We are in “unprecedented” times, another political catch phrase, coupled with “gaps in education”.
The unprecedented element is that schools are now hybrid versions of previous organisations, some in face to face, for varied amounts of time, some totally remote learning and some a hybrid of the two. This may well continue into the 20-21 academic year. The remote element has highlighted disparities in access to technology, hardware and data, or family challenges in having multiple need of available resources; parents working from home at the same time as children trying to do schoolwork. Now that this is known, schools might be in a better position to address individual needs should the situation arise.
There is obvious concern for “vulnerable learners”, children who are identified daily in a lesson with needs addressed during the lesson. In a remote situation, this lack of access is likely to be a significant missing element. It might have been addressed by identification and a request to come to school to receive misconception coaching and guidance, coupled with expectations of how to use personal time when working remotely, if this continues, or simply absorption into a learning “bubble”. Whatever happens, these children will be in classrooms in the future.
How much “teacher time” and I mean time with a teacher, do vulnerable learners get in a lesson anyway? I’ll just park that question for now, but it may become an issue in the future. Catch up will require, for some, very highly focused teaching, not just time with another adult.
We’re now four months into an alternative reality, of which nearly a month would have been school holidays, so three months of lessons have been accessed through remote means, online or on paper. Some children will have gaps. Some through not working, some having accessed the work, but may not comprehend, some will have made progress, perhaps in different ways. Each will be “where they are”, so there will be a need for personalised assessment, within restructured planning.
In an earlier blog, I looked at different “teacher” models, the presenter, the structuralist (becoming organised) and the holistic, each one a stage in personal development. In many ways, the current remote situation puts most teachers into the structuralist mode, simply because the opportunity to reflect and react in lessons is not possible. So learning is ordered and organised and presented appropriately to children but may not be subject to intervention that would include personal guidance and coaching.
By September, there is every possibility that some children will have been out of school for six months. It will be near impossible to try to “fill the gap”, perhaps the best that can be attempted is to “bridge the gap”.
- Identify those elements of planned learning that are less secure, but are essential, and must be covered to enable future use of this learning.
- Put plans together for the whole of the next academic year, to give an overview of coverage and to be able to assess any continuous gaps. If possible, start to look at the subsequent year of learning, too, in outline.
- Assess time need for topics. Avoid the natural wish to fill the half term with one topic.
- Consider the use of lesson time and the potential for home tasking to include writing up of notes, or first draft writing, enabling lesson time to be more interactive and focused on learning dialogue.
- Primary schools; consider the amount of extended writing across different subject areas and synthesise the foundation with the core, to create quality, rather than quantity of writing. Maybe even all such writing in one exercise book; see link blog.
It may well take the whole of the 20-21 academic year to really make sense of where we are in education, especially as the coronavirus pandemic is not yet ended. It can’t just be “business as usual”.
The whole system needs to come together, not beaver away in personal spaces, sharing ideas, resources, and support for each other.
It’s time for inclusive approaches, not isolationism. The latter way will be devastating for what is, at heart, a collegiate profession.