Written by Prof Sonia Blandford, John Baumber & George Foote.

To download a pdf version, click here.

Report and Recommendations


2020 has been a year like no other with the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on health, education, the economy, and employment.

During the summer term, the pandemic catapulted educators across all phases of education in delivering the entirety of their programmes digitally with the majority of students studying remotely. Educators had to learn a set of new digital skills to deliver programmes in a virtual format using various online tools and platforms, in synchronous (live lesson) or asynchronous (recorded) formats. Students had to adapt to a whole new remote, virtual way of working within a very different routine, away from their teachers and peers. Parents and carers were faced with supporting their children’s learning at home.  An emerging issue has been the creation of a digital divide, impacting on the majority of students where the only available route to social mobility is through education.

  • Evidence from the Lloyds Bank Group suggests that 12% of those aged between 11 and 18 years (700,000 children) reported having no access at home to a computer or tablet.[1]
  • According to digital inclusion charity, The Good Things Foundation, 23% of 5-15-year olds in the poorest households (D&E) do not have access to both an educationally ideal device (laptop, desktop, or tablet) and broadband.[2]
  • Most of the tutoring under the government’s £1bn “catch up fund” (announced in June[3]) will not start until January next year and organisations are still submitting tenders to provide the tutoring services. According to an investigation by Schools Week, 40% of the £350m “massive catch-up operation” has so far been unallocated.[4]


This brief study set out to review reports as they emerged during the summer period and to collect qualitative data to allow us to examine what worked well from the direct experience of the impact of school closures on students, teachers, senior leaders and parents in schools and colleges.  Armed with this information, what should be the response by government and schools?


When RISE embarked on this research in June 2020, the primary focus was to consider the conflicting evidence found reports of the impact of remote virtual (online) learning on school and college students. In some settings, there had been reports of students engaging and learning in this remote approach more than during face to face lessons[5]. In others, there was real concern over equity in terms of engagement and access[6] with as low as 16% of disadvantaged students engaging in learning. There were reports of the disengagement of a significant number of young people because of a lack of equipment, variable connectivity, and space, but also because the approach and resources provided were a challenge to them[7]. In addition, there were reports indicating that the lockdown was impacting on both students and educator’s mental health and wellbeing[8].

As RISE researchers started collecting qualitative data to determine the main issues, in particular, it was important to look beyond the immediate challenges and explore the impact of the pandemic on social mobility. Building equity in the system has been the ambition of government for some time and there is significant concern amongst the profession and the country at large that this pandemic and school lockdown has widened the achievement gap and set us back. It has exposed the inequity in England and suggested that the changes and growth that has been made has been far from resilient. What urgent mitigation can be taken to resume progress in this area?

It is important to recognise that in the process of conducting this piece of work, changes were taking place on a week by week basis, and that there was a wide range of research taking place by many organisations into impact. The work was therefore extended to draw on these findings and to identify emerging themes.

At this time there was strong evidence that the school closures during the summer term had led to learning loss, the broad academic consensus remains that closures had a stronger negative effect on disadvantaged children than their peers, significantly increasing the attainment gap.  On return to school in year group bubbles, the school day remains short, less differentiated, and challenging for all teachers[9].

The reality of non-attendance in the summer, the delay in restarting schools for all children, and the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on school closures in the autumn is captured by the NFER[10] .  The report published in September highlights the need for all students to catch up on the education lost in the summer, with support provided by technology and face to face provision in schools. With the National Tutoring programme is unlikely to start until January 2021 [11], best practice in schools [12] has highlighted the need for school leaders to invest in Virtual Learning Coordinators (VLCs).  This senior leadership role encompasses responsibility for the coordination of all on-line curriculum activity (supported by Key Stage coordinators and subject leaders), on-line system for recording, reporting and assessment, and on-line communication between home and school.  As demonstrated in research interviews best practice ensures that all lessons are recorded, thus facilitating access for students who are self-isolating or excluded for behavioural reasons.  No student will miss any lessons.  The provision of equipment (laptops, tablets, and access to Wi-Fi – using BT credits) is supported by central government, good school management, and support from pastoral teams, SMART phones can be used when needed.

The need for robust research on the impact of COVID-19 in the school setting has been recognised and large -scale efforts have been initiated, with the aim of deepening our understanding of infection transmission in children but also seeking evidence on the most effective interventions (including regular testing) to enable schools to remain open and provide continuity in education. Principal Investigator of the ‘COVID-19 Mapping and Mitigation in School’ Study at the University of Bristol, Professor Caroline Relton, has highlighted the importance of such research in reassuring families that schools are safe for their children[13].  This is particularly relevant to those groups already educationally disadvantaged by the pandemic-induced school closures who for social, cultural or financial reasons may opt to keep their children away from school whilst infection poses a risk not only to the child but their wider social context.

Ultimately children, young people and their families need to have confidence in the school system to support learning.  Learning that remains aspirational, with access to all households, providing opportunities for progress (and attainment), to enable all students to achieve.

Leading Learning

The question for educational leaders and the government is how to respond to such a cataclysmic event in a morally purposeful, authentic, and principled way? Here, we stand full square with McKinsey[14] when they argue that, “Issues regarding equity—that is, ensuring that the needs of the most vulnerable are met—should be front and centre, both during the closure and after students return to school.” In response to this issue researchers from McKinsey set out five steps  to move through and beyond the coronavirus pandemic – Resolve, Resilience, Return, Re-imagine and Reform.

In September 2020 when schools reopened, and we moved to Return our research established that best practice should be used to determine how we Re-imagine and Reform education. RISE found that the solution to addressing the issues that emerged during COVID-19 involved considerable emphasis on understanding remote (virtual) learning, and related expertise in the use of technology.  We also found that consistency was central to engagement with remote (virtual) learning. Key areas exemplified in successful practice were:

• Creating a coherent transparent learning path that emphasises what is expected – a well scaffolded series of tasks
• Keeping things simple using a common platform – concentrating on the delivery not the technology
• Blending learning so it is not all screen time, so reducing stress for teachers and students
• Mitigating for those with a poorer learning environment – devices and connections, space to study, work packs as opposed to all IT
• Thinking wellbeing and encouraging communication and relationships online – students and staff
• Building regular contact with the home
• Providing quick feedback, in real-time, and for additional tasks within 24 hours – synchronous and asynchronous learning
• Coaching students to manage their work streams and deadlines
• Building a variety of differentiated, supported work – not just online (virtual) lessons and PowerPoints.
• Building additional support into the mix – safeguarding, English as an Additional Language (EAL), and Education, Health, Care Plans (EHCPs).

Best Practice: Virtual Learning Coordinator

We found that the greatest success was when schools were well-led with consistent guidance from their senior leadership team, which included a virtual learning coordinator, working alongside a senior pastoral lead responsible for well-being and safeguarding. Exemplar schools also had consistent best practice whereby teachers had shared expectations of their students and had engaged with parents and carers when necessary. Workbooks were provided when students did not have access to laptops, connectivity, or a regular space to set up. Leaders and teachers telephoned students and parents; there was not a reliance on a single route or approach. Successful schools targeted English as an Additional Language (EAL), Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) and Free School Meals (FSM) families, utilising language and community knowledge and expertise within the wider staff team. In some settings students had a contact teacher and knew when and how they were to receive work .
A significant finding in our interviews with case study schools was that schools with higher levels of student engagement, had already worked to create self-regulated learners (motivation, cognition, metacognition) and had prior experience with remote (virtual) learning or had been able to develop these skills quickly under the leadership of a Virtual Learning Coordinator (VLC), or similar. The impact on learning in these exemplar case study schools was impressive, with significant levels of engagement of all students, irrespective of their background, challenge or need.

