COVID-19 and Remote Education

The following guidance is designed to support schools in implementing an effective hybrid learning model. Advice, training and consultancy to support senior leaders and teachers in all aspects of making effective use of technology in schools is available through The ICT Service.  Contact us if you would like more support on 0300 300 0000 or by email to support@theictservice.org.uk

Context

Since the start of the Autumn Term 2020, the DfE has set out clear expectations that schools will have plans in place to deliver remote education to pupils whose ability to attend school has been disrupted by COVID-19.

These expectations were further strengthened on 30 September 2020 when the DfE published a ‘Remote Education Temporary Continuity Direction’, which is applicable from 22 October 2020 and:

…makes clear that schools have a legal duty to provide remote education for state-funded, school-age children unable to attend school due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Direction requires that:

where a class, group of pupils, or individual pupils need to self-isolate, or there are local or national restrictions requiring pupils to remain at home, schools are expected to provide immediate access to remote education.

Have you decided which tools you will use?

The effective implementation of these requirements is inevitably dependent on schools having appropriate technology-based solutions (and teacher training and support) in place.

Cambridgeshire schools are using a range of solutions to facilitate remote education, and many employ a combination of platforms and tools.

  • Microsoft Office 365 Education (using Teams)
  • Gsuite for Education (using Google Classroom)
  • 2Simple’s Purple Mash
  • eSchools (formerly Starz+)
  • Seesaw
  • Class Dojo
  • Tapestry (particularly with younger children)

…and others.  Schools’ choice of platform is influenced by a range of factors, not least of which is parental and pupil engagement.  With this in mind, many schools are continuing to use something which is already familiar to the school community, rather than introducing something new.

The ICT Service can support you in reviewing what platforms or tools you already have in place, their suitability in facilitating remote education, and guide you to additional tools and platforms if needed.  This includes supporting schools in accessing the DfE funded support to get set up with either Gsuite for Education or O365 Education if they wish to.  Cambridgeshire and Peterborough schools can access free support in applying for this from The ICT Service by filling in this form.  For any other queries about your remote education provision, contact craig.thompson@theictservice.org.uk (primary) or paul.stratford@theictservice.org.uk (secondary).

Have you decided on your approach to remote education?

FREE ‘Choosing Your Remote Learning Platform‘ Webinars are available to book online now:

  • Friday 9 October 2020, 9.45 – 10.30am
  • Friday 9 October 2020, 1.30 – 2.15pm
  • Wednesday 14 October 2020, 9.45 – 10.30am
  • Wednesday 14 October 2020, 1.30 – 2.15pm
  • Wednesday 14 October 2020, 3.45 – 4.30pm

To help you provide remote education during Covid19-related disruption, we have put together some things to consider, top tips and details of some of the most commonly used online tools. Please remember that for any cloud-based tools, the school has a responsibility to ensure they have adhered to their GDPR policy and factored in any potential safeguarding concerns.

The DfE have laid out clear expectations for schools in its Guidance for full opening.  Amongst other things, schools will need to think about how they will:

  • distribute work to pupils, collect work in and give meaningful feedback.
  • provide access to high-quality curriculum resources or videos
  • assess pupils’ learning and adjust the pace or difficulty of teaching accordingly
  • provide frequent, clear explanations of new content

Furthermore the DfE has made it clear that it:

…expects schools to avoid an over-reliance on long-term projects or internet research activities.

We are helping schools to consider implementing different types of provision for supporting remote and blended learning models. Whatever you do, it’s important to have a planned, whole school approach so that expectations are clear. It is also best to be aware that your approach might need to change as local and national circumstances develop.

Your approach might include:

Synchronous activities, such as

  • live streaming lessons / parts of lessons
  • hosting video meetings,
  • or giving real-time feedback during an online task

Asynchronous activities such as

  • directing pupils to relevant online resources (such as Oak National Academy or BBC Bitesize)
  • directing pupils to teacher-made content such as instructional videos
  • setting tasks for pupils to complete when they are able
  • providing feedback  as and when pupils complete tasks or seek support

Whilst there has been pressure on some schools to provide remote education via live lessons, this is often not practical when teachers also have pupils on-site and is also not necessarily the most effective model of provision.  The Education Endowment Foundation’s rapid assessment report: Best evidence and supporting students to learn remotely provides more in-depth guidance on this.

Setting tasks and linking to online content

There are lots of online tools for setting tasks for pupilscollecting work and giving feedback and you might be more prepared than you think!  Many schools have cloud-based tools and services which children can access from home.  Pupils may not have access to an overarching cloud platform, but they may well have access to subject specific tools and resources so again, explore these first and foremost.

If you do choose to introduce some new tools (and there are currently many offers available for schools to help with this), think carefully about what you want to achieve and whether the tools are right for you – don’t rush into a decision and bear in mind some of the safeguarding considerations below.

