There’s no way of getting around the fact that COVID-19 has profoundly changed education for the foreseeable future. The fact is that COVID-19 has changed the way that education is delivered here in the UK – and these changes could alter the progress of education for years to come.
But isn’t education always changing anyway? Well, that’s true and we know that education is constantly progressing and adapting (let’s face it, we’ve come a long way from blackboards and chalk). But it’s beginning to look like the effects of COVID-19 could force and propel this progress ahead suddenly and dramatically.
With students across the UK now making use of the vast online resources, and with educators having to work to redeploy their curricula virtually, UK education has been forced to make a sudden change – one that will perhaps stay for the long term. There are huge practical problems with this sudden shift to remote learning, but it also offers a chance to re-examine our culture of education and academia. Here are some of the ways in which we believe the education sector will change following COVID-19.
Worldwide, there have been more than 1.2 billion children affected by school closures throughout the coronavirus pandemic. While different countries have been affected to different degrees by the virus, in the UK we have seen face to face education come to a complete standstill – even now with schools reopening, only around 6.9% of children are actually back in the classroom. This has meant a sudden and necessitated shift towards online learning.
But the world was already moving towards more virtual learning methods – global education technology investments reached $18.66 billion in 2019. COVID-19 seems to have simply sped up this progress. With necessity comes invention, and now schools across the UK have begun adopting Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom, Zoom, and other technologies.
Shortly after the UK lockdown began the Department for Education launched the Oak National Academy. In its first week, over two million Oak National Academy lessons were accessed and used by young learners across the UK. Laptop screens and computer monitors have become a place of collaborative learning. And students have enjoyed this new experience, removing the need for long journeys to school and increasing interactivity and engagement.
This success in remote learning challenges our belief in place-based learning to encourage discipline and concentration. Many still believe that it is too early to measure the success of online learning, and that the unplanned and sudden move to virtual teaching with no training and preparation will prove to provide a poor student experience and will fail to achieve sustained growth over time. But as more companies and educators look to ways to provide students with what they need, a new landscape of learning is approaching.
Many have taken an altruistic approach to sharing their resources online, often at either low or zero cost. The COVID-19 pandemic could see a movement to a more open, balanced and level playing field when it comes to how education is shared on a national level. For example, struggling schools that lack a teacher in a chosen subject could come to an agreement with other schools whereby a good teacher from another school delivers lessons virtually. Future developments could even see a need for the government to step in and standardise remote learning resources by means of investing in a national platform or curriculum of learning for schools to follow.
There has clearly been a new need for headteachers, senior school leadership, and those in school improvement roles to begin seriously examining how virtual learning will be delivered to students. It’s looking increasingly likely that a hybrid approach, combining face to face and remote learning, will become the new norm. It will require educators to grow new skills – interim management and senior leadership who are capable of delivering targeted projects and keeping the ship steady will be in high demand.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also seen another clear trend. Students are now spending far more time at home, and their learning hours are often accompanied by a parent. This has put a new responsibility and strain on parents, who are suddenly having to pick up and learn teaching skills while juggling their own responsibilities working from home. But it could just be that the new role that parents take in their child’s learning could continue following COVID-19.
As parents become more involved and invested in their child’s learning, the relationship between parents and the senior leadership and headteachers of a school may need to change too. Greater cooperation and communication between parents and educators seem inevitable.
Consider the hybrid approach we will likely be faced with for the foreseeable future. With students spending some of their learning week at school and some of it at home, why not involve parents more closely with school education? The rise of conferencing, live streaming and improved bandwidth makes it easy for parents to join assemblies and even classrooms from their home or office.
This could result in a much clearer, transparent and communicative relationship between parents and senior leadership, headteachers and staff. A hybrid approach to learning will require an improved bond between school and home. But this is now more convenient than ever – consider parents’ evenings. Rounding up hundreds of parents into one space is impossible in the current situation, and this is exactly the kind of thing that could be achieved just as easily virtually. And this approach could see more frequent and more understanding when it comes to communication between parents and educators.
One outcome that we anticipate here at Futures is the rise of interim management. With the education sector being one of the first in the UK to get kick started back into action, it’s still true that a lot of parents and educators are hesitant to take the first step back into face to face learning. As we mentioned before, despite schools reopening their doors, only around 6.9% of students were back in classrooms a week into June.
But this cautious approach isn’t just being adopted by parents and students. A lot of educators are having to make the decision about whether or not they are prepared to return to work in these circumstances. And the current threat of COVID-19 and the spread of the virus means that a lot of workers in the education sector are opting to remain at home throughout the worst of the pandemic. Any head teachers and senior leadership, who would be considered ‘high risk’ or have an underlying health condition, are certainly not going to want to return to work.
COVID-19 aside, the impact of the pandemic has left many schools and MATs at a standstill over the past few months. Whilst children have been studying at home it has been impossible to maintain consistency and, inevitably, students from the same classes and year groups have received varying levels of support over the past few months. The real challenge will be overcoming this and bringing pupils back up to speed, giving support where required. With things now starting to ease, we expect to see a surge in interim requirements in order to ensure adequate support is in place where necessary and to help overcome a backlog of educational needs.
Of course, this raises an issue for those students who are returning to the classroom. Schools need to continue delivering top quality education, but this is difficult when specialist roles and high end senior level roles are left unfilled or new support roles become vital. This often leaves schools in a position where a specialist may be needed in the interim in certain areas which can include anything from SEN to school improvement.
Interim management is all about mapping and matching up highly skilled specialists with the perfect placement for their skillset. Interim managers are always highly experienced and over-qualified for the roles they undertake to ensure competency, quality and reliability. These education professionals can enter their role with a school or Multi Academy Trust and hit the ground running, delivering both significant impact and value.
For educators struggling to fill roles during the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, interim management is an excellent option. And we expect this requirement to continue well after things have calmed down. As more schools and MATs use interim management and experience the benefits, the likelihood of it becoming a more popular and frequently used management option is incredibly high.
Want to find out more about what we do in the education sector here at Futures? Just get in touch with us today. We’re experts in recruitment and interim management for senior roles, boasting a huge pool of qualified and trusted candidates across the UK. And we’re always available for a chat!