Though there is light at the end of the tunnel, all of us are still going through a stressful time in this second full national lockdown.
In particular, it’s tough for parents and school-age children – with schools closed, millions of people across the country are having to change the way they live their lives entirely.
And for many parents, juggling their professional responsibilities – even with the help of Zoom – and their family is hard.
The good news is that in this second full lockdown, schools are far better equipped to deliver remote education than they were at the start of the global pandemic.
The majority of schools put measures in place to to deliver remote learning provision, and many schools have been working across 2020 to make sure they were ready if another lockdown came.
Huge numbers of schools have instituted learning programs based on the latest technology and learning psychology to ensure that children don’t miss out on education during this difficult time.
That should enable them to come back to school ready and raring to go, without the negative consequences some fear with regards to future career progression or losing touch with friends and teachers.
And with so many parents now looking for support, schools, academies and businesses have pooled resources together to offer hints, advice and materials that will give parents the tools they need to get through this difficult time.
City A.M. spoke to some teachers at schools leading the way on remote learning to see how they’ve responded to the pandemic.
Ben Eccersley, Outwood Academy Shafton in Barnsley, South Yorkshire
Ben, as well as a geography teacher and an associate assistant principal at his school, is an EdTech Leader – one of 26 across his Academy Trust.
He delivers training in educational technology to staff and students at his school, and also spends time with other teachers from right across the country – sharing best practice, and what works and what doesn’t.
“Fifty per cent of my role is the coaching and teaching of new technology to staff and students; the other fifty per cent is support,” he says. “Teachers wanting to know they’re doing the right thing by their students, and students wanting to confirm that this is the right way to use apps.”
Collaboration is also a vital part of his role as a leader, and that teacher-training is proving invaluable during the pandemic.
“We are part of the EdTech demonstrators across the country, so any school or college can contact this network and it will put them in touch with another EdTech leader. If they haven’t had any training, or they’ve just migrated to Google from another platform, they can then contact an EdTech leader, and I will go and deliver training to that school, and we can then provide them with other resources that they can share,” he tells us.
“That’s all completely free; the school just have to enquire with the EdTech demonstrator programme. It’s great, because after the training, you then do a six-week check-in to see how it’s gone and if they need any further in-depth training; it’s great to see teachers who are a bit concerned at the beginning, and at the end of an hour’s training, they can edit and upload Google docs, they can mark it, submit it back to students. Within an hour, you can see progress made.”
Dawn Hunter, St. Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Sheffield
Across three schools in the trust, academies have instituted blended learning – a mix of live tuition, home tasks and remote learning.
Dawn, a year 2 teacher, told us how it’s going:
We all know that schools are the most effective place for children to learn. However, as Ben’s experience shows, like most workplaces schools are quickly pivoting to a new ‘online’ world, and delivering remote provision that would have been unimaginable even a year ago.
But alongside the remote education, lockdown has also renewed our focus on the importance of mental health amongst young and old(er) alike.
Resources like the Joe Wicks 15-minute exercises and other guides to staying fit and healthy in body and mind can be a key part of the mix, too.
City A.M. spoke to Stevie Goulding, a Parents Helpline Manager at Young Minds, the UK’s leading charity fighting for children and young people’s mental health.
Stevie has advice for parents.
“Supporting your children with remote learning alongside the other responsibilities you may have can be incredibly challenging. This has been a difficult year for many parents – so try to go easy on yourself when you can. If you’re feeling down, tired or exhausted, it’s essential that you recognise this and give yourself a break. Remember, you’re doing your best but there’s only so much you can take on at once,” he says.
If you’re worried that childcare and remote learning are affecting your work, we’d encourage you to chat to your line manager and see if they can offer you any support or flexibility, so that you feel able to balance your responsibilities at home and work.”
The NHS also offers plenty of wellbeing resources for parents and children alike online.
With teachers ramping up their provision of remote learning and children becoming more and more used to new technologies, remote learning – despite all the challenges these last months have thrown at us – can still be a really vital part of any child’s learning process.
And of course, every parent and child’s home-learning experience will be different. We all have different circumstances. But using the tools provided and the speed with which teachers are adapting, we can come through this together.
Find out more information about remote learning in schools on gov.uk/coronavirus