Happy New Year, it was lovely seeing so many of you on New Year’s Day!!! What an incredible last few days and months it has been in the education world, a cross between a scene from Fast and Furious and living in the Wild West! I cannot recollect a time in my career when it has been so turbulent, intense and unpredictable, even in those days when I was a Headteacher and taking over special measures schools or as Director of Children Services (and that was fast and furious!). Our Camden schools have responded quickly and efficiently to an ever changing situation; this included Haverstock (at very short notice) piloting lateral flow testing just before the Christmas break and subsequently being able to share their experience and learning with the rest of the secondary schools, as they too had to swiftly set up test centres in their schools over the festive period.

Schools were instructed, to remain closed and move to remote learning for most pupils, at the start of the Spring Term. This inevitably created a multitude of further challenges for school leaders to grapple with, including devices and access to Wi-Fi. On Monday 4th January 2021, schools opened their doors to children of critical workers and also for vulnerable children, however the DfE guidance and criteria for vulnerable children changed overnight to include those children who have no access to laptops or a space to study. This guidance raised questions about whether schools would have the capacity to teach more than a million children (nationally) who fall into this category, of which nearly 900,000 of them live in a household with only mobile internet connection; whilst schools have also been instructed to restrict face to face teaching for at least the next six weeks in an effort to control surging COVID cases.

In Camden, in the region of 5000+ devices have been distributed to young people over the last 7 months, including DfE allocations to vulnerable pupils and Year 10 students, schools themselves buying hundreds of devices from their budget, our Crowdfunding campaign and generous donations from businesses. I know Georgia Gould and Jenny Rowlands are determined to ensure that all young people have individual access to a laptop and we have asked all schools to provide an update on the number of pupils without that access (returns expected to Hana.emami@camden.gov.uk by COP on 8/1/21). We also recognise that it is not just access to a laptop that is important and that online teaching (pedagogy) is developing, ensuring positive engagement and feedback to pupils are all vitally important. If you remember, Edurio produced a report last year into the use of IT and remote learning and there is a third version (shared link here) which you may find interesting to read:

Key Findings

  1. For most of the school staff, summer term 2020 required them to expand their IT skills. Around 80% tried out new technologies, most often combining them with already familiar tools.
  2. In total, respondents name almost 150 different tools and providers that supported remote learning in a variety of ways. The two most frequently mentioned providers were Microsoft and Google.
  3. Ensuring remote learning usually required access to both digital as well as printed resources. In addition to the difficulties caused by the need of siblings to share devices, students and their parents also emphasise the reliance on printing equipment and books.
  4. A fairly traditional top-down approach dominated remote learning. Almost three quarters of teachers used technology to plan and deliver lessons, but fewer than half asked learners to create their own material in response to the teaching activity, or used it to offer differentiated activities for their students.

A reminder that the Camden Learning’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) is on Wednesday, 20 January 2021, at 4.30pm. The AGM itself is unlikely to last longer than 15 minutes and will be followed immediately by a presentation from Professor Paul Miller, Professor of Educational Leadership and Social Justice.

Jon Abbey

Managing Director of Camden Learning

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