In times of crisis we must be ready for change

Around the world our colleagues are adapting their teaching methods to deal with the coronavirus emergency. This almost universally means the implementation of home schooling protocols, the likes of which for many are totally unfamiliar. Some of us are already well adapted to the nuances of distance learning, however. Here we discover how the changing educational landscape has affected teaching in Sweden, Dubai, Quebec and the UK.

In England, for those providing education to students from challenging backgrounds,  we envisage that in the short term at least, the change to home schooling is likely to undermine progress towards ensuring less privileged students receive an education which is equal to that provided for more advantaged peers.  In so many cases, these schools provide a consistent learning environment for those students whose parents are challenged to do so at home. The shift from a school to a home environment will initially challenge this but we are convinced that teachers and leaders are aware of the situation and will rapidly find ways to mitigate any possible negative impact this change in environment might create. 

Our friend Mats Rosenkvist tells us that in Sweden all primary and secondary schools are still open, while upper secondary and higher education establishments are closed and have switched to online learning. Most LAs and MATs have created a list of important considerations for online/distance teaching and learning, and the Swedish equivalent to the DfE has created a website with the same – based on research into online/distance teaching and learning.

Mats tells us schools and teachers are fighting to get things moving, with an impressive we-can-do-it approach. He expects, however, that soon everyone will begin to reflect on the impact the situation will have on  student learning, and the quality perspective will come into focus. To give us an idea of the enormity of the task in a relatively small country such as Sweden, if only the upper secondary schools were to remain closed until the summer, it means that more than 6 million lessons will be carried out remotely.

Our colleagues in Dubai finished their early Easter break last Saturday and have now completed their first week of home schooling. They have quickly come to terms with providing a new learning environment whilst dealing with issues arising from staff and student truncated travel arrangements and long-term concerns for their future.  Reassuringly they have been regaled with pictures of teams of cleaners in protective clothing deep cleaning every corner of their schools to ensure that on their return, the spread of the virus is contained. 

Our colleagues in Quebec are still on their well-earned break. They have been involved in distance learning for many years and will be able to turn to that experience to guide them in the future. 

In the business world, this shift from school to home learning has already resulted in a re-evaluation of the place online learning will play in the future of our schools. Pearson, the world’s largest education publisher, has said the move to home schooling would ‘accelerate the shift to online learning.’ and Simon Duke, Technology Business Editor at The Times of London said on March 26 that,  “No one is predicting the demise of schools and universities – but after Coronavirus, the world of learning will never be the same again.” 

There have been many false dawns before. Is this the tipping point? Will all our PE lessons in the future be delivered by Joe Wicks, our Piano lessons by Lang Lang and our home economics classes by Jamie Oliver? Will we adopt ACER online assessment programmes as they have in Scotland to determine where students are now and what they need to do to improve? In some of the blogs that follow, Peter Matthews and I will be considering this. We are also interested in any observations you might have, so get in touch. 

Stay safe

George