Statutory Remote Learning – A PEN ResponseYesterday 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?
An adventurous early career change saw me move from being a primary school teacher in London to teaching English at a Secondary school in Manchester! As a result, I was then very lucky to meet and later work with Ruth Sutton (Primary to Secondary Transition ‘Overcoming the Muddle in the Middle – 2000) at Manchester Inspection and Advisory Service as it was then called.
Little did I know then how much that confluence of circumstances would go on to influence my learning and practise throughout my professional working life, and how it continues to do so today.
While working at that secondary school, my very pragmatic Headteacher at the time decided that I would be a good candidate to build relationships with the local ‘feeder’ schools using some of my ‘free periods’. I was a primary school teacher after all!
It was only when I started to engage in the role, talking to primary colleagues’ children and their families, did I realise the scale of the job. How very important it was to get it right! Not only for the children, and their families, but also my colleagues from both phases. All parties want the children to be happy and to continue their learning journeys to reach their fullest potential.
Meeting Ruth and being guided by her gave me the structure to develop a coherent whole school partnership approach to managing the transition and induction of that cohort of year 6 children and families into our secondary school. It did not do me any harm either, I got promoted to head of year 7!
In her book, Ruth outlines the 5 bridges that support an effective strategy to support transition.
- The managerial/bureaucratic bridge, which is mainly concerned with systems and structures in schools.
- The social bridge, which focuses on efforts to make students feel safe and secure as they move from the primary-school building to the secondary-school building.
- The curriculum-content bridge, which deals with the continuity of content and programming between the primary school and the secondary school.
- The pedagogy bridge, which is concerned not so much with what students learn as with how they learn it.
- The “learning-to-learn” bridge, which focuses on developing and maintaining the metacognitive self-awareness of students, encouraging them to become the “vehicles of their own progression.”
Still in Manchester but now Managing Director of the Parental Engagement Network (PEN) and working closely with networks of schools across the country, we seem in many ways to have come so far since those days: We have technology that supports our systems; structures and communication; a National Curriculum which has ironed out much of the curricula continuity challenges.
BUT equally Ruth’s work still stands, having been off the national agenda for so long, and with other priorities taking precedence, parental engagement in transition had slipped off the list for many schools. Now, the Covid-19 lockdown has thrown it back into the light and schools will need to work even harder to build effective partnerships with families to support the social and emotional wellbeing, personal efficacy and resilience of our children to manage change and become vehicles of their own progression. It is now more important than ever to understand and recognise that the teaching and learning experience in year 6 still differs significantly from how it is delivered and organised in Year 7.
The Parental Engagement Network have developed a set of resources – ‘Moving Up’ – which provide a scaffold for both primary and secondary settings to work effectively together to support families and their children through the transition and induction phases. So very important at this extra ordinary time, we have adapted these resources to manage this process of change even through the current restrictions. The pack includes a series of family home learning activities that can be supported virtually by staff in both the primary and secondary schools.
Moving Up is very much influenced by our learning and our continued work with schools. If you would like to work with us to further develop this and other parental engagement resources, receive free trial materials to support this pack and contribute to parental engagement through our partnership networks, please contact us about becoming a PEN member.Janet Davies, Director of PEN
This weekend, Children’s Commissioner Anne Longford warned that hundreds and thousands of children were off the radar during the current lockdown; Ofsted stated that there were ‘worrying blind spots’ in some schools’ engagement with their most vulnerable children and their families and DFE data reported that just 5% of pupils identified as vulnerable are accessing ‘lockdown’ school provision.
This is not surprising to those of us who work in the sector. Building strong effective relationships with all families is crucial to the success of engaging all parents in supporting their child’s learning and development. All parents want their children to do well.
Sadly, it is a tremendous challenge for teachers and schools. Building trusting relationships with families that have not traditionally engaged with teachers or schools requires a non-judgemental approach and takes time, persistence and commitment.
In our overworked school communities, working in partnership with parents to support learning is often not understood or seen as a priority.
BUT, almost overnight, the dynamic of the teacher-parent relationship has changed. Families have become partners in their children’s learning and well-being rather than just policing the delivery of homework. This shared experience gives us all an exciting opportunity to reset and rethink how we engage with families to support learning… and this is a fantastic opportunity.
