If schools close again teachers should help families work together to deliver home education, academics have proposed.
In the event of further lockdowns, schools should support families to form “learning pods” so that they can share the burden of home education and combat isolation, new research suggests.
The Scottish Model for Safe Education has been devised by researchers from the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing, along with parents and teachers in four Scottish Borders primary schools.
The model envisages that if schools have to close again owing to coronavirus, up to five families could be encouraged to come together and form "closed childcare clusters" (CCC) – or "learning pods" – so that groups of parents, supported by schools, can deliver home learning, and crucially keep working.
The researchers behind the model argue that as well as allowing children’s education to be maintained, it would also enable families to maintain a wider social circle in the event of another lockdown and make it more likely that people would stick to the rules should new restrictions become necessary.
Helen Minnis, one of the authors of the study and a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Glasgow, said: “If you have four or five families in a cluster that means one family has responsibility for home educating all the children one day a week but the other three or four days a week they are free to get on with their work or other activities.
“The idea is about keeping the structure and routine of school but in much smaller groups, with remote support from the school. Crucially it would also reduce family isolation and stresses by allowing them to have other families to socialise with.”
The teachers who took part in the research reported even for them it could be difficult to teach their own children. The model had the potential to overcome that hurdle too, argued Professor Minnis.
“One thing teachers reported was it was often difficult for them to teach their own child – they would do it for Mrs Bloggs but not for them,” said Professor Minnis.
The research acknowledged there would be “families that don’t get picked” for the CCCs or learning pods.
The model therefore envisages that the school-based hubs that ran throughout lockdown would continue.
The researchers said: “In a local hub, the few children who could not be cared for/educated in a CCC (e.g. due to special educational needs, parental essential work commitments or other family vulnerabilities) would attend their local school and be taught face-to-face with careful social distancing and other precautions.”
It also suggests that some families might prefer to form clusters with extended family, including grandparents.
The researchers concluded: “The parents and teachers in our workshops believed that [the Scottish Model for Safe Education] would not only enable the maintenance of children’s education but would also enable social interaction, reduce family stress, increase parents’ opportunities to work and support families to maintain compliance during periods of high infection rates, since the informal social interactions of children and parents from other household groups within CCCs and the local school hub would reduce boredom and social isolation. If so, SMS-Ed could decrease overall disease risk, simplify contact tracing, enhance the wellbeing of children and parents and facilitate societal economic activity.”