SWGfL provides advice on remote learning ahead of UK school closures

The sector is exploring strategies that will enable learning to continue while staff and students are self isolating

While the UK government is still advising schools to stay open, many education leaders are exploring remote learning strategies and choosing to close autonomously to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson met with headteachers on Monday to discuss the issue of potential school closures.

“The most immediately pressing challenge is the difficulty in keeping schools open with growing numbers of staff having to self-isolate,” head teachers’ leaders said.

“It is likely that a number of schools will have to close because there are too few staff available to teach, support and supervise students.”

In light of these developments, education consultant and charity SWGfL have issued advice to help schools facing closure – whether enforced or autonomous – to safeguard their remote learning systems.

“There are a number of online options that schools may consider, ranging from merely setting homework or providing access to online resources through video tutorials and interactive video conferencing. Staff capability and the age of your children is going to determine your approach,” a flyer from the charity explains.

In a recent blog, Ken Cornish, online safety manager at SWGfL, outlined information and advice surrounding schools’ remote learning strategies. We summarise his guidance below:

Remote learning is nothing new

Sixty years ago, schools in Australia experienced the first remote learning model – a distance education strategy known as the ‘School of the Air’. These special correspondence schools catered to primary and early secondary students located in the vast Australian outback. Traditionally, at least some or all classes were delivered via radio, though this has now been replaced by internet technology.

While there are now a wealth of devices and solutions that support distance learning, they require far more training, CPD and access to the right media to truly be effective.

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Safety first

Learning via the internet has brought a host of new issues regarding cybersecurity and safeguarding. The health and safety of the children in our schools is paramount – even while they’re at home.

Most advice offered in the midst of of the coronavirus outbreak has centred on which technology or solution schools should adopt, but SWGfL wants to shift the attention of educators towards the safety of those working from home during this difficult time.

Safeguarding advice

SWGfL have compiled a list of safeguarding checks that can help to inform which strategy you adopt, along with a flyer to be shared with the SLT, governors, directors and staff.


SWGfL’s list of remote learning considerations for schools:

Organisation

– Do your school’s online safety policies (including acceptable use, safeguarding and standards) reference online teaching?
– How will your institution’s personal data be managed?
– Do staff have access to the necessary school systems and data?
– How will safeguarding be managed and have staff been trained to handle the matter sufficiently?
– Consider the location of students and analyse what can be seen/heard from their screens.

Participation

– Whilst clearly determined by age, setting tasks may be more manageable than timetabling lessons online.
– How will children be supervised and what are the clearly defined expectations surrounding participation and attendance?
– What work will students be expected to complete and what are the deadlines?
– How can you maintain communication with parents and how can you get them involved?

Technology

– Do staff and students have access to the necessary technology and a strong enough network connection?
– Who will be on hand to offer technical support?
– How will classes be conducted online and through which platform/service/tools/features?
– Have the technology service terms and privacy statements been considered?


If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Professionals Online Safety Helpline on 0344 381 4772 or email helpline@saferinternet.org.uk

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