In its paper ‘Learning at home’, published on Wednesday, the Commission on School Reform states that, “parents are faced with a period of five months with no access to schools” and that, “they will naturally be greatly concerned about the education of their children”. He continues by highlighting that many parents will have few ideas about how to go about this and that we don’t yet have the necessary support systems in place to address this.
Parents are the primary educators of their children. They do this from the day their children are born and continue to do it every day. This needs to be recognised, celebrated and communicated widely. There is a plethora of educational material out there, mainly accessed through the internet with schools providing online support for pupils. Great use is being made of Glow, and applications such as Zoom and Skype. There is also the vast resource that is BBC Bitesize, both online and on the BBC Scotland channel. But where do parents start when schooling their children at home and how do they navigate the content that’s out there?
In the paper Keir Bloomer refers to the impact of equity and the plight of children living in disadvantage. Research evidence indicates that the learning of children living in disadvantage suffers disproportionately during extended periods without schooling. This crisis will widen the poverty related attainment gap as we know that perhaps only 87% of households with children where the net annual income is less than £15k have internet access, and that affluent families will likely be setting up online tutoring for their children. We need to continue to strive to have an education system for all, that is accessible by all. I believe that television and radio offers this, as it is likely all households have a television. Television could provide the necessary support mechanism Bloomer refers to. We could have a co-ordinated, national response to support learning at home at this extraordinary time.
Now more than ever we are relying heavily on television for news and information, with everyone tuning in daily. The Government and the NHS are working closely with the television stations to reach people with vital information. Great use should be made of this medium to support co- ordinated learning at home, delivering something national: a shared resource. The benefits of a national programme delivered on television, and radio, include: a co-ordinated approach to learning at home; guidance provided for all; children being, and feeling, connected to their friends; parents sharing and supporting each other; teachers sharing and supporting each other; people feeling connected and part of a community (you only have to look for rainbows in windows to see how much that is appreciated); and of course the huge economies of scale.
Therefore what we need is a national programme for learning at home, provided on television and an infrastructure for this developed and led by Education Scotland, our national education agency, supported by other national bodies. We have the amazing resource of over 52,000 teachers, and associated educators and support staff who could provide content from their own homes. This has the potential to support children, parents, and educators, to address inequalities, to bring people together and to help us mitigate isolation.
Gillian Hunt is an education consultant.