The Welsh Government has published its guidance on the continuity of school business, including online learning.
Ruth Davies, president of school leaders’ union NAHT Cymru, said: “It is important that we acknowledge the great lengths schools having already been going to to ensure continuity for pupils and families – not just when it comes to online learning, but also supporting wellbeing and even ensuring children have enough food. Schools have not been able to wait for government to catch up and issue guidance – they have been working out and implementing solutions at huge speed and under enormous pressure.
“Teachers have never stopped teaching – they have been delivering some form of online learning this whole time. The government’s guidance is welcome where it can add to what is already happening but it must support the work already happening on the ground. School leaders know and understand what works best for their learners. If this guidance sparks huge changes to the ways in which schools have made their own arrangements it will undermine what is already being achieved.
“Online learning has its limitations and it is important that this is recognised and understood. It is no substitute for in-school teaching. Learning and teaching is more than just an exchange of knowledge. Online learning is essentially revision; teaching cannot occur in any sustained way online.
“There is also the practical issue of connectivity and access to the technology this learning is being delivered on. Many families’ funds do not stretch to quick reliable broadband, especially during current straitened circumstances, and most do not have access to multiple laptops or tablets. So with more than one child in a household, especially with parents also trying to work from home, access is seriously limited for learners.
“Right now, schools’ primary focus is the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff, children and families. The immediate need to keep schools open to care for key workers’ children, plus the need to work out solutions to support the wellbeing and needs of the most vulnerable children and families, tops any concern over school work. Schools are going above and beyond to deliver everything they can, and to help those children that can continue their learning, but the guidance issued by the government imposes too big a requirement. We need to be mindful of the actual reality our families are living with and not the one we’d like them to be in. We should be finding ways to reduce the stresses and strains, not be adding to them.
“And we need to be mindful of the strain on school staff who are sustaining a massive effort, in very difficult circumstances, with no breaks and no end in sight. We don’t need another layer of stress and burden, especially one as ill thought out as this one.”
Laura Doel, director of NAHT Cymru, said: “Leaders want to support learning at home but we have concerns around what is achievable and sustainable. We have raised concerns around the availability of staff as they juggle home working, childcare responsibilities and working in the hubs. We need to be clear that statutory education has been suspended, therefore any plan to support the home learning of children must not hold teachers and parents to unrealistic levels of accountability.”
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