Talking heads: Could blended learning become the norm?

Now that pupils are back to face-to-face teaching, will independent schools continue with elements of online learning?

“Going into lockdown, we have never been more grateful for the forward-thinking approach we’d taken to the use of technology in the classroom, allowing us seamlessly to transition overnight to guided home learning. And, no doubt, we may have to rely on it once more. However, all teachers will tell you that the greatest lesson we have all learned is that nothing – absolutely nothing – beats the human contact in the classroom, and that there is much more to a learning experience than the absorption of content. Technology should always support and never replace the humanity at the heart of education.”

Fionnuala Kennedy, head, Wimbledon High School

“A key outcome of the shift to total remote learning has been the acceleration of independent learning and accountability that we’ve seen in our students. Year 8s are now as capable of completing and submitting work online as sixth formers. That’s something we’re certainly keen to continue to foster alongside the return to face-to-face learning. In fact, from this academic year we have already decided to forego the traditional written homework diary in favour of continued online communications run concurrently with in-school lessons.

“The ability to access lessons and resources remotely is also a real advantage for many pupils as it means that they can catch up easily on missed lessons or take on additional guided study outside of normal school hours. From another angle, it also means that teaching staff who are away from school can pre-record lessons (or deliver them remotely) ensuring continuity of teaching. From the parents’ perspective, there’s greater transparency with regard to their child’s studies and progress as well as far simpler ways to speak directly to school staff.”

James Harrison, headmaster, Saint Felix School

“The term ‘blended learning’ has been tainted as the alternate if schools could not have pupils back in the classroom full-time. However, if we remove those connotations and consider the new techniques teachers have developed throughout lockdown, the future of education looks exciting, with a ‘blended’ model that has a student-centred and enquiry-based approach to learning. When the pupil is leading their own learning, guided by the teacher, there is the opportunity for all young people to be truly engaged and challenged. The classroom, whether in school or at home, is then a positive environment for all, not just pupils with the most confidence and the quickest recall.”

Johanna Urquhart, principal, Lomond School

“There is rarely ever a day in the life of a school when every pupil is in and the school has full attendance. I stand firmly in support of face-to-face learning when possible, but now that we’ve navigated some rough seas, we can use our learning to make sure that if any pupils are off school for any reason, they can still benefit from a rich learning experience and sail through their courses of study. There are new opportunities for learning and a connection to teaching and learning that were not seriously considered before Covid-19.

“We learned from experiences in lockdown that our pupils are resilient digital natives, and many thrived in a remote learning environment. We should be mindful that they will most likely enter a world of blended workplaces and we have a duty to prepare them for that. For these reasons, it is worth exploring how we can put elements of remote learning in place within our curriculum. What cannot be lost is that learning has to be supplemented with wellbeing check-ins, and positive psychological and social interactions with both teachers and peers.”

Dan Wyatt, rector, Kelvinside Academy

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