also invest in the activities of Education Support – a national charity dedicated to teacher wellbeing.
3. The Department for Education (DfE) should create a platform which includes access to cloud-based platforms. This way, schools can build an educator-designed and led national database for useful, secure and reliable resources.
4. Parent and pupil wellbeing must be prioritised. The partnership between parents and educators should be revered.
5. There needs to be access to consistent, super-fast broadband for schools. The report suggests that establishing a unified super-fast broadband infrastructure, implemented via government investment and partnership with Telecom companies would be effective – especially in England.
6. The sector must capture learning across the education system to incorporate resilience and digital approaches.
“This report calls for urgent action to bridge the digital divide through significant investment in access to devices and home broadband,” wrote Caroline Keep, editor of the report and director of SPARK at Penketh High School; and Ty Goddard, co-founder of The Education Foundation and chair of Edtech UK, in a foreword for the paper.
“There is a role too for active and agile government. All departments for education across the UK, will wish to review ideas, activities and implementation, when the time is right, to ensure future system resilience, including digital across our schools…
“Educators, as one of the most trusted professions, [must] reassure and stay calm for those they serve. A willingness to serve in difficult circumstances does not mean however that their own safety and wellbeing is not paramount.”