Distance learning self-evaluation

Many headteachers will have been relieved to hear the government’s recent announcement that it is dropping the ambition for all primary pupils to return to school before the start of the summer holidays in July.  Of course, no one would argue that this is in the best interests of pupils’ long-term education. However, Covid-19 is the biggest crisis to affect education since the second world war, so difficult decisions have been taken and major adaptations made.

The change in government expectations is, therefore, a simple acknowledgement of what school leaders already know to be true: that it is logistically impossible to get all pupils back to school when each class needs at least twice as much space in order to meet safety and social distancing requirements. For many, further doubt surrounds the question of whether, even in September, it will be possible to get all pupils back in school straight away, particularly those of secondary age.

So, what are the likely effects of this on pupils’ learning?

Research has shown (and teachers instinctively know) that during the 6-week summer holiday, pupils’ progress slips. Pupils typically make the most progress in the summer term and the least in autumn term. So, this year, not only will pupils have had summer learning loss, but they will have lost the period of time prior to that when they would normally be expected to make the most rapid progress. School leaders and teachers have been doing their utmost to address this through online learning, but it is not the same as being able to assess and respond to pupils’ needs immediately, as happens in the best classrooms.

In one of B11’s recent blogs, ‘Please don’t use isolation as a punishment anymore’, a sample of pupils were asked about what they felt to be the impact of lockdown on their learning.  Many said that they felt real anxiety about their schoolwork, their exams and their future. They understood that online learning was necessary but found it unsatisfactory, reporting that it often lacked quantity, clear explanation, and feedback.

So, does this mean that pupils’ education will continue to suffer if they are unable to get back into classrooms full time in September?

Not necessarily! It is likely that there will be some form of ‘blended learning’ for some time to come, where pupils will have some face-to-face teaching, supplemented by online learning. Those of us who have successfully attained qualifications using distance learning know that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this method of teaching and learning. However, to be successful, the same components of teaching which make for successful learning in the classroom, such as clear explanations, constructive feedback, scaffolding and support, must be integral to a quality online curriculum.

This takes time, and time was something that teachers did not have when lockdown was announced in the middle of March. Since then though, leaders and classroom practitioners have learned much about the strengths and potential pitfalls of distance learning. Many have reflected on these and have already begun to plan for how this might look as part of a blended learning curriculum for the autumn term.


B11 has developed a self-evaluation tool so that leaders can reflect on the quality of their distance learning curriculum. It has been very well received by schools so far and will continue to be updated as new national guidance emerges.

Our highly skilled consultants can support you in your evaluation of both distance learning and a blended curriculum so that, regardless of the potential for further disruption from Covid-19 in the next academic year, you can be confident that you can continue to offer the best possible learning experience for your pupils.

If you would like to know more or would like to take advantage of a free, no obligation 20 minute discussion with our Principal Consultant, Christine Schofield, on any aspect of our school improvement services, please contact us today.






Please share this post