The biggest room? The room for improvement

Remote learning has come a long way since its inception last summer. We have not been hit as hard as some schools – where pupils have had hardly a fortnight in school without interruption. We have had ‘just’ the two lockdown periods and two ‘bubbles’ sent home. Still, it easy to see why some parents felt, last summer term, that their children were being forgotten, and why there was a groundswell of opinion last month for change to our remote learning provision.

There are arguments (not necessarily good ones) for why we do not need to change our provision further:

  • it has changed since last year, and again since last term,
  • it meets all the DfE guidance,
  • it is distributed by our own staff daily,
  • it is delivered in very small groups so interaction can be high,
  • it is engaging the vast majority of children who are not attending school (there are up to 20 signing in to some Zoom sessions),
  • it uses a mix of live and recorded material, and a mix of taught and independent activity,
  • it provides four or more hours a day of educational tasks, and
  • it ranges right across the curriculum.

As you might expect, opinions shared with us on the breadth, volume and quality range widely. There is a classical ‘bell curve’ or probability distribution of opinion on each element – a few parents want more, but equally some want less; some want more in certain areas, while some want none in those; some think the mix is great, some want all ‘live ‘ lessons and some are adopting an asynchronous timetable and need things recorded and available at any time. Most, it seems are happy with most of what we offer, most of the time.

The ‘journey’ so far has seen us go from providing ideas for keeping interested and having fun (in the very early days of the first lockdown), through providing medium term plans for parents to pick out the week’s learning and use the weblinks given, and on to daily input from teachers of a curriculum that matches that taught in school for those attending that day. It has been quite a change.

Now we are doing twice daily, teacher-led, Zoom sessions on a single class basis. Teachers from the relevant year group run these sessions (while others teach the ‘bubbles’ in school). We have, wherever we can, a TA in there as well. The day’s work is talked through. Some use of demonstration and modelling is going on. Lots of directed questioning is used (can you unmute, please?) Work goes out by email, Gdrive or on paper. It comes back by description orally, show and tell or email. Individual phone calls are made to those who don’t show up for Zoom at either end of the day.

Each day the teachers are reviewing and revising the next day’s learning, just like in the classroom.

We’ve used five documents (so far) to shape and inform our practise, along with colleagues’ thoughts, ideas and preferences. We have looked at:

We know that there are limits on what each technology can do, and as we completed the audit this week we knew that assessing pupil progress in remote learning is becoming more important for us. We need to develop a solution. It may be that some of our method or technology is a blind alley and we will need to adapt what we use so we can gather the information we need.

Change happens, of course. We started off with the statement that each year group would do the same thing, but as soon as a policy is written someone will start to experiment and trial other ideas. Things morph and grow.

At the end of the week we began conversations, and hopefully a longer piece of work, with one of the ‘Ed Tech Demonstrator’ Schools. I think the mark of a professional is a continued desire to improve. We are never convinced that we finished or fully skilled, and never think we get everything as good as we could. So, we are going to explore ‘what next’ and ‘even better if’.

By March 8th we may have all our pupils back at school. We may then have not one isolation in the spring or all summer term. That might be the end of it. Or not.

We will be putting the afternoon of our training day (Friday 12th February) to this development work, with an Ed Tech partner, and later a ‘staff meeting’ as well. We might only need to continue remote learning for two weeks after half term holiday, but the learning for staff may help pupils long into the future.

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