The remarkable response of schools to the coronavirus

Chris Kenyon
Chris Kenyon
For almost three months, we have been working with schools across the country to understand their challenges and support them as they deal with the coronavirus and the partial closure of their schools.

In the last few months, a few things have stood out:

  • The extraordinary commitment and hard work that school leaders have put into serving children, their families and wider communities 
  • The unprecedented level of professional and community collaboration as teachers and school leaders have innovated and supported each other
  • The requirement for leaders to continually make sensitive decisions that take into account the unique context of their school

Context is not always part of the formula for national Sunday newspapers, but when it comes to some of The Key’s poll data that was quoted in The Mail on Sunday today, it is all important. 

The headline quoted a snapshot poll from 10th April to focus on the small number of schools that did not plan to set work for remote learners over the summer term. The poll was conducted during the Easter holidays and many respondents subsequently set-up interactive learning programmes or expanded their use of paper resource packs.

We have spoken to some of the schools where this is not the case, and in each instance it was clear that leaders were taking a deliberate and thoughtful approach. In communities where digital-poverty is a significant issue, where two, three or four primary-aged pupils are sharing the same screen, leaders have prioritised emotional wellbeing and children’s safety over fuller programmes of tailored learning. Here, staff are spending more time reaching out to struggling families. They’re making daily phone calls to check-in, or delivering food hampers to those most in need. Maintaining that deep sense of connection has become the number one priority.

The debate that is playing out across national newspapers on the adequacy of remote-learning provision is reductive. Working with 16,500 member schools across England, we see a sector that is working harder than most can imagine, is vibrant and emphatically open to new ways of working. 

Schools have moved incredibly quickly on remote learning. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, we have seen ten years’ worth of technology adoption in five weeks. We have supported over 20,000 school leaders via our Digital Education Hub to understand the options open to them, and other initiatives like the edtech demonstrator schools are also supporting schools. 

Schools have set up 10,000’s of digital classrooms and rolled out ambitious training plans to teachers and support staff. Others are hosting community check-ins or using YouTube videos to celebrate pupils’ work and wish them good morning each day. Schools are not standing still.  

We are grateful to those schools that have shared their ideas and experiences with us so far and are delighted to be one small part of a deep culture of collaboration that is serving all schools.  You can read more from these leaders here. We will continue our work helping school leaders lead a remarkable response at this difficult time.