Lockdown has thrown up new difficulties, but for some schools and teachers they already had more than their fair share. Paul Rose talks about what it was like trying to get a fair education for all and how remote learning has helped level the playing field.
It feels like the Covid-19 lockdown has created new problems in education. And on one level this is true. The challenge of quality teaching at distance is new to most schools.
However, if you look at the bigger picture, the opposite is true. The lockdown had brought nothing new, in the areas that really matter.
For many decades, the most socially and academically vulnerable children have been denied access to the best teaching.
When I was working as the headteacher of a failing school, we found it impossible to recruit high quality, experienced teachers. We had no choice but to take on NQT’s and turn them into quality teachers ourselves.
This of course takes time, something that learners in an academically failing school do not have. The act of failing, causes you to be more likely to fail, especially in this high-stakes world. The most academically vulnerable suffer more than those lucky enough to go to ‘successful’ schools.
In addition, having academic excellence as the single metric by which children, and therefore schools, are judged, encourages schools to off-roll challenging and struggling learners. Being unwelcoming to families of CYP with additional needs also encourages the most vulnerable out of the system.
Let me be clear, I’m talking systemically, not individually. There are amazing people, working in amazing schools, moving mountains every day. It’s just that sometimes, it takes something seismic to cause real change.
The Coronavirus ‘closure’ of school buildings to most kids has significantly levelled the education playing field. For the first time in living memory, most children are getting a vaguely equal quality of educational experience. Sadly, mostly that quality is very low.
This is not schools’ fault of course. No-one saw this coming and for years schools have been kept on the results treadmill, denying them the chance to look up, think and innovate.
We cannot wait for those in power to solve these historic and current challenges. They play around with systemic structures (Academies, Free Schools and the like). This is just re-arranging deckchairs on the Titanic. The inequalities remain within, and of, the system.
It’s time to work together to make education a fair, equitable and high-quality experience for every learner.
The exciting thing is that it’s the 21st century. There’s never been an easier time to make that happen.
I gave up my job as a head teacher to try and make a difference and I am beginning to see green shoots of change. The pandemic lockdown will make leaders think, and surely Ofsted will ask hard questions about the future. Perhaps we will see a child focused, family engaged future, as a result of technology opening up the school to the home.