A year since schools closed: what’s changed for good?

A year since schools closed: what’s changed for good?

Prior to 2020, the date of March 20th was a relatively innocuous date in the calendar. A quick sweep through Google reveals it to be the birthday of footballer Fernando Torres, actress Holly Hunter, and the date the first Legoland outside of Europe opened in California.

But in 2020, this date will forever be associated with the closure of schools due to the impact of coronavirus – the first countrywide school shutdown in modern history.

This wasn’t just in the UK, according to data from UNESCO, the peak in school closures was registered at the beginning of April 2020, when around 1.6 billion learners were affected across 194 countries, accounting for more than 90% of total enrolled learners.

At Athene Communications, we work with a number of multi-academy trusts and schools and as we reflect on this time, one year on, it is evident that from our experience so much progress has been made despite this extremely challenging last 12 months.

Here, our Account Manager Mark Pearson explores the response by school communities to lockdown and remote learning and what changes are likely to be taken forward in a post Covid world.

Importance of community

Laptop computers, iPads and Microsoft Teams become the classroom of choice. What was noticeable was how communities rallied around to ensure that all pupils had access to technology, if a school did not have sufficient resource. Businesses donated unused laptops for lockdown learning and local community groups and families donated funds to help purchase vital equipment. This effort continued into the second period of homeschooling in January 2021 and it’s clear schools will have built stronger relationships with their communities over this time.

Focus on mental health and wellbeing

It’s been tough for pupils, with almost a year of socialising and developing friendships and relationships lost. If I wind back the clock to when I was 15-years-old, how would I have coped with a year of lockdown? The words frustration, boredom and inactive spring to mind. So, school leaders and teachers have played a pivotal role in pupil mental health, looking for warning signs of unease and disquiet and implementing programmes and activities to support young people’s wellbeing. The recent No Screen Day at Nene Park Academy and Children’s Mental Health Week at Welbourne Primary Academy are examples of this.

Teachers embrace digital

I like to think I’ve learned a good grasp of using Teams and Zoom over the year, but am always shown up when joining a meeting with someone working in education. They know all the intricacies of using the technology to keep people engaged and informed. This was their new classroom and they made sure it was as welcoming and fun as possible. This will no doubt be an area developed post Covid so the use of technology can be used to foster deeper pupil learning.

Hosting events online

We have spent a lot of time working with schools so they were well set to host opening evenings virtually. Some chose to use Facebook, others Teams or YouTube. The use of virtual tours, video interviews and live Q and As showed these events could take place online. They clearly lack that in person element, but it’s likely a lot of schools will continue virtual events in the years to come.

There are other areas of interest to arise from this year, too. Will secure systems come in place to allow exams to take place at home? Can pupils be offered the flexibility to learn outside of the traditional school hours?

We all hope this spring and summer will signal a return to a more normal life and pupils can spend the time they need to adjust to life outside of lockdown, but despite its many challenges the education system in the UK is likely to have changed for the better in a lot of areas.

If you would like to speak to the Athene Education team about supporting your Trust or school, please get in touch with our PR and Education Director Ryan Hyman on 01733 207338 or [email protected]