What is the context? On 1 October, the DfE published the Remote Learning Continuity Direction, which places a legal requirement on schools to provide ‘immediate’ remote learning for any individuals, groups of pupils, or whole cohorts which are unable to attend school due to the pandemic. This will be a legal requirement from 22 October until the end of the 2020/21 school year.
It updates previous advice on remote learning in the DfE’s full Guidance on Opening Schools (June 2020). The quality of immediate remote learning has not changed since this guidance was published, which includes the criteria that remote learning should be of the equivalent length to learning in school, and should include daily contact with teachers.
The Remote Learning Continuity Direction is an excessive, unnecessary and unwelcome measure, given most schools are already planning for and providing remote learning – and it shows a lack of trust in the schools sector.
It is not realistic or sustainable to require schools to provide ‘immediate’ remote learning, of the same length as learning in school, to any individuals or groups who are unable to attend school, while some pupils remain in school.
There continue to be major barriers to accessing high-quality learning remotely, including access to technology and to suitable home-learning environments. Government measures have failed to address these problems adequately.
Why are we saying this? The reopening of schools has been more difficult than anticipated, due to local and national increases in the Covid-19 infection rate, a shortage of testing and a lack of clear guidance being provided for schools. It is inappropriate to put new, statutory demands on schools during this time, when they are dealing with the immediate pressures of the pandemic while delivering a broad and balanced curriculum, and are already supporting pupils who cannot attend school.
For many pupils of all ages, access to technology remains a barrier to accessing remote learning. Government schemes to provide technology have not always been successful, and the current advice does not reflect the reality of the situation.
It is our view that the government are asking teachers to fulfil two roles rather than one; teach a full timetable in school whilst offering an equivalent and parallel provision for those who are isolating. This is not sustainable and will have a detrimental effect on staff workload and wellbeing.
From 22 October, schools will be legally obliged to provide remote learning when the means to achieving this remain beyond their control.