It is important that going forward that we work to ensure every learner has access to digital capability. Whilst the lap top scheme was welcomed it was still too little and too slow to roll out, so did not do enough to mitigate against disadvantage. Consideration should be given to remedying this now – both the capacity and connectivity. Changed pedagogy, coordinated by a senior leader, has to be linked to the enhanced IT capacity; without changed pedagogy providing devices for all can have a limited impact. This is a one-off opportunity to build on the enhanced practice in schools given the enhanced capacity and experience of teachers and students.

Ultimately, successful schools demonstrated that leading learning at a time of crisis was a shared responsibility between leaders, teachers, parents and carers, students, and their siblings. There has been greater engagement with parents and probably a better appreciation by parents of the learning process. Although appreciated that delivery was initially patchy and not as engaging and structured as it might be, best practice has seen heads create on-line video blogs two or three times a week, make regular calls home, and support deprived families with day to day provisions or even desks and chairs for workstations.

Having seen the learning gap widen in schools as students return to a more regular structured learning there is a clear need for such interventions, but this needs to be part of a coherent learning plan for each child.  Students with significant learning needs have not fared well in a remote (virtual) learning scenario. Within a rigid socially distanced world all students are going to require significant support and understanding to avoid a rise in behavioural issues and, ultimately exclusions[16]. Critical to this is building a sense of realistic optimism in students especially those from lower aspirational backgrounds.

Investment in the future

Country’s finances are tight, so this is not an argument for a huge/any increase in investment.  Rather it is asking for the type of investment to be different to what is being proposed.  We ask that the government does not take money out of schools to subsidise private tutors, but  that all funding goes directly into schools and ensure it is used to improve digital teaching through enhanced pedagogy and tools during COVID and well into the future. A view that is supported by recent findings from initial school visits by Ofsted; school leaders would prefer the opportunity to recruit more staff to their schools to provide learning opportunities bespoke to their settings[17] .  This approach would also mitigate against the ongoing issue related to the identification of COVID-19 in schools; dynamic infection patterns, and ensuing staff and pupil absences, are likely to wax and wane throughout the forthcoming school year and result in partial and complete school closures, the topic of the aforementioned newly funded research project led by the University of Bristol[18].

The empirical field research began with initial interviews in May 2020, further interviews have continued through to October 2020. Participating schools were known to the researchers, each committed to inclusion, social mobility and each supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged students. Recognising that this was an exceptionally complex, busy period for participating leaders, teachers, parents, carers, children, and young people the interviews took no longer than 30 minutes.  The final transcripts were sent to participants for further comments.  The researchers are very grateful to all involved in the study for their openness and reflective comments that have helped to illuminate the reality of the impact of COVID-19 on their lives.

It is an exciting opportunity for education – a once in a generation opportunity to level up through technology, to bring in digital learning and make it more integrated in the ongoing delivery of student feedback, homework, with the potential to increase the breadth of curriculum.

Our recommendations to school leaders and the government are informed by this best practice in England, and international communities. For instance, evidence from the Christchurch Earthquakes in New Zealand [19] showed that disruption in education does not have to be catastrophic; there was very little impact on standards after the earthquakes. However, it requires everyone to enable schools to concentrate on what we know to be the best models of teaching and learning. If we are to mitigate for social mobility, we need schools to personalise their response and have the freedom the invest where it is needed. This needs real detailed diagnosis. This cannot be easily led by national programmes, however best their intent. Fundamental to each of these recommendations is government respect for the teaching profession, as found in Finland and South Korea and investment in professional development.

The experience of 2020 provides an opportunity to reflect on whether the present more centralised system is resilient and fit for purpose. If social mobility is to be a focus of our schools, all changes should cease to be led by government, with delivery and accountability more located with well-trained, well-led informed professionals.



Reflecting the importance of digital learning, schools should consider creating a Virtual Learning Coordinator (VLC) position, which can be supported by an organization(s) that brings VLCs together to establish best practice and national support.  The VLC position within each school’s senior leadership team (SLT) would:

  • provide or source digital training and professional development for all teachers and learning support assistants to enable all professionals to have the expertise needed for virtual teaching, providing feedback to students, recording, and sharing the whole differentiated curriculum on-line
  • work within the SLT to support virtual communication between parents, teachers, and children, that would enable all teachers to check children are engaging with online teaching.
  • link online and face-to-face teaching under one new management structure so the development of digital competencies is linked to improved learning.

It is vital to implement these VLCs now because:

  • schools are busy dealing with process of remaining open since the start of September, ensuring that all classrooms and spaces are Covid secure, completing risk assessments, managing ‘track and trace’
  • localised lockdowns are becoming the new norm, so schools must be prepared to deliver remote (virtual) learning.

The appointment of a VLC would also provide the opportunity for headteachers to review SLT roles to include:

  • senior pastoral lead to encompass safeguarding, family liaison
  • wellbeing lead to encompass mental health (staff and students)
  • curriculum lead to encompass coordinators for all curriculum areas.

In the short term the new intervention funding to schools may help the process, but the creation of a VLC can only be sustained by building a different structure for the roles of  the leadership team rather than an enhanced or enlarged team.


Systems and routines were changed ‘within an instant’ on the announcement of lockdown in March 2020.  Schools that developed a positive response were able to embrace all that they knew about their students, families, teachers (including NQTs and Trainees) and leadership.  New systems and routines were built around online learning; however, these were informed by the old ‘open’ school practices.  Our research found that impactful schools developed staff and student agency and expertise framed by four pillars[20]:

Pillar 1:  Parents’ and carers’ engagement in a child’s learning is an important factor in improving pupil outcomes and achievements. Parent and carer engagement that removes barriers to learning can drive forward pupils’ perseverance, motivation to learn, and confidence.  As schools return to some normality, it is important to build on the enhanced communication with parents and find strategies for more systematic enhancement.

Pillar 2:  Provision for closing the gap by developing quality-first teaching through well-differentiated planning, personalised provision and interventions. This will lead to securing the greatest impact on pupil outcomes and support, review and refine provision for vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils that ensures accelerated progress, narrowing the attainment gaps within the school against national outcomes. Intervention and small group catch up should be integrated into the main provision by providing the support that enables even the most challenged to be included daily.

Pillar 3: Building core strength and resilience for all by helping students re-establish their goals and ambitions and by creating a clear visible curriculum narrative that enables them to be partners in their learning. Re-establishing well- being and optimism is an essential prerequisite to drive social mobility. Create a  professional training programme that strikes at the very heart of learning and achievement, at every age and phase, by building on the latest neuroscience and psychological research and addressing all the factors identified by the Education Endowment Foundation[21] as effective strategies to improve cognitive, non-cognitive development (essential life skills) as well as resilience and self-efficacy.

Pillar 4Digital skills: technology is opening new frontiers in terms of accelerating learning and personalising the education experience Increased understanding of virtual and blended learning in each education setting would transform the progress of all learners. The use of online resource packages and Artificial Intelligence programmes needs to be carefully introduced so they become a part of a wider set of teaching and learning protocols and not bolt on resources and applications.



Given the likely impact to disadvantaged communities and schools and the need to make substantial progress in literacy and numeracy there is a real need to review accountability measures and publications of results for the coming academic year. There has been a lack of clarity over recommendations about the breadth of the curriculum- for instance, whether a progress 8 metric gives sufficient flexibility for intervention. Schools need the space this year to address the wide variety of experiences young people have had and make very specific decisions for each student. Adherence to the existing accountability framework will reduce the opportunity for this more personalised approach to closing all the gaps

Young people have been through significant disruption and anxiety and those approaching year 11 and 13 this coming year and need certainty about the learning journey and assessment expectations.  OFQUAL have published the limited changes they are making to examinations at the end of 2021, and although helpful it has not removed the amount of content that needs to be delivered. As they construct their examinations awarding bodies need to provide guidance and support to schools as to how they might best prepare students for this year’s exams and ensure they produce fair and fit-for-purpose assessment. We cannot repeat any uncertainty about results in 2021.

