Coronavirus closures herald a new, creative way of learning
It is a testament to the British community that at this time of crisis, everyone is coming together in a way unseen since the Second World War. Schools are having to close for the first time ever and reidentify themselves in order to provide care for children while key workers continue to do what they need to do to keep things running, not least the NHS.
The government has put that trust into teachers in a way that has not been since well before the original national curriculum, and teachers will shine through, taking the mantle and helping children to feel supported, safe and in touch throughout this time.
This is an opportunity for the powers that be to see what we can achieve when allowed to do it. An opportunity to see how we can transform 20th-century learning into a vibrant, lively, 21st-century methodology fit for purpose and fit for the needs, wellbeing and mental health of today’s learners and the world in which we live.
When we come through the other side of this, I would love to think that we begin Year Zero of a new creative method of learning to take young people through the next 80 years of this century in a way unimaginable before.
Headteacher, Westgate Primary School, Morecambe
A chance to mould education into something outstanding
As the old adage goes, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” As the parent of a young child, a member of staff in a further education college and a postgraduate research student in education, this has never rung truer than in the situation we find ourselves today.
I feel the pain of all parents who are suddenly thrust into a world that has otherwise eluded them since childhood. “I’m not a teacher – what am I supposed to do with my child?” has been echoing on the school run since it became clear that schools would close.
I also feel the pain of my work colleagues who rely heavily on the face-to-face contact they have with their students – particularly those with additional support needs – to generate the trust required for a successful pedagogical relationship. The digital world, though structurally robust, is no substitution for a warm smile or kind word exchanged without the intrusive barrier of a screen.
Furthermore, I feel the pain of my colleagues at the university; some of whom live in isolation so very far from home. Events and conferences that we spend months preparing for are now sadly cancelled.
However, as an education researcher, I cannot help but identify this as a period where our notions of education-as-it-is can be reflected upon and offer a glimpse into education-as-it-could-be.
Rather than allowing them to panic about “teaching”, parents should be reminded that they have the most important pedagogical relationship with their child. Through presenting the world to them, they educate their child every day. Difficult as it is for some parents to believe, education is not literacy and numeracy.
The decision to abandon standardised national examinations entirely this year provides an opportunity to question whether we need them at all. Imagine! We could trust teachers – real professionals – to assess the capabilities of the students they see every day rather than submitting considerable power to the one-size-fits-all exam.
Perhaps with that trust, we could see a renewed appreciation for the teacher and the delicate intricacies of their art. With a little less pressure to get x number of students to achieve a particular grade, who knows where that might lead us? It would be a sure path away from the pervasive practice of “teaching to the test” and offer a potential strengthening of a teacher-student relationship currently dogged with constraints.
Greater than any of these considerations, however, is the reflection that we can give, during this period of temporary reform, to what education means to us. Until further notice, the education system remains pliable to meet the demands of the pandemic. Who among us is brave enough to take the chance to mould it into something outstanding?
Postgraduate research student in education, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow
Start the new school year in January
Here’s one possible response to the unprecedented closure of schools, with no firm date for resumption of education: could we permanently delay the transition from one academic year to the next, from 1 September to 1 January (especially as universities are also affected)?
Advantages: children in all academic groups could fully complete their current academic year in the autumn term. This means no children, especially those already struggling, even if only a little, will be on catch-up for the remainder of their time at school or college. Significant exams could be moved to the autumn term, for example, GCSE, A levels, so no child is disadvantaged by unexpected modes of assessment
Normal school holiday periods could continue to apply.
Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham