Statutory Remote Learning – A PEN Response

Statutory Remote Learning – A PEN Response

Yesterday it became a legal requirement to provide remote learning to any student who cannot attend school due to COVID-19.  It is clear that it is more important than ever for schools and families to work together.

We’ve been talking to the schools we work with about what this means for teachers and parents. There’s no doubt that we all agree that education is a priority, but in the current circumstances we must be careful about the cost to teachers and families. It’s all about balance.

With this in mind, we’ve been talking about what ‘Home Learning’ really is. All our work at PEN champions the opportunities for learning at home and within the community. There are so many opportunities for learning as children go through their daily lives but much of it isn’t measured or even acknowledged. In fact, some of it might be missed, rushed or ignored when formal learning provided by schools is prioritised. We’ve heard much about blended learning, but what does that actually mean?

Covid 19 has had an impact on us all, but families with school age children have experienced some of the most upheaval in terms of their daily lives. Families have experienced high levels of uncertainty and challenge, with many families now experiencing greater uncertainty and stress than at the outset of the pandemic. Parents have returned to work if they can, but are reporting high levels of anxiety about their children being sent home from school. Not least is the confusion about the isolation and testing rules, and of the possibility of their children or themselves becoming ill. How, in this already very stressful situation, are parents supported to deliver learning at home?

Looking at the guidance there is an expectation that work to be completed at home should be in electronic form, or where this isn’t possible, a paper pack sent home. What has become increasingly evident is the digital divide, children being unable to access the learning sent home as they do not have access to a device or the internet.

Schools are putting a herculean effort into making this happen, but many of our members are telling us that engagement is at an all time low. This isn’t surprising, aside from the many barriers that may exist, there is also isolation burn out, parents’ initial enthusiasm for home schooling hasn’t been sustainable.

Homework, completed independently or with parental support, is of course, a legitimate activity designed to embed learning done in school. Ever a controversial subject, homework for homework’s sake is never a good thing, but research does suggest, that used to reinforce and revise skills learned in the classroom, homework with parental support increases educational achievement. But this is not a tool for learning new concepts. Parents are not teachers and school cannot be replicated at home.

The schools we have been talking to have been making fantastic teaching materials available online but are seeing little interaction. What they’re seeing is that families just can’t deliver classroom style teaching at home. We asked them some questions:
  • How are you communicating with parents and care givers; when did you last have a telephone or face to face conversation?
  • How well do you know your parents and care givers; are you working to their strengths?
  • What are children learning OTHER than completing the school work they’ve been set?
  • And most importantly, are you building learning into what can easily happen at home? Are you taking advantage of naturally occurring and family-led learning?
Our understanding of blended learning is a mix of self-led learning online and classroom based teaching. But is that all it is? Is there another element that we’re leaving out? Sitting at a computer completing an online maths task might be an impossible ask for some families. But involving their child in planning, preparing and cooking a meal may already be happening in that same home. As a teacher, can you support that parent in recognising the teaching moments of the task? Can you support the child to reflect on what they have learned? Are you measuring the outcome?

This is the first in a series of blogs that will look at ways to support schools in their provision of home learning materials and in their engagement with parents and care givers. We’d love you to join in the conversation (you can do so here) and share your experiences of teaching  and parental engagement during lockdown. Get in touch with us at [email protected] or on social media @PENetworkUK.