In an unprecedented move, schools and colleges have been shut to a majority of students for several months now. Children who are classed as “in need” by their local authorities will have been attending, as have children of key worker parents. For the majority of our learners, from nursery, right the way through primary, secondary, further education and higher education, teachers and students have been adjusting to distance learning.
For some organisations this is as simple as posting or emailing materials to the learners, and the work being submitted or posted back. For others, it has meant a full change of teaching via electronic means. Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom have in particular become very popular.
Not only have we become anxious about the health of our workers and young people, we also have to have concerns about them being left behind. Younger children are losing out on key developmental and social skills. Some year groups have been prioritised at getting back into school or college. For example, nursery and reception students have been seen as a priority for social and developmental reasons. Year 6 students have been missing out on their last year at primary school so they have been a priority. Years 11, 12 and 13 have had major exams cancelled, and will have grades based on previous work through the course, or have other arrangements in place (particularly when practical subjects need to be assessed). Some of these students obviously need to be prioritised in getting back into the setting in order to pass their qualification.
What about for other year groups though? What about those who haven’t had exams cancelled and other arrangements put in place? What about those who will be having GCSEs or SATs next year?
Young people and their parents and caregivers have major concerns that they have missed major chunks of teaching time (even if some teaching is being delivered online) and want to do what they can to help their children keep up. One of the options that more and more parents are turning to is online GCSE courses and other online and distance learning opportunities.
Whether the goal is to minimise the amount they are falling behind, whether they need to just keep their hand in so as to not forget how to study, or whether the young person wants to explore further learning opportunities and broaden their learning, self guided study is getting more and more popular.
Another option is to consider a tutor – more and more tutors are offering services online, over services such as Zoom. If students are familiar with video conferencing and call software they can also create their own study and revision groups.
These are conditions which none of our young people have ever had to go through before. They are also conditions and times like none of us have seen before, and so we are going to have to be creative and embrace the use of technology in order to help our young people. We need to be creative, think outside the box, and engage our students in new and innovative ways. This time is definitely going to change teaching and learning for future generations, of that I am sure.