Mary-Jo Hill

29 Mar 2021
Safeguarding takes up a lot of space for many schools right now. This will be at the back of many minds during this Easter break. The horizon is long however. Cautious optimism. Is that a Covid Oxymoron? Will it be a bit like freewheeling down a hill on your bicycle with the brakes on? The importance of your whole strategy for on-line learning is still a beast to tame. And it is a whole school issue. Who is tasked with this responsibility?

The first birthday of our new ways is noted. Three on-line learning experiences. How have education professionals really been able to sustain this, let alone the headteachers with their own unique set of responsibilities? Thank goodness for the Easter break. I know the rhetoric on thinking that they have ‘only just gone back ‘is loud, but we all need to step off this gas of change. Just for a short while. As we can surely predict this trajectory. Yes, we can adopt hopefulness for the vaccine enabling a quieter path. However, if there is one thing we are learning on a national and international scale is that this is wishful thinking. I don’t want to quit before the miracles.

The on-line learning strategy moving forward

So, the summer term is going to be as busy as ever; not just with getting everyone back on a even keel and some routine but also the fact that the on-line learning needs to be addressed simultaneously. We may have for a fourth round to come in the Autumn. Who, in your school, has been tasked with this enormous task: the on-line learning strategy. A whole school project that needs consultation with all stakeholders in a meaningful way. A big job. Admiration for those come third lockdown who felt that they were in a better place than last time. Moving forward this requires whole system thinking for what may lie ahead. No business would not spend time real time and resources on this risk management issue during the summer term. Note the double negative.

What did we learn from Lockdown 3?

Individual coaching sessions with education leaders presents a variety of findings. Some children did unexpectedly well. Others not. The power of a furloughed parent who can spend ten minutes a day reading with their child has catapaulted some and yet, other pupils dis-engaged. The vital importance of whether you have a device, access, bandwidth or IT know-how is just the very start. Parents trying to work at the same time. Parents having the confidence to go ‘off worksheet’. Parents over -enthusiastic, some not able to provide the learning environment at home. At best it is a muddle through with some extreme experience at both ends. So how to make this more consistent?

And let’s not forget the necessary focus of resources right now on the huge safeguarding agenda coming from all angles, which are skilfully diagnosed but then left hanging in the gap of identification and follow through by the wider services, struggling to cope with the demand.

Blended learning moving forward

Do we have the courage to change the mixing and matching of the traditional on-line representation of what we had in class or is there space for a greater change? Who do you have in place to think about this on a school system level?

Worth a note to consider the Think Tanks in Education and this from Teacher Toolkit. What do we know about online learning? Smith (2011) found (n=507) that a series of factors including preparedness for online study, the e-tutoring abilities of staff, the level of collaboration with peers, course design and the ICT skills of students are all issues perceived by students to be related to the quality and effectiveness of online learning. What is required to ensure that any lockdown in the future is better and bolder and more equal than the last time?