Learning guidance

DfE remote learning guidance is ‘unrealistic’, I Tes chiefs warn

Updated government guidelines on distance learning for schools have been criticized as “unrealistic” and “a distraction” by headteachers and leaders of the teaching profession.

the non-statutory councilspublished this week, sets out expectations for how schools should “deliver high-quality distance education” when in-person instruction is not possible.

His suggestion that schools should consider “securing appropriate internet connectivity solutions where possible” was described as a “huge ask”.

Dame Alison Peacock, chief executive of the Chartered College of Teaching, said “expecting schools to be responsible for providing connectivity solutions is a huge ask and yet another distraction for schools”.

She added that for schools in deprived areas, the resource and budget requirements “would be enormous” and that it was not something that teachers and headteachers “should be expected to solve alone”.

When schools should offer remote learning

In the guidelines, the Department for Education argues that distance learning should only be considered “a short-term measure” and “a last resort” when in-person attendance is “not possible” or ” contrary to government guidelines.

The DfE said this could include scenarios where it is not possible for schools to open safely or where opening would “contravene local or central government guidance”.

The department adds that remote learning could also be offered to individual students who are – in the short term – unable to physically attend school but can learn from home.

In these circumstances, the DfE says that “students should have access to distance learning as soon as reasonably possible”, and that access to distance learning should be “proportional to the duration of the absence and to disruption of their learning.

He adds that schools’ distance learning provision should “include opportunities for regular feedback and interaction with teachers and peers during the school day.”

But Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the DfE needed to be “realistic” about school resources.

He said if schools are to ensure access to learning, particularly in light of the disruption of the pandemic, “we need to be realistic about what is and is not possible in terms of teaching. remotely, especially in the short term”.

And the “practical realities” of the school day could interfere with providing regular feedback and interaction to people at home.

“There is a finite limit in terms of staff availability and time,” Barton added.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the school leaders’ union NAHT, said distance learning during the pandemic “has brought to light the digital divide in this country”.

“We would, of course, support any goal to ensure that all children have the same opportunities to access online learning. However, we must understand that this can only be achieved with a substantial investment in the school digital infrastructure,” he added.

“No child should have a poorer educational experience for lack of a computer and an internet connection.”

Difficult to “overcome the obstacles to digital access”

Mr Barton added that schools may find it difficult to help students “overcome barriers to digital access”, as these could vary on a case-by-case basis due to a local or family situation.

“Instead of setting unrealistic expectations on distance learning, the government really needs to focus on the current problem, which is that Covid is causing huge disruption because of very high levels of student and staff absenteeism,” he said.

The updated guidance says that, “where appropriate,” schools should consider providing the same amount of distance learning as the basic education students receive at school. This could include “direct recorded or live instruction time”, alongside freelance work.

The DfE defines “good practice” as follows:

  • Three hours per day (on average) in the cohort for Milestone 1, with less for younger children.
  • Four hours a day for Milestone 2.
  • Five hours a day for milestones 3 and 4.

The DfE adds that video content can be provided by external providers and need not be produced directly by the school.

Government says schools could overcome barriers to digital access distributing school-owned laptops “along with a user agreement or contract, if possible.”

Schools could also consider providing print resources, having access to systems to track whether students are engaging in remote work, and identifying a named senior manager to oversee the quality and delivery of learning. from a distance.

Remote learning should also include opportunities for “regular feedback and interaction with teachers and peers” throughout the school day.

The guidance says that if students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) require distance learning, teachers are “in the best position to know how the student’s needs can be met most effectively” .

Research and an Ofsted analysis last year predicted schools were likely to ‘continue to rely on remote solutions to provide coverage and mitigate learning loss”.

A YouGov survey commissioned by Ofsted also found that three-fifths of teachers were “fairly confident” that they were delivering a high-quality education through their school’s distance learning solution when needed.

Ofsted research has found remote learning to be “imperfect but necessary” to mitigate learning loss.

Last week the DfE unveiled digital technology standards, which she says should be used “by everyone involved in the planning and use of technology in schools and colleges,” including management teams, IT staff, vendors, technical advisors, and teachers.

The published standards include goals, such as all schools should use an “all fiber connection for their broadband” to make “effective use of online learning tools”.