Archive for October, 2020

Families have succeeded where schools have failed

October 13, 2020

As English schools receive children back after the Summer break, for schooling in a time of pandemic, one feature of schooling in the last six months needs to be reflected on.

When the pandemic lockdown happened schools transitioned to online education, some very successfully, most less so. There has been much comment about what schools have or have not been achieving. There has been concern about the quality of education children have been receiving, and their well-being. There has been discussion of the difficulties for parents of combining home working with home education. And there have been calls to help children whose families cannot afford computers and internet access. But almost no comment has reached me about how quickly and seamlessly the majority of young people, of primary school age as well as secondary, were able to connect with whatever their school was providing.

This was possible because in the last few years families have seen the need for their children to become digitally connected. The equipment has been bought, connectivity acquired, ground rules set and the inevitable issues resolved, so that the majority of young people have become part of the digital connected world.

Though schools have tinkered at the edges of enabling young people to use online, only a very few have worked to enable young people to have their own devices and to use them for learning. More common has been the banning of young people’s mobile phones, with lessons making use of the connected world being few and far between. For the last 10 years, as smartphones and tablets have become a natural part of how our society operates, the government has done nothing to help children become connected at home. And beyond the odd homework requiring research on the internet home connection has been a peripheral matter for most schools as well.

But when online connection suddenly became the only way some form of schooling could happen, government and schools expected families to arrange this connection. Without any expression of surprise or thanks when families did precisely that without hesitation or complaint.

It is a massive failure of the current generation of politicians and policy makers, and the majority of school leaders, to recognise that personal connection and devices are as important to young people as they are for the rest of the population. And absolutely key tools whenever it is necessary to learn anything.

The pandemic has exposed this failure.

Will schools now recognise that being personally connected must be a natural part of learning, to be used immediately as and when required?