This extraordinary time gives class teachers the opportunity to contact each family to start building those empowering relationships. Like all relationships it is about ‘feeling the way’, keeping conversations friendly and informal, checking out how parents want to be addressed, focusing very much on well-being rather than the learning. Conversations about learning will emerge as relationships are developed.
Contacting every family once a week will bring untold rewards and benefits for all learners!
In this challenging time, when schools are working hard to put together home learning resources, we’d like to reassure you that PEN is working as hard as ever to help you support your families. We are developing a range of Family Home Learning Activity Sheets based around the curriculum.
The resources will be suitable for all primary age children, the first of which will be available at the end of this week, with more available throughout the crisis period.
Whilst we understand that schools and parents will be keen for learning to continue at home, we feel it is important to acknowledge the huge amount of change happening. Families need time to adjust to living, working and playing together, so they can establish new routines that keep all members of the family safe and well.
PEN has a history of working closely with schools to respond to need, so please get in touch with us if there’s something we can do for you. In this unprecedented situation, good parental engagement is more important than ever and we’re here to support you in any way we can.
If you haven’t already, consider signing up for our mailing list or becoming a member.
We’ll be trialling resources via membership in advance of sharing them with schools and community organisations. Our membership is reduced to £150 for the duration of the crisis and gives access to lots of other resources you might also find useful in this difficult time.
Children’s activity levels are on the rise, according to Sport England’s second annual Active Lives Children and Young People Survey.
The report, covering the academic year 2018/19, was published in December, with figures showing an increase of 3.6% in the number of children in England doing an average of 60 minutes or more of physical activity a day.
That means that 46.8% of the nation’s children and young people are meeting the recommended level, with the increase driven by more out of school activity – including increases in active play, team sports and walking.
Find out more and read the report here.
New schools needed for our successful Sport England Lottery Funded project!
Following a successful trial by 9 schools across Manchester, Parental Engagement Network is looking for 30 more Manchester schools to benefit from this fantastic funded project for start dates in September 2019, January 2020 and May 2020. To apply, please fill in and return the application form to [email protected] by 10th May. Any queries please ring 0161 860 5039 Active Families Project application form Recruitment Info
This project is for your school if you want to:
- Improve the health and wellbeing of families at your school
- Improve children’s fitness levels and their readiness to learn
- Develop the skills of parent volunteers to support other families and the school
- Increase parental engagement and support the school’s community cohesion
- Develop a longer term sustainable model to enable families to get more active together in a fun and accessible way
- Enable families to develop positive networks and reduce isolation.
What does the project involve?We will train a member of staff and three parent volunteers from each school as Family Activity Champions and enable them to facilitate groups of families to commit to becoming more active together, through:
- A series of fun after-school activity sessions for families of all abilities
- A free equipment pack for families to take home and use together
- A series of home activity sheets, where families are given activities or challenges to do together at home to try and increase their regular daily activity levels
- Prizes and certificates.
PEN will provide:
- A briefing for a senior leader and training for the staff supporting the project
- A complete pack of resources, support materials and tip sheets for unlimited use throughout the school
- Ongoing support and visits to the school
- Opportunities to recognise, celebrate and publicise nationally the successful outcomes at your school
- NVQ accreditation for Champions (optional)
- Network opportunities for Active Families Schools
- A reduced membership offer
If your application is successful we will need you to:
- Allocate a member of SLT to have an overview of the project and support its development including enabling recruitment, publicity, monitoring, evaluation and celebration of successful families
- Allocate one or two members of staff to be involved with the project including helping to facilitate the after school sessions at the school, supporting the Family Activity Champions and encouraging families to do the home and community activities
- Recruit appropriate parents to be Champions and support them in attending the training
- Identify and encourage targeted families to attend the sessions
- Provide a hall, gym or suitable venue for approx. 10 families to do activities immediately after school one day a week for at least 18 weeks of the year
- Ensure staff attend the briefings, training and review sessions
- Make some equipment available for sessions. e.g. balls, beanbags and bibs
- In the second year, pay a small contribution towards resources (approx. £300) out of the school’s Sports Premium funding
The EEF has published new recommendations on working with parents to support their child’s learning, which reviews the best available research to offer schools and teachers four recommendations to support parental engagement in children’s learning.
The guidance report, which you can find here, is designed to support primary and secondary schools to work with parents – particularly those from disadvantaged homes.
It offers four clear and actionable recommendations which we hope will support an evidence-informed approach.