The return to school, March 2020

With the return to school imminent, how can teachers use and build on their experience of the last 10 weeks of remote and blended learning?

Children and families across the country are looking to Monday 8 March with a sense of anticipation, relief and excitement. Those who have been at home will see their friends and teachers and feel fully part of the school community again, while those children who have been in school will enjoy the much wider social interaction that a full classroom and school brings.

However, while the mass return of children and young people to classrooms in England (some Scottish and Welsh pupils have already returned in a phased re-entry) may have been billed in the media as a ‘big bang’ moment, teachers are all too well aware that the situation is rather more nuanced than it is portrayed. 

For a start, up to 25% of children have been present in primary schools during this lockdown (5% in secondary schools) in contrast to the much lower numbers during previous partial closures, making blended, rather than purely remote, learning a very live issue.

And that blended provision is unlikely to simply stop. Although attendance will be mandatory from 8 March, schools will still be required by law to provide remote education to any pupils who need to continue to learn from home. According to the DfE guidance

“This includes, for example, where such guidance means that a class, group or small number of pupils need to self-isolate or that clinically extremely vulnerable children are to shield… All such pupils not physically unwell should have access to remote education as soon as reasonably practicable, which may be the next school day.”

In addition, schools must send home anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive and they must self-isolate immediately and for 10 full days counting from the day after contact with the individual who tested positive. Those children will also require remote education. 

How teachers can build on blended learning

Mark Martin (@Urban_Teacher) suggests that all the time and effort teachers have put into creating resources over the past months can be put to good use, not only in supporting students still at home but also for students’ consolidation, revision and other exam preparation.

The skills teachers have developed and their flexible committed response will also stand them in good stead as we all navigate this time where the end is in sight but it might be ‘two steps forward, one step back’ to get there. 

Conversations with a couple of the CLC’s primary colleagues this week indicated that they would be taking the approach of a three-week plan for this term with a focus  on collaborative learning and cooperative work as they have identified this is an area of work that children would have missed out on most. There would also be a focus on wellbeing, particularly for KS1. 

While many children will be excited about being able to meet with and play with their friends (not to mention learn with them), for some children this will represent a real challenge. Teachers will be alert to the possibility that, in this run up to the easter break, some children will find themselves back home again, perhaps for a significant portion of the remainder of the term, with consequent dashing of hopes and expectations. Getting back into the daily routine may be difficult for some children and being ready to embark on ‘learning recovery’ may not be as straightforward as hoped in all cases. But, in other ways, a small bite at some kind of normality and then the holiday break may be an ideal first step (including for teachers). There will undoubtedly be an even more concerted effort to follow in the summer terms when the scale of challenge may become more apparent.

The students’ experience

Listening to students’ live experience and voice – Mark Martin suggests surveys and other ways to get feedback for secondary students – can help to improve how we can support them. It can also help students to discuss and process their experiences of the last couple of months, including what’s worked, what hasn’t, what’s been challenging and any anxieties around the return to school. 

For younger children, creative ideas for sharing experiences could include a worry box (either virtual on the school website or physical in the building – or both) so that children can leave anonymous as well as named feedback, and it could include drawings as well as written worries.

This ties in to the idea of a ‘recovery curriculum’, based on the five ‘levers’ of relationships, community, transparent curriculum, metacognition and space, as set out by Professor Barry Carpenter.

We’ll be continuing to explore this very live subject in next week’s blog post. In the following week we will have some consideration of diagnostic assessment to establish further individual and collective needs.

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Upcoming CPD

Summer primary school computing conference
Summer primary school computing conference

This event will build upon the Autumn computing conference by inviting subject leaders to reflect on their year in the role, sharing their successes and challenges. It will also introduce new ideas, tools and approaches through talks and practical activities led by members of the CLC team, with opportunities for attendees to share their own expertise and experience. Over the course of the conference activities will touch on the three main areas of the computing curriculum: computer science, digital literacy and information technology. We will also feature advice and examples illustrating the use of technology to support blended learning.

- 15:30
Computing subject leaders, Teachers...
Creative Arts, Digital and children – CLC meets More Than Robots online
Creative Arts, Digital and children - CLC meets More Than Robots online

Combining forces for the first time, the Connected Learning Centre and More Than Robots have created a session for teachers, youth organisations, researchers and policymakers interested in the digital provision of creative arts for primary aged pupils.


The Play Observatory - Prof. John Potter

“In their own words”: Westminster Abbey & CLC digital projects - Sian Shaw

Building (and maintaining) a city-wide primary arts curriculum to raise attainment - Kate Fellows

More to be added soon

This interactive and inclusive meet up will include inspiring examples of how technology can be used to support learning in music, visual art and drama in person and online at home drawing on our experiences as Tate Exchange associates and our partnership work with a range of cultural institutions.

This informal event is an opportunity to discuss real examples of what does/doesn’t work, meet colleagues from other sectors working on similar challenges and share useful research, news or updates

The morning will include case study presentations (details below) followed by a Q&A. There will also be an opportunity for a rapid sharing round for launches, project updates or requests for help and a short break to avoid zoom brain drain.

- 11:30
KS1, KS2
Subject leaders, Teachers...

Upcoming Special projects

The News Project
- 14:25

Special project in collaboration with First News Education

For a third year, building on two successful previous projects, we are once again partnering with the children’s newspaper First News, fellow member of the national Making Sense of Media and News Literacy networks. This special project with a literacy, PSHE and citizenship, as well as computing focus, highlights our specialist interest in this important aspect of digital and critical literacy.

The News Project will enable participating classes from year 5 to immerse themselves in news and current affairs using First News and the Bett award-winning First News iHUB, which will be provided free of charge during the school-based part of the project over a six week period. Under the guidance of their teacher, pupils will be supported in their development as a community of fully informed news readers. Classes will test their new critical skills and knowledge in the culminating virtual celebration event which will include a news competition and team-based critical literacy and editorial activities. After the event, schools will be able to use the resources from the day in their school.

The project will launch with an introductory CPD session for teachers to set the context, demonstrate resources and to plan for the school-based activities. 

Initial CPD session - Thursday 21st October 4pm-5.00pm. 

Project work undertaken in school - October and November.

Special event - Thursday 25th November 9.30am-2.45pm.

The Garden Museum

The CLC is once again partnering with the Garden Museum to offer a partnership project for KS1 pupils (primarily suited to Yr2). Located next to Lambeth Palace on the bank of the Thames, the museum has an inspiring collection that provides the ideal stimulus for young learners to explore the world around them.

Pupils will use technology alongside the museum’s collection to explore the wonderful world of seeds.

  • How are they planted?
  • How do they spread?
  • What is inside them?

 The Garden Museum has a large collection of seeds and tools that pupils will engage with.

These half-day sessions will take place at the Garden Museum.

There is a limited number of dates available, so please book early to avoid disappointment.

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