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Home schooling: what can we learn?

It’s official: home school is out.

No matter how long this return to face-to-face education lasts, a legacy to the extended period of remote learning must be secured.

As classrooms gradually reopen, educators and policy makers need to look at the wider lessons learned – including the important challenges of accessibility and digital equality

There are also opportunities to reimagine what the future of education can – and should – look like. 

In the final episode of Remote Schooling SOS, we asked what can be taken forward from remote schooling – from the viewpoint of a teacher, a parent and Parent Zone’s CEO... 

The teacher: “Tech-led inclusivity and mutual trust”

Lucy Flower, primary school teacher

“My highlight of remote schooling has been an awe of my profession’s flexibility. 

“Teachers have picked up new ways of working quickly – and communicated this as clearly as possible to parents and families. We’ve had to adapt, sometimes at a few hours notice. 

“The knowledge of what we can do under duress is something that empowers us to move forward in the future – whatever that may look like. 

“The connections and relationships we have made with families have gotten ever stronger. Through the use of different forms of technology – but also through the casual phone call. 

“And this has not just been to speak to pupils. It has also been to say to parents: ‘How are you doing? How are you finding it? Is there anything we can do to help?’

“I think we’re in a place of real mutual trust and understanding that is only going to propel us into this new phase – and support us in the long term.

“There have been so many skills picked up by teachers, parents and families. The adoption of technology, to be more integrated into face-to-face teaching, is certainly going to happen over the next few months and years. 

“One way in particular schools will benefit is the way we’ve used technology to be more inclusive. I think there will be a point where, if a child is off school for a period, we can say, ‘you can be in the classroom with us, do the same work, see the teacher, hear an explanation live’. 

“Attendance being no longer solely physical in the school building opens up a whole new world of possibilities.” 

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The parent: “We must embrace technology for children”

Marvyn Harrison, Dope Black Dads

“I’ve realised during lockdown I’m probably smarter than I thought I was – helping my five-year-old with their school work. Accessing my inner child was low on my priorities before lockdown. I’ve had so much fun, and I’d never have been able to find time to do that before.

“We’ve been through a journey with technology, where at first we tried to make it really strict about what our children could and couldn’t do. But we realised they were being heavily impacted by a lack of movement – and didn’t have the processing skills to internalise it in a healthy way. 

“There was a period of time where we said, ‘Do the things you need to do and if you choose to spend more time watching TV, go for it’. 

“We got back into a balance after the second lockdown, when we decided it was becoming too indulgent and it really shaped their behaviour. We began monitoring and made it very activity-based, with strict free time. So we’d do fitness, then dancing, then practical things like letters and numbers.  

“Growing up, my mother was adamant that I should not be on the computer. She would often be fighting to get me off it. Now, there is a whole generation of people who have monetised being on the internet to the millions. 

“I think for parents, it is about trying to adopt the things that are present in our children’s lives. My son is now intuitive to touchscreens and if a screen doesn’t do something when he touches it, he looks at me like, ‘what’s happened to this device?’. 

“I think the more we embrace technology and get our children prepared for it, the better it will be for them. It is going to be their native existence going forward.”

The expert: “Healthier conversations about screen time”

Vicki Shotbolt, founder and CEO of Parent Zone

“We’ve learned that for education, you don’t have to be in a classroom. Thinking about all those different ways you can learn – whether in the garden, or through play – it doesn’t just have to happen in school.

“We can use that information to literally break down the barriers of what happens in school and what happens at home. 

“Another thing that has really surprised me is how we started using video calls rather than turning to the phone. That simple change in behaviour, where we realised we could still see each other and connect to each other, has been absolutely phenomenal. 

“It turned education into a shared endeavour – and technology made that happen. If it wasn’t for new technology, schools would have been relying on sending home sheets of paper. 

“It’s been transformative for the better – and we have seen a shift from when parents saw screen time as ‘bad’ and technology as a problem. 

“Before, what adults did with tech was serious and all about getting food on the table – wheras screen time for kids was fun, but a waste of time. It was all about how we could drag them away from those screens.

“What we’re seeing now is a far, far healthier conversation.”

Image: shocky/