In this section, we give advice and guidance to leaders, primary and secondary school educators on what distance learning should look like.
My head teacher expects me to teach a full timetable to my pupils, as a combination of lesson resources and video lessons. What can I reasonably be expected to do?
A: Normal curriculum has been suspended, and you should not be carrying out proactive teaching. Not all of your pupils will be able to access a full day’s lessons, because they are sharing laptops with other family members or because they do not have access at all. Some will be unwell, or looking after others who are unwell – and that will be the case for some teachers too.
Your first concern should be staff and pupil wellbeing. You may be able to set some activities for pupils via your usual Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) or homework platforms, but you cannot expect all pupils to access this, nor should you be expected to provide a full day’s lessons. NEU advice suggests 2-3 hours a day is plenty for pupils.
My primary school has asked parents to send in daily work from their children for me to mark. Is this reasonable?
No. Normal curriculum has been suspended, and you cannot expect all pupils to be carrying out school work on a daily basis. Even where work is being completed, you should not be expected to routinely mark it. Not all pupils or parents/carers will be able to comply with this request, which will just make things even more stressful for them. It is better to provide suggestions of interesting and fun activities which children can carry out independently, or with parents and siblings as time allows. It is more important to support pupils to keep reading, and to make learning fun, than to issue school work.
We have been advised that we must ‘maintain standards’ during this period of school closure. What should I be doing?
It is not possible to maintain standards for all pupils when some will be at home with varying levels of access to school work, others will be attending school but without access to full timetable provision, and when many will be anxious or unwell. Normal curriculum, assessments and exams have been suspended for this period.
Should I be delivering online lessons to my students?
No, this should not be a routine expectation. NEU advice states that online lessons could be offered occasionally using technology with which teachers and students are familiar, but schools must have a protocol that safeguards pupils and teachers. This is not the time to experiment with new technology that will increase workload and stress levels. Expecting pupils to access lessons at a particular time of day is unreasonable, as is expecting them to engage in every prepared lesson.
Should I be providing bespoke lessons for individuals or groups of pupils? How far can I be expected to differentiate lessons for pupils? Should I be emailing lessons to my students on a daily or weekly basis? How much support can I be expected to give to individual pupils?
Normal curriculum and teaching is suspended for this current period. You cannot be expected to prepare bespoke lessons, nor provide individual support for every pupil. You can be expected to be available by email to respond to pupils’ queries, but the school must ensure parents/carers and pupils have reasonable expectations of the speed with which you can respond, and must have plans in place to deal with pupil queries when teachers are ill or otherwise unable to work. Teachers must only use school email addresses.
My head teacher expects me to spend my time rewriting lesson plans and curriculum planning for next year, while I’m working at home. What forward planning can I be expected to do?
At the current time, you will be getting used to new ways of working and may well be coping with illness and anxiety, caring for relatives or looking after your own children, as well as maintaining links with colleagues and working out how to support pupils. You may also be on a rota for going into school to support pupils there. It is unreasonable to expect any more of you at this time.
You should be able to take holiday over or around the Easter period, where you should not be expected to carry out any school work.
As we move through this period of lockdown, things will calm down and there are many things you could then do with your time. This could include taking part in CPD, improving your subject knowledge or aspects of pedagogy, and engaging in discussions with colleagues to increase your understanding. There will be opportunities then to think about planning for next year.