A key challenge during the pandemic has been the unprecedented requirement for teachers to provide distance learning (“DL”) across all year groups. This has been achieved by individual teachers using a wide range of material and a variety of delivery platforms. Most schools will have received feedback from parents, trust boards and the local authority on what has worked best and schools have, as a result, adapted and improved their approach over time. This knowledge must not simply be mothballed.
There is now a unique opportunity to build further and embed DL into our school education system to provide a world leading approach to blended learning. This will allow us to address a number of pressing educational issues:
• Absences. DL can be help pupils to manage absences due to short or long-term health issues, in a way designed to accommodate individual pupil needs.
• Exclusions. Exclusions, while necessary, can create a negative spiral of underachievement and disengagement. For some pupils the provision of DL can provide an invaluable safety net.
• Catch-up. A wide range of circumstances other than absences and exclusion, such as family break-up and bereavement, can create educational gaps. DL will provide a means to address the educational consequences early and minimise knock-on problems.
• Special Educational Needs. Some SEN pupils will benefit from having certain subjects taught (or complemented) by DL provision, either at home or in their school’s DL facilities. This will maximise some pupils’ chances of completing mainstream education successfully.
• Extension. A well-constructed DL platform will allow students to pursue their interests beyond the national curriculum. Opportunities range from advanced mathematics and foreign languages to politics, philosophy and the arts.
• Funding. A UK wide scheme could provide export opportunities for DL particularly in developing countries where English is spoken as a