Is distance learning here to stay?
Schools may decide they want to adopt some of the positive aspects of distance learning in the long term
Education never stands still and this is definitely the case in independent education. The vagaries of educational initiatives and ups and downs in the economy can all force us to adapt and change.
However, just as we appeared to be entering a period of relative educational calm, the coronavirus has suddenly thrown everything up in the air, forcing schools to rely on distance learning.
The way many independent schools' have dealt with this has been the envy of many parents outside the system, where provision has been extremely variable. Some pupils have been at the mercy of poor infrastructure in schools, making accessing resources remotely a very uncertain process. Not all this has been the fault of individual schools, but many pupils have lacked digital devices to access materials. Typically, in the independent sector, there is greater access to equipment, and this has been important as some schools have maintained a full working timetable. This has varied from an expectation to complete online worksheets and other tasks, to live teaching via software packages.
Education and Distance Learning
The sophistication of platforms has enabled a high level of monitoring, allowing teachers to have a genuine feel for the progress of their pupils. All this will have given those paying for education greater confidence, but some may have encountered financial uncertainty in the period since lockdown. It is possible that those who have supported the education of their children using newly-available online resources will have gained a new confidence in being able to support the education of their children. For them, the question of whether to continue to pay for education will be a thorny one.
The schools who are proactive will be those who are able to develop and maintain the confidence of their parents, showing that they still have much to offer over and above state provision. Managers will need to carefully evaluate the education approaches used while schools were closed down. There will be many aspects which are far from best practice but which have been a necessary evil in the circumstances.
But the teachers in independent schools are amongst the best and many will have been extremely resourceful in ensuring that their pupils have not been disadvantaged by the lockdown and closure of schools. Assessment of pupil progress as the pupils return to full-time education will be an opportunity to discover which previously unused distance learning strategies have brought about positive results. Capitalising on this period will ensure a positive outcome from a difficult situation. This approach should not be limited to the delivery of the teaching material but also to the assessment and homework undertaken during lockdown.
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