Schools may have had little appetite for the national return to remote learning this January but were certainly more prepared, quite in contrast to the announcement in March last year which left many urgently scrambling to introduce IT solutions and compile remote learning timetables and resources. This time around, the solutions to deliver learning online were mostly in place, parents were familiar with the concept and staff more experienced in teaching remotely. Yet as prepared as they may have been, schools have still faced plenty of new challenges.
Similarly to how society in general is experiencing ‘COVID-fatigue’, no matter how on-line ready schools were for another phase of home learning, there is no denying the fact that being in school is hugely beneficial and rewarding for both children and staff, and schools may have been in danger of getting caught up by the loss of control and inability to move forwards. Nonetheless, the way in which children have adapted to the constant changes in their routines over the last year and the resilience many have shown, may sometimes have been surprising. Still, we all know that the best and most effective learning happens when it is done as part of a collaborative process and that the added benefit of socialising with peers is vital for children to be able to develop this fundamental life skill.
Schools have also had to find new ways to create daily engagement to maintain and challenge children’s interest. Creating home learning timetables that maximise attention spans and aid concentration will have been central, but these still need to be set against the backdrop of individual family circumstances. Families often have unique needs and there is no such thing as a one size fits all timetable and ideally, a range of teaching styles and activities with a mix of both static and live lessons are important components. Remote learning removes the opportunity for teachers and supporting adults to ‘check in’ with children informally but by setting up effective channels of communication with both parents and pupils, it is possible to recreate this safety net. With careful planning a home leaning timetable will create a sense of routine, alongside direct interaction and social opportunities which will help children to continue to still feel part of the school community which is vitally important for their emotional and educational stability.
Whilst schools have managed the switch to this period of home learning much better than the first, one of the biggest lessons we may have learned is that the world today is unpredictable and that the best approach is not to have expectations but rather to plan entirely for the unexpected. It is surprising what we can get used to and as we steady ourselves for a possible extension to the current restrictions, primary lateral flow testing or a phased return to school, we may find ourselves craving last autumn’s relatively ‘normal’ school style, even though the prospect of year group bubbles and distancing restrictions had felt such an alien concept at the time.
Newland House School