Mainstream education has been disrupted following the government‚’s decision to close schools to curb the spread of COVID-19. Most schools have responded by providing at least teaching online. Independent schools in particular quickly moved to provide online teaching, needing to demonstrate value for money to fee-paying parents. Variability of educational opportunity, particularly the generally better opportunities in independent fee-paying schools compared to state school, is a chronic source of social inequality. COVID-19 has almost certainly exacerbated inequality of educational provision, not just because independent schools responded more quickly but because their pupils are more likely to have good internet connectivity, better kit and a more favourable environment. From this crisis has come the widespread adoption and ‚’normalisation‚’ of online learning. This is a change in practice that could be used to help address inequalities. Any online teaching resources could be made available to everybody, including children who do not ordinarily have access to high quality teaching. On-demand online learning of good quality could be deployed to assist schools that are struggling with provision, who have staff shortages or where poor teaching practice has been identified. On-demand online teaching materials could be used to augment home-schooling and could improve the educational experience of children who miss a lot of school due to illness. On-demand online teaching material could be a great help to children who arrive in the UK from other countries, as members of migrant families or as refugees. It would provide a valuable ‚’back-catalogue‚’ that would make it easier for them to catch up and integrate into our education system. On-demand online teaching can‚’t solve inequalities by itself, but it could make a big contribution and the pandemic has created an environment in which it has been widely accepted by pupil, parents and teacher.
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