Home Schooling during lockdown
This week has seen unprecedented and rapid changes to the way that we educate our children in this country. Schools have been forced to close for the majority of their students, and teachers have been forced into quickly learning how to teach classes online or prepare packs of work for their students to take home and complete independently. Parents now face the struggle of home schooling during lockdown, with little guidance to help them navigate this scenario.
Understandably, this has caused a great deal of upset and anxiety for those students who were supposed to be sitting their exams during this summer – as well as for those teachers who have nurtured their students for the last two years. Recent announcements about how grades are going to be awarded has helped to alleviate some of the fear of the unknown, but there are more problems with closing schools and cancelling exams than just how grades are awarded.
Everyone who has ever broken up for the six weeks summer holiday will know that it takes a while to get back into the swing of things after a period of intellectual inactivity. There is evidence to support this: countless studies have been performed on the reading levels of students before and after the summer holidays and each one shows a drop in attainment. Schools will have a big job on their hands in order to try and minimise this, but it also calls into question of how they can prevent it. Parents will have an even greater task at trying to keep their children motivated over the course of the coming months.
Over the course of the last week, teachers around the country have been rallying around to create packs of work for students to do in the mean time; they’ve been experimenting with using online classrooms to deliver lessons for the first time. They’ve been working incredibly hard to try and make the transition from school-learning to home-learning as easy as possible for the students. The next few weeks will reveal teething problems in this response: there will be some students who find the work too easy; others that find it too hard; I’d expect the majority, if left to their own devices, wouldn’t do it at all. Nobody really knows what home schooling during lockdown will entail.
Several websites have opened up their subscription services for free: Twinkl and Audible are probably among the best to offer free help for home schooling during lockdown. Twinkl is particularly good for GCSE students, as they have lots of sample exam papers and workbooks that help build up exam skills. These resources are great if the students are highly motivated and will happily sit and read and complete the questions independently. They are even better if a parent or older sibling can sit down with them and help them through it. But, realistically, students still need the input of people who are able to facilitate the children’s learning.
Home-education v.s Home-schooling during lockdown
Home educating children is a choice that more and more parents were making before the COVID-19 crisis. They were turning their back on schools for a variety of reasons, but these parents were doing so in full knowledge of what home-schooling their children would mean. Home-schooling children is a great responsibility and often a logistical nightmare, but home-ed parents and children have formed a well-connected community that share resources and information whenever they can.
Yet the experiences of those students who are enrolled in schools, and the experiences of their parents, doesn’t compare with some of the difficulties that children and parents who choose to educate at home normally face. Students who were sent home from school still were sent home with resources and lessons to complete; they will be entered into appropriate exams by the exams officer at the school; those in receipt of school meals will still get those through vouchers. A school isn’t just about a child sitting in front of a teacher and being told what to do, the administration that’s involved in teaching children is enormous.
When parents and children choose to home educate, they take on this administrative burden too. Parents and teachers who work with home-educated students spend hours researching the different courses for all of the different subjects that are available and suitable, only to find that many of which are impossible to take outside of a traditional school setting. Then they have to hunt out exam centres that will enable them to take their exams and secure their place. If there are any educational needs, these need to be evidenced, independently reviewed and communicated to the exam centre. Each time, jumping through the bureaucracy, being passed from pillar to post and very rarely receiving any clarification. As I write, there still isn’t the clarification on what home-ed students who are due to sit their exams this summer should do about receiving their grades.
Challenges of home schooling during lockdown
There will be many parents waking up over the next few mornings who will be relieved that the early morning rush out the door is temporarily over. Instead they will face a new challenge, a far more difficult task of motivating their children to learn in an environment they don’t typically consider an educational one.
It’s time to get together – virtually, not literally – and use the resources that are around and online. There are many online teachers, myself included, who work outside of the mainstream schooling setting that offer 1-2-1 and group tutorials for students of all ages. It may will be that within your network of friends you could organise lessons across key areas of the curriculum and share the knowledge that you have or an older sibling might be able to fill in the gaps.
Most importantly, it is only March. Students of all ages still have more than a term of schooling before they are due to break up for the summer holidays. Irrespective of whether or not exams have been cancelled, y11s can still complete essays for their GCSE subjects to help support their teacher’s decisions, or else prepare for their courses in 6th form or college. Those due to take ‘A’ levels could complete some advanced reading for courses they might be going on to take in the Autumn. Students everywhere should see this time as a time of opportunity to get ahead. Keep reading, keep writing, keep safe.