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How Things Have Got Better In Schools Over The Lockdown

13 July 2020

1. Things Have Mostly Got Better!

If you’re a rare teacher who hasn’t heard at least one friend or family member moaning about school closures, then you’re lucky! Many parents were frustrated at the lack of communication and facilities provided by schools, particularly early after the closures. One grievance cropped up most often: teachers weren’t directly speaking to children that often.

However, good news! Things have mostly got better.

At the end of March, just 27% of primary and 22% of secondary teachers were phone calling children in a given week. Last week that figure was over 50% in primary schools and almost 40% in secondaries. (The graph below shows a question asked on 1st April, but refers to the last week in March, when most schools were still in session).

Another beef was the lack of video lessons. Again, given a couple of months, many more of you are now delivering video lessons, with the rate jumping from 7% to 29% in primary schools, and 15% to 35% in secondary schools.

As everyone said to the public at the time: this is all very sudden! Ultimately, it took time for schools to get procedures in place for greater contact, but things have definitely improved.

2. Also, A Little More Work!

Another incremental improvement: fewer pupils are now shirking work altogether.

One of the big concerns throughout lockdown has been the fact that, back at the end of March, 42% of teachers in schools located in the poorest areas felt their Year 8 pupils were, on average, doing less than 1 hour per day. By contrast, just 15% of teachers situated in the wealthiest areas agreed.

Now, however, the situation has got better – though the inequality remains. In the poorest areas, a solid 60% of teachers now felt the average Year 8 pupil was doing 1 to 2 hours per day. In the richest areas, just 6% of teachers now felt the average was less than an hour per day.

Note how the numbers at the top end have also fallen off, with very few teachers now saying pupils are doing an average 5+ hours of learning per day. Is this a case of finding a happy medium for all?

3. What does this mean for the curriculum?

‘Catch-up’ is a hot topic at present as everyone tries to work out just how much learning pupils have missed and what needs repeating next year. Some year groups and subjects have fared better than others. Primary Key Stage, art, design and technology, and PE teachers were the most likely to say that pupils missed out on at least half of the curriculum they should have received during lockdown.

Science teachers, meanwhile, seem to have coped the most – with 25% of teachers saying they managed to deliver the entire intended curriculum during lockdown. What’s your secret, scientists?!

An expected yet still frustrating finding is that fee-paying schools were easily the most confident in their delivery of the intended curriculum. Those in the most deprived areas said they struggled the most to cover their intended curriculum.

4. Okay, so what about classes in September?

Getting next year’s timetable is a heart-in-mouth moment for teachers. Who will you teach on a Friday? How many free periods are on the same day? The answers can make or break the enjoyment of a whole year!

Given so many schools are still working out the implications of ‘bubbling’ pupils in ways that reduce contact next year, we were surprised to see that a lot of you do nevertheless have your timetable for next year. Compared to the exact same time last year, there has been a bit of a hit for secondary teachers – 25% haven’t seen anything compared to 20% last year, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it could have been!

5. Forever changing INSET?

Finally, we noticed one more trend last week which might have long-term implications for teachers. At Teacher Tapp towers we are fascinating by professional development and how you get better at your jobs. TT Users are also fascinated and a few had asked us to look at what professional development activities you did during lockdown. But we could go one better…

Last year, in July, we asked what CPD activities you had done throughout the year. Last week we repeated the question. The differences are below!

Amazingly, a lot of it is the same – around 45% of you had taken part in some kind of peer or self-observation coaching, 35% are in networks related to professional development. But look at the gigantic leap in that second bar, which is for ‘online courses/seminars’. Last year, just 41% of you did a professional development activity online. This year, it was 83%!

Do you now prefer online professional development? That’s a question for another day! But now that almost every teacher has taken part in some form of it, there’s certainly more scope for it to continue in future.

Right, that’s it for this week. If you’re on the final furlong – good luck! And if you’re one of the people still in next week, stay strong. (And for those of you off already, have an extra lie-in for the rest of us!)

6. Finally, finally, we know you love the daily reads, so here are this week’s tips