Schools across the independent sector have done a fantastic job at getting remote learning policies and processes in place over the last two weeks and most were prepared for closure. Students have been sent home with clear learning plans and parents have been briefed.
For the short term, most people will focus on adapting to the new environment we’re living in and finding their feet, comfortable with working around problems and coping with less-than-perfect solutions to everything from shopping to their children’s education.
But these are uncertain times and things are moving fast. At home, parents are under more stress than ever too. Many are working from home with their children, many have businesses that are suffering or investments that are under pressure. Many are having to review their finances.
The challenge for schools will come over the following weeks as the unusual becomes the usual. Many parents will be looking at their finances and reevaluating their options. School fees will be questioned. Some will no longer be able to pay for schooling, others will question the value and quality of the teaching their children are receiving, some will look to alternative schools with better remote teaching environments in place. The likelihood is, the schools that standstill will lose students and the schools that adapt have a chance at gaining those students.
Independent schools need to move now to put medium to longer-term plans in place including high quality ‘remote teaching’ (as opposed to ‘remote learning’) environments. None of us know right now how long social-distancing and self-isolation will be in place and how long schools will be asked to close or run a reduced timetable. The most optimistic view is that it will ease off towards the summer holidays. Some have cautioned an 18-24 month period of disruption is likely, with intermittent periods of 'lockdown' and periods of less restriction when something closer to normality is possible. It may be that down the line, patterns become localised as different communities become clear of coronavirus. We don’t know.
In reality, schools need to adapt and be prepared to deliver teaching that runs seamlessly from the classroom to the home – so that the quality of each student’s education is consistent irrespective of where the student is studying. To reassure parents, schools need to plan for the worst and hope for the best.
The schools that have successfully addressed this have looked to 1:1 devices for students and teachers. Each student has their own device through which they can access teaching resources, submit work, receive personalised feedback and attend either live-streamed lessons from their teacher or attend classes in person.
Irrespective of the current environment, it’s a natural next step that education moves to 1:1 devices. It's already happening in tech-forward schools in locations including Hong Kong, Singapore and California. What COVID-19 and school closures are doing, is driving this shift at pace.
Schools investing in a 1:1 approach now are not only investing in something that will carry them through the next few weeks (and provide the flexibility to deliver quality teaching either onsite or remotely) they’re investing in technology that will support students through the next 3-4 years.
So when you contact parents with their invoices, think about the strength of your school offering if you can announce that each student will be provided with an iPad that will deliver their standard timetable, via live link, supported by the same outstanding teaching resources and face-to-face teacher support that they have in the classroom. Think about the real and perceived value that would deliver to parents.
Now is the time for leaders in education to be bold. Fortune favours the bold and parents need to see school leaders adapting for the long term.
Sparkjar are leading the way in new generation 1:1 EdTech for classroom and remote teaching. Teachers rate Sparkjar – 97% would recommend Sparkjar to a colleague.
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