As lockdown restrictions are eased, schools will start to plan for the next academic year ahead. The process of welcoming back children and young people will be a joyous return for many, but with the enduring threat of local restrictions being applied at any given time, schools should be considering ‘Blended Learning’ as part of their strategy, at home, as well as in school.
What is Blended Learning?
To put it simply, Blended Learning is a two- way process of teaching. The first is using face to face interaction to educate (in school) whilst the second is through electronic platforms to educate online (remote learning). The model is used to maximise the educational impact on children and young people, in and out of the classroom.
Whilst many of us are now familiar with the concept of working from home, it will be important to consider (as children and young people return back to a regular school environment) what the ‘new norm’ might look like. Blended Learning is one approach that should be considered. Blended learning allows for both school-based and remote learning environments to work hand in hand, helping children and young people achieve. This will ensure that any local or national lockdowns of school premises in the future will be met with effective response.
Why Blended Learning is Important
With the possibility of future local or national lockdowns, the continuity of education will remain a high priority. Having already experienced an impactful transition process into remote learning, schools will be well aware of what to expect when it comes to responsive action. Whether you found enormous strength in your strategy or encountered noticeable problems, now is the time to prepare for the next lockdown and build on the positive experiences of blended learning that you have encountered.
While our aim is to have all pupils back at school in the autumn, every school will also need to plan for the possibility of a local lockdown and how they will ensure continuity of education
The Department for Education
Remote Learning called for a lot of change in how schools handled their day to day routine. With new restrictions in place and with so many new things to consider, many important factors may have flown under the radar. Safeguarding in particular was an important issue raised when schools began using online platforms for virtual learning. Did schools have the right policy and guidance to drive their community successfully through a rather uncertain time? Was the technology suitable and were educational expectations met?
Blended Learning as a strategy will encourage better use of policy and practice to ensure safeguards are met whilst actively reviewing and responding to new changes and codes of practice towards learning on and offline.
What are Blended Learning Strategies?
Now that the summer holidays have started, preparation can give you a head start in considering a local lockdown scenario. Blended Learning will encourage you to implement a strategy that covers many different angles, but a key overarching principle should always be online safety. However you decide to approach and plan for blended learning, consider the safety points below to ensure your school community is safe online.
- Define who has leadership responsibility for blended learning to ensure consistency in the implementation of policies and procedures including those related to safeguarding.
- Review policies and procedures, particularly safeguarding, child protection, code of conduct, curriculum, the use of tutors and online safety to incorporate blended learning.
- Provide appropriate pathways for children, young people and their families to report safeguarding concerns arising through work with tutors and staff during blended learning and make sure everyone is aware of these routes.
- Provide appropriate pathways for staff and tutors to report safeguarding concerns arising through work with children, young people and their families. Make sure everyone is aware of these routes.
- Consider developing an action plan to develop and implement blended learning as necessary (use the expertise you have within your staff and seek external support, where necessary).
- Review and learn from previous experiences. Use this to establish and keep an up-to-date risk assessment of blended learning.
- Establish an appropriate lawful base and routes of communications that are consistent with data protection laws.
Legislation and Guidance
- DfE: Guidance for Full Opening: schools
- DfE: Keeping Children Safe in Education 2020 paragraph 92 and Annex C
- Scottish Government: Coronavirus (COVID-19): strategic framework for reopening schools, early learning and childcare provision
- Education Scotland: Learning and Teaching Online
- Welsh Government: Developing approaches to support distance learning
- Estyn: Supporting continuity of learning for children and young people
Online learning environment (technology, equipment)
- SWGfL Remote Learning Guidance
- Is working from home necessary or can staff make use of a location with higher bandwidth or more reliable connectivity? e.g. a COVID secure empty classroom/ office.
- Provide portable equipment, or schedule use of the classroom space to provide an extended safe space for individuals to make use of existing, fixed equipment.
- Maintain a central register of all online sessions.
- Consider any obligations to ensure that filtering and monitoring systems are applied to school equipment.
- Carefully consider how you will safely and consistently share content.
- Where appropriate, identify the right video platform - platform specific guidance and information about the most popular 7 platforms
Preparation (Teacher and student capability)
- Ensure staff, including tutors, are reminded of safeguarding policies and procedures and in particular any changes.
- Support teachers and tutors to understand their role in teaching online safety through the curriculum and activities that they deliver.
- Reinforce teachers’ and tutors’ awareness of the need for appropriate professional behaviours whilst online (consider updating the staff behaviour policy/code of conduct).
- Implement an approach to checking impact of curriculum content and tools on connectivity prior to use with children and young people.
- Ensure teachers and tutors are prepared and confident in using online delivery tools
- Provide support routes for staff, tutors, children and young people to obtain support for technology issues when accessing content online
- Consider the development of an ‘induction’ session or pack/online content for staff, tutors, children and young people to support them to initially engage with the new blended learning approach.
- Prepare communications to parents and carers in anticipation of online learning
- Be mindful that not all children and young people will have unlimited bandwidth or technology available at all times of day.
- Ensure that children and young people with SEND are considered in the planning and their access to blended learning accommodated
- Determine if online sessions will be recorded and always follow local guidelines. If recording will take place, ensure that everyone is aware of this, with knowledge of how long the recording will be retained for.
- Recorded learning offers a ‘flipped’ approach for children and young people to access content at a time and manner that suits them.
- Live learning can be captured and converted into recorded content as long as the privacy of the children and young people is maintained in accordance with data protection laws.
Further Helpful Resources
Establish clear expectations for online sessions as part of any blended learning. Review the advice for schools in selecting a tutor, and set your expectations for any and all online learning.