University of Birmingham launches project to measure impact of remote learning

The initiative seeks to secure education provision for children and youth in Birmingham and the city region

The University of Birmingham and Birmingham City Council are partnering on a project to analyse the impact of the remote learning strategies implemented in response to the COVID-19 school closures.

Studying the effects on schools, teachers, pupils and parents, the Birmingham Education and COVID-19 initiative will explore the digital transition from in-class teaching to online delivery across Birmingham and surrounding regions, also exploring the potential implications for schools’ imminent phased re-opening, scheduled for 1 June.

Working alongside a number of key stakeholders, the initiative will map the digital transformation process experienced across Birmingham’s education sector in this complex time. While a number of polls are already tracking the impact of remote learning on teachers, little is known about the detail or scale of provision provided by schools in the context of enforced social distancing, how it is being received by students and families, and how schools will manage a blend of face-to-face and remote learning as students steadily return to school.

On top of this, the initiative will:

  • Explore what’s currently being done to secure education provision for children and youth in Birmingham and the city region
  • Support education systems and other agencies in the short-term as they shift from emergency measures to more sustained innovation for learning and flourishing
  • Plan possible scenarios to drive sustained change to education systems, institutions and practices for the medium- and long-term, with a focus on education quality, in-demand skills, social justice and equity

The initiative includes virtual workshops with strategic regional leaders, data gathering through online surveys and diaries of practitioners, community organisations and families, as well as the development of online resources.

“Education during school closures is a challenge that risks opening up old and new gaps and making disadvantages worse for some,” said Professor Deborah Youdell of the University of Birmingham’s School of Education.

“But it might also show us new ways to facilitate learning for children and young people. Through Birmingham Education and COVID-19, the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City Council will work together to ensure that we have a clear picture of the evolving education offer in the city; that we know what pupils are accessing and how they and their parents are doing; and that schools have the best possible support and resources. Longer term, we hope that the lessons that we learn during COVID-19 might change education for the better, for everyone.”

A major focus of the project is to unravel the impact of the outbreak on disadvantaged groups – including children in care, BME students and SEND pupils. It will also delve into how the crisis affects assessment, transitions, the digital divide, and institutional and systems leadership.

“This is a vital piece of work; the closure of most schools to the majority of pupils is one of the many necessary measures taken to protect lives, but we must not allow this to exacerbate already existing inequalities,” said Jayne Francis, cabinet member for education, skills and culture at Birmingham City Council. “We need to have detailed information about how and what young people are learning at home, and how parents and carers are coping, so we can ensure no young people and families are disadvantaged.”

In related news: Personalised learning deemed the biggest barrier to remote teaching


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