Long-term online teaching should be avoided, says Malvern College head

The headmaster of an independent day and boarding school has said school experiences inside and outside of the classroom ‘can’t be replicated online’

Although online teaching was invaluable during lockdown, its long-term use should be avoided, an independent school head has said.

Keith Metcalfe, headmaster at Malvern College, said online teaching should only be used when there is a genuine benefit for pupils.

Metcalfe said: “It is really important for a school to have a coherent message and that can only really be achieved with the whole school in school, and with face-to-face communication.

“We coped very well last year with our pupils not being in the classroom, but relationships are an extremely important part of teaching. It’s about pupils interacting with the teaching staff and also with each other, which just isn’t possible to the same level online.

“A school like Malvern offers much more than just what goes on in the classroom. You can’t beat the experience of being on the sports pitch together or performing together, in terms of the core and transferable skills that each child learns.

“Our boarding houses are another key part of the Malvern experience. They become like an extended family, with in-house dining and shared evening activities – they are where you learn to build strong relationships and develop a support network. You can’t replicate that online.”

Metcalfe said the school had taken a cautious approach to the first two weeks back at school and would be keeping a careful eye on government guidelines.

“We are testing pupils regularly and we have our own PCR machine on campus,” he said. “Pupils are currently wearing face coverings in certain settings, although not in lessons or the boarding houses. We can quickly step up or step down measures as required.”

Malvern College moved many of its activities outdoors last year and Metcalfe said they will be keeping that in place in many instances. Certain extracurricular activities are also back on the agenda now that restrictions have been lifted, such as singing in the chapel, and music and drama performances.

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