Lord Jim Knight
As schools across the world begin to recover from a period of extreme disruption, technology can offer the support staff and students need.
The pandemic presented education with arguably its biggest ever challenge: how do you create a provision for children and young people when the learning environment has changed beyond all recognition?
Rising to the challenge
Within days of school closures being announced, teachers moved from classrooms to conference calls. Planning, assessment, pastoral care, and delivery of teaching were quickly shifted to digital platforms. Leaders who lived and breathed the school campus made themselves at home in a new virtual world.
It was a huge achievement, but even greater challenges are still to come.
Early research suggests that some pupils will return with significant gaps in literacy and numeracy and there will be a substantial emotional impact. The entire community will need support like never before.
Enhancing support for staff
We want to play our part. For more than 100 years, we have supported schools and been a champion of great teaching. We have been introducing digital tools to help schools tackle the complexity of the task before them, providing software solutions to drive all facets of a school’s recovery.
Reducing the burden on teachers and leaders is at the heart of what we do and this is made possible through our conversations with the sector and by accessing expertise across education. As a result of these discussions, we have identified the following areas where support will be needed most:
We have been introducing digital tools to help schools tackle the complexity of the task before them, providing software solutions to drive all facets of a school’s recovery.
1. Lost learning
Through no fault of their own, some children will have lost ground in their learning. The task for teachers is complex, requiring assessment, carefully planned interventions, academic and emotional feedback and keeping parents informed.
The digital tools that have become established in the past 12 months will be crucial to ensuring all of this is possible without putting unnecessary strain on teachers’ workloads.
2. Supporting staff
The needs of staff will require a renewed focus, with many having faced prolonged disruption at work and at home. Introducing digital tools can assist communication with staff and the monitoring of mental health.
Providing bespoke packages of expert CPD will also demonstrate an on-going commitment to their development and ensure they have the right tools for the task they are facing.
3. Safeguarding students
The pandemic highlighted schools’ crucial role in safeguarding young people: staff have provided food, support and safety throughout the past year. However, the full needs of students may only become visible when pupils return full time.
School safeguarding leads and all staff will need support as they unpick the effect the pandemic has had on vulnerable children and the whole school community. An increase in cases is likely, so making sure staff are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge will be paramount.
4. Behaviour support
Readjusting to the traditional school routine will take time, and together with safeguarding challenges, it is clear that behaviour will need to be supported for every child.
To do this effectively, staff will need to track, monitor and assess behaviour regularly and have access to tools and solutions – including up-to-date research – to ensure every child has the right environment for learning.
5. Increased flexibility
The recovery curriculum will require greater flexibility to incorporate interventions and address the expected increase in pastoral concerns.
This will require leaders having the ability to adapt their timetable and schedule parent meetings quickly and with flexibility. Having digital solutions in place will make this more feasible, while reducing both cost and workload.
In the past year these types of tech solutions have proven their worth, not just in coping with the challenges of teaching remotely, but in improving school operations and education outcomes in the long term. They will have a huge part to play in this period of recovery and in the years to come.