Remote learning provision
We are rapidly closing in on the Autumn half term. After the hiatus, what all schools want is a smooth period without interruption so the long process of catching up on missed learning can continue. However, this is unlikely to happen: an extended half-term break is being considered and the likelihood of school closures and local lockdowns, on an intermittent basis is high. Not pretty, not optimistic but brutally realistic. Many of you will already have pupils or staff who are self-isolating. Section five of “Guidance for Full opening: schools”, carries important messages about the expectations of remote learning provision.
- Read the guidance here
Remote education provision contingency plan
Schools are expected to have a ‘remote education provision contingency plan’ in place this half term. This applies not only where a whole class is isolated, but also where groups or small numbers of pupils need to remain at home. There are two aspects which need to be considered: the learning itself and the physical technology. When developing a contingency plan, schools should consider the following points identified by the DfE:
- Select the online tools that will be consistently used across the school in order to allow interaction, assessment and feedback and make sure staff are trained in their use.
- Set assignments so that pupils have meaningful and ambitious work each day in a number of different subjects.
- Teach a planned and well-sequenced curriculum so that knowledge and skills are built incrementally, with a good level of clarity about what is intended to be taught and practised in each subject.
- Provide frequent, clear explanations of new content, delivered by a teacher in the school or through high-quality curriculum resources or videos (or conference).
- Gauge how well pupils are progressing through the curriculum, using questions and other suitable tasks and set a clear expectation on how regularly teachers will check work.
- Enable teachers to adjust the pace or difficulty of what is being taught in response to questions or assessments, including, where necessary, revising material or simplifying explanations to ensure pupils’ understanding.
- Plan a programme that is of equivalent length to the core teaching pupils would receive in school, ideally including daily contact with teachers.
- Recognise that younger pupils and some pupils with SEND may not be able to access remote education without adult support and so schools should work with families to deliver a broad and ambitious curriculum.
- For pupils who do not have suitable online access, provide printed resources, such as textbooks and workbooks.
Support is available
There is support available for schools. Laptops and tablets are now being made available for pupils who are disadvantaged or clinically extremely vulnerable from year 3 onwards. The document above provides the links to apply for this equipment which includes 4G routers. The DfE is working with BT to offer free access to Wi-Fi hotspots for disadvantaged pupils and the provision of free additional data for families who rely on a mobile internet connection.
Schools that haven’t done so will want to consider remote learning platforms. At the bottom of this article, there are direct links to the Google and Microsoft remote learning offer. Both these platforms also provide some stunning curriculum content. If you are a member of The Key for School Leaders, you can apply for government-funded access to these two platforms. The Key also provides feature comparison and case studies on how schools are making the most of these. The National Cyber Security Centre also provides advice:
- Read the advice here
So much for the tech. Schools also need to ensure the curriculum content they make available is as close to face-to-face provision as possible. You may already have a fully functioning multi-media curriculum offer for all pupils and need no further support. However, there is much available that can help improve your offer if needed. The Oak National Academy will make available video lessons covering the entire national curriculum free of charge.
- Visit the Oak National Academy website here
However, the most challenging circumstance is the DfE expectation that schools will provide remote learning for ‘small numbers of pupils’ who are self-isolating. It is unrealistic to expect teachers to prepare two sets of lessons. One solution is simply to put a camera or laptop at the front of the classroom pointing at the teacher and live stream the lessons. It works, is secure and gives a sense of inclusion to pupils that isolation can take away. When managed by a TA, who can give feedback and support to those not physically present, it is even more effective in meeting the requirements of the DfE expectations above. Where school budgets are already tight, remember “Schools can spend their catch up premium on contingency planning for remote education, for example purchasing additional devices or more textbooks.”
We have put together a separate blog with suggestions on which platforms for you to consider, rather than recommendations.
- Read our blog with platform suggestions here.