The following is a list of some of the platforms we know are commonly used in Cambridgeshire schools, although it is by no means exhaustive:

  • Gsuite for Education / Office 365 Education – with either of these platforms, schools can give pupils access to a range of productivity tools (e.g. Docs, Sheets, Slides / Word PowerPoint, Excel) and can use Google Classroom or Microsoft Class Teams to distribute work, collect it in and give feedback as well as post messages and notifications.  Teachers can provide links to existing content or content they have created and also live stream lessons, but this comes with some safeguarding considerations (see below).  There is a DfE funding scheme available to support schools in getting Gsuite for Education or Office 365 Education set up with a local Cambridgeshire and Peterborough form which schools can use to get free support in applying for this programme.  The Key for School Leaders has provided a clear feature comparison for schools looking to adopt one of these two platforms.
  • Purple Mash – aimed at primary schools, Purple Mash provides a wide range of creation, collaboration and communication tools and resources to teachers, pupils and parents.  Teachers can set work for pupils, collect it in and give feedback via 2Dos and can also use shared classroom folders to upload a variety of content for pupils to access, including videos teachers have created.  Purple Mash includes blogging and email tools for communication as well as lots of ready-made resources to save teachers time.
  • Seesaw – this free platform (premium version is also available) allows the creation of portfolios of pupils’ work, either by submitting photos and videos or through annotating documents within the platform itself using the built-in drawing, video or audio tools.  Teachers can set work through ‘activities’, collect it in and provide feedback.  Often used in school as a shared platform (where pupils’ can view and comment on other’s work), Seesaw have also added ‘Home Learning logins’ so that pupils can access all of the tools whilst only seeing their own content, which is a particularly useful addition in response remote learning.  Seesaw is often used by schools who create and collect lots of multimedia resources and is a platform which some schools choose to use alongside either O365 or Gsuite.
  • Showbie & Socrative – a cloud-based platform allowing pupils to submit work in a wide range of file formats, carry out assessment activities and for the teacher to collect work and provide feedback.  Showbie is able to handle a wide range of file formats across multiple platforms and devices, and offers free and premium versions.  It can be sued used across all devices but is often of particular interest to schools who use iPads a significant amount of the time.
  • Other tools – schools continue to make use of tools such as Tapestry (often already well embedded in EYFS settings and with high parental engagement) and Class Dojo (which is free, provides tools for messaging, providing rewards and creating digital portfolios including through teacher-created ‘activities’).

Looking for a specific tool?  There are already lots of freely available tools for creating quizzes and assessment activities for pupils, such as QuizletKahootSocrativeNearPodQuizzez and Classkick.

Creating video content for pupils

Online platforms provide a real opportunity for sharing bespoke, high-quality content with pupils which goes far beyond the limitations of traditional approaches.  Some considerations include:

  • What’s the workload? Video can be time-consuming for teachers to create and staff may be anxious about the quality of content, especially if they have no experience of creating resources in this way.  Try to balance the time it takes to create content with the benefits to pupils’ learning.
  • Where will it be stored?  Have an agreed online location which is safe for pupils to access, and set clear expectations with pupils and parents that content should not be re-uploaded onto any other platform.
  • Will it be effective?  Don’t spend hours creating whole lessons of content.  Videos are likely to be most effective (and watched!) in short bursts.  What can you effectively teach in a relatively short amount of time, and how might you supplement this with other materials and activities for pupils to complete?
  • Beware of introducing misconceptions.  When delivering content online, you may not be there to ensure misconceptions and errors are not developing.  Can you set tasks for pupils to check understanding after they have accessed online content?  How will you assess pupils’ learning?

Using iPad to prepare or deliver distance learning materials?  Apple have produced some helpful videos around making content and using Apple’s Everyone Can Code and Everyone Can Create guides and links to useful apps.  You can also find lots of useful guidance online such as How to Screen Record on an iPad.

Delivering live video lessons?

Delivering learning through live video meetings has some potential advantages over pre-made video content, including being able address any misconceptions live, reducing the workload associated with creating videos in advance and providing structure to pupils’ days through live ‘events’.   However, consideration needs to given to several possible disadvantages and risks too and we have provided the following guidance to help you decide if this is something you want to do.

There are a few school-friendly tools available for this, and we strongly advise that, where possible,  schools use a tool which is already in place.  Gsuite’s ‘Google Meet’ and Microsoft’s ‘Teams’ are two of the most well-known ones on the market and schools who have these in place can exercise some administrator control over what pupils and staff can see and do.

If you are planning to adopt a new tool for this, or use an existing tool differently, then you must ensure its use meets GDPR requirements and we strongly advise you to carry out a risk assessment before use, particularly with safeguarding in mind.

