It is interesting to look back at what I wrote on this blog on the 29th February, using my experiences of other school closures, especially that of Haringey’s schools in 1979, during the Winter of Discontent.
All this is ‘obiter’ by way of approaching the main question as to what schools should do now, and is there anything we can learn from 1979? Two things standout; some schools, usually those subject to most parental pressure, were better organised than others, especially in respect of examination groups, and we live in a vastly changed world in relation to technology.
Schools that don’t already do so can explore the use of uploaded video lesson segments for revision classes, where limited new material remains to be introduced. Skype or video conferencing software might even allow virtual lessons in some subjects where teachers are available. Indeed, a pandemic, as it would likely affect teachers as well as other school staff, should be the final nail in the coffin of schools competing with each other, rather than collaborating for the good of all learners.
Specific thought will also need to be given to pupils, especially those in special schools that are transported to schools. Will there be sufficient taxis and other vehicles to bring them to school?
These thoughts chime with the report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies about who has lost out from the lockdown, in terms of learning. I haven’t had time to read their research in full yet, but I wonder whether they also computed the attendance rates in normal times for the different groups they identified? There is also differential rates of private tutoring even in normal times
None of this invalidates the IFS’s verdict, with which I agree, and was supported by the Chair of the Social Mobility Commission on the radio yesterday. Social Class and access to both funds for technology and space to learn can make a big difference.
Should we be looking to press new spaces into use as schools? Church and community halls as extra classroom; theatres; cinemas and even places of worship? Because, if we cut class sizes we won’t have enough space to bring everyone back in the present buildings.
We certainly need cooperation and not conflict between those responsible for the education of the nation’s children and young people.
Whatever the strategies finally deployed, we do need to see how we can work with parents to ensure children falling behind can make-up the essentials of learning without being stigmatised as either failures or willful for not having the resources and space at home that makes such a difference to learning. This will not be an easy task, but one we must aspire to achieve as a Society.