Distance Learning (“DL”) should be funded across all our primary and secondary schools. Essentially, the staffing and funding of this should be carried out by treating DL as an additional subject to be delivered through existing structures. For example, schools should establish DL leads, funded in the same way as subject or department leads. School collaborations and trusts should establish a dedicated DL role to support their schools and deliver DL efficiently depending on identified needs.
• Design catch-up lessons for needs perceived by headteachers and class teachers. This could be carried out face-to-face for groups. Individuals, on the other hand, could use either live or recorded materials, depending on the available resources.
• Proactively help address the educational attainment gap by allowing extra tuition to be provided within the local education system. Again, this could be provided in groups or individually, depending the nature of the identified need.
• Flexibly allow DL during the school day, weekends or holidays, where appropriate for individual pupils.
• Organise flexibly at school collaboration, trust and local authority level. Depending on demand, lessons may be more efficiently provided at local authority level, as dictated by numbers.
• Leverage best practices, based on shared lockdown experience. An approach to pooling knowledge will need to be developed. Local champions will need reach out to frontline staff, but well-constructed national questionnaires and follow-up materials would establish a common basis for discussion.
• Leverage use of nationwide or local materials as appropriate.
• Utilise the increased availability of laptops effectively. Properly funded broadband access and computer facilities at schools should be available to children without good access at home. These would need to be staffed and available out of hours.
• Subject to availability, encourage pupils to take modules electively. Ultimately some non-core subjects, such as foreign languages, could be provided via the DL platform.
SHORT TERM OBJECTIVES AND REQUIREMENTS
• Target the more serious education gaps arising from lockdown, as observed by teachers at the pupil level.
• Additional DL staff will be needed as front-line staff will not have the stretch capacity. These can work at the school or local authority/academy level as necessary.
• Could utilise: recently retired teachers and TAs; tech savvy volunteers; recent graduates considering the new employment landscape.
• Individual schools to set up or expand on-site access to PCs to address technology shortages at home.
LONG TERM BENEFITS
• Once the short-term bulge in resources required post pandemic subsides, there should be a steady-state provision of DL. This will:
• Help address the persistent attainment gap.
• Facilitate pupils with certain special needs to achieve an appropriate blend of distance and face-to-face learning as appropriate.
• Allow children who have fallen behind for any reason (such as ill-health or family disruption) to catch up in a timely fashion.
• Allow parents to select home learning times that suit their work schedules.
• Provide a core competency in home learning as contingency planning for future emergencies.
• The systemic approach to the inclusion of DL in our schools could generate a significant business opportunity to develop exportable brands of on-line teaching materials.
• Given the prevalence of English as a first or second language the potential customer base is clearly huge. Moreover, many countries will need to deal with similar post-covid educational issues to those we are facing here in the UK.
• This external business opportunity might be exploited to generate private sector investment in the development and provision of materials and other resources for use in UK schools.