Considerations include (but are not limited to):

  • How will you staff live video meetings if some pupils also need teaching face-to-face in the classroom?  It is likely to be inappropriate or impractical to live stream lessons from a physical classroom where other pupils are learning.
  • Do you really need to use a live video meeting?  Are there significant advantages for what you want to achieve or could you record your videos in advance and allow children to respond asynchronously instead?  You should only be considering using live video for educational purposes.
  • How will you ensure that communication between staff and pupils takes place within clear, professional boundaries and be fully transparent?  Is there an audit trail of all sessions which have taken place?  Should you record sessions to protect both pupils and teachers from accusations of inappropriate conduct?  If so, where will these be stored and how will you ensure they are only accessed / used appropriately? If there is no audit trail or you have not recorded sessions, how will you ensure transparency (e.g. can you have 2 members of staff attend each event?).
  • Will staff appear on camera?  Where will they be?  What is the expected dress code?  Who else will physically be in the room with the teacher? Other people should not be in the room if it would not be appropriate for them to be in the same educational setting as the student.  For example, it would be inappropriate for a non-DBS checked adult to be in the room with you if you are able to chat with pupils whilst meeting.
  • Will pupils appear on camera?  If they don’t need to, you should consider denying video access if possible.  If your platform doesn’t allow this, then ensure pupils turn off their camera when joining the session.  If you do allow a video feed from pupils, do they need to be in it, or do you just need to see their work?
  • How will you ensure pupils can’t access a video meeting without the teacher being present?  For example, not allowing participants to join before the teacher is present and stopping them re-entering after the teacher has left.  Microsoft have recently extended their lobby-feature into Teams and Google recommend using the code embedded into Google Classroom to manage meetings with pupils.
  • If you’re dictating the schedule through live sessions, how will you ensure screen time is balanced? Don’t plan for pupils to be sat in front of a screen for extended periods of time.  Even if you decide to deliver a relatively full programme of learning through live lessons, pupils still need to take regular breaks for both their physical and mental well-being (as do staff).
  • How will you communicate expectations to parents and pupils? Unlike when attending school, staff are not responsible for children’s physical safety when delivering learning content online.  Parents mustn’t assume that any online learning opportunities are the equivalent of providing childcare!
  • Before starting any live video meetings, remind children:
    • not to share private information
    • not to respond to contact requests from people they don’t know
    • who they should tell if they see or hear anything upsetting or inappropriate.
  • What will you do if you become concerned during a session? Safeguarding must take priority at all times.  If you have concerns which make you feel you should end the session early, then do so.  You should report any safeguarding concerns in line with your school’s policy, and apply the same rationale as you would at any other time.

How will you track who has attended/completed any work set?

A blended or hybrid learning environment introduces its own challenges to tracking which pupils have participated, completed and understood work set remotely.  However, a core part of the DfE expectations, and of effective teaching and learning, is being able to do just that.

When setting asynchronous tasks, most platforms provide some way of tracking who has handed work in and when.  However, trying to keep track of who has attended (and stayed with!) a live session is more difficult. Strategies such as getting pupils to ‘check in’ at the start of a session (and part-way through) using chat functionality, asking all pupils to submit something to you at a set time or taking a verbal register are options.

Pupils who cannot access online content

In addition to providing online content for pupils, it’s important to note that schools are also required to: >

…provide printed resources, such as textbooks and workbooks, for pupils who do not have suitable online access

And that a recent update to guidance on ‘Critical workers who can access schools or education settings’ identifies:

those who may have difficulty engaging with remote education at home (for example due to a lack of devices or quiet space to study)

as ‘Vulnerable children and young people’.

Provision for pupils who fit this description but must isolate at home can be achieved in a variety of ways, including:

  • Sending tasks home via digital platforms where the sue of technology is optional.  If internet access is available at home, parents can often access instructions, guidance and some content on mobile phones even if there are not enough devices for pupils to complete tasks digitally.  Work can often then still be photographed and uploaded to an online platform for assessment and feedback.
  • Providing asynchronous tasks which pupils can access and complete when feasible.  This can reduce the demand on shared devices which often need to be accessed simultaneously in the event of synchronous models of delivery (such as live lessons).
  • Deliver paper-based materials and activities and delivering these to pupils.  Again, parents then may be able to send a photographed copy of pupils’ work via an online platform or email for assessment and feedback.
  • Designing activities where digital completion is optional.  How else could pupils demonstrate their understanding without putting undue pressure on limited digital resources?

Keeping children safe while delivering remote education

When encouraging pupils to participate in education online, it is vital that consideration is given to keeping them safe and that schools have clear and effective policies and practices in place to support this.  The DfE have provided guidance on ‘Safeguarding and remote education during Coronavirus’ and the NSPCC has also released guidance on keeping children and young people safe while teaching in a remote or unusual setting.

There is further advice available from other online safety groups and schools can find links to these by accessing Cambridgeshire’s schools’e-safety site.  For further support on this, or other aspects of online safety in schools, contact craig.thompson@theictservice.org.uk.

Please note – For support with specific e-safety incidents or concerns, schools must follow the usual Child Protection procedures as laid out in their school’s Safeguarding policy.

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