In addition, it is important that there is clear guidance to schools about support for Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) students given the impact of the lock-down and the challenge they will face going into the more structured school environments. There are concerns about attendance for the least motivated students and re engagement. Critical to this is funding for provision to help address the increased mental health[22] and safeguarding issues that this and related research has found. Failure to provide this will risk greater exclusion of our most vulnerable young people.


The government should develop a strategy to complete the process of removing digital poverty so it can enable those who are more disadvantaged to take a full part in the more blended learning environment. This should be targeted at specific communities. More affluent communities are likely to have greater digital family resources or be able to sustain lease arrangements with parents. VLC would be responsible for ensuring that 100% of students have access to learning through appropriate equipment and WiFi connectivity.


The reliance on either centre-assessed-grades or terminal examinations has been showed to be full of risk and a lack of consistency. The government should take the time to consult widely and consider changing the way that young people are assessed so finding a more fit-for-purpose fairer and robust methodology.


We recommend that government should trust the professionals and unleash their potential through greater investment in professional development framed by:

  • Teacher mobility[23] – increasing the ability of all teachers to use technology to underpin remote (virtual) learning across all phases in all subjects
  • Teacher commitment to lifelong learning[24] – enabling all teachers to develop a deep understanding of teaching and learning throughout their career
  • Teacher engagement in research[25], providing the opportunity for all teachers to contribute to and learn from a range of evidence-based research
  • Teacher accreditation – that include teacher competences [26]beginning with undergraduate teacher education, through master’s to doctoral level as found in successful education communities [27]

Annex 1: Methodology and Key Findings


The empirical field research began with initial interviews in May 2020, further interviews have continued through to October 2020. Participating schools were known to the researchers, each committed to inclusion, social mobility and each supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged students. Recognising that this was an exceptionally complex, busy period for participating leaders, teachers, parents, carers, children, and young people the interviews took no longer than 30 minutes.  The final transcripts were sent to participants for further comments.  The researchers are very grateful to all involved in the study for their openness and reflective comments that have helped to illuminate the reality of the impact of COVID-19 on their lives.

This research explored several key questions:

  1. How have schools and colleges responded to the need to deliver programmes digitally? Has this been determined by access or experience and was it research informed?
  2. What training and support did teachers need and receive both in terms of digital delivery and an understanding of the pedagogical requirements to ensure impact?
  3. What has been the initial impact for progress of students? Have educational institutions revised and changed their approach through this period and why?
  4. How does the impact vary from school to school and from educational phase to phase?
  5. How has the approach affected equity and wellbeing and what have organisations done to mitigate any detrimental impacts for students and educators
  6. How will this impact on the shape of education into the future given the increase in teacher and student skill, the need to develop a pedagogical model of best practice?

To investigate the above, we conducted interview style focus groups with several groups of teachers, students, and school leaders. Transcriptions of interviews with participating schools/colleges can be found in annex 2. The purpose of this was to take a more detailed and in-depth look at the issues faced during this period. This conversational approach allowed us to collect lots of anecdotal evidence, allowing the flexibility to delve deeper and collect evidence in support of various themes we observed.

Key Findings:

School responses to the pandemic and shutdown

How have schools and colleges responded to the need to deliver programmes digitally? Has this been determined by access or experience and was it research informed?

School leaders and teachers have shown high levels of professionalism and care for their students in mitigating against the impact of school closure. This has not just been about ensuring learning resources are available, but also keeping in contact with students. There are remarkable stories out there about teachers and support staff maintaining regular dialogue with families and students[28]. In exceptional cases schools have been involved in food distribution, manufacturing PPE equipment and personally delivering work packs, computers, and study furniture. At their best, schools provided enhanced support for 100% of students, delivering synchronous and asynchronous learning, providing workbooks for students who do not have online facilities, supporting all students with wellbeing/ mental health issues.

There is clearly a greater challenge to provide online provision for early year settings, but many providers distribute physical resources, suggested activities for parents and capitalised on the use of social media to keep in contact.  The impact of COVID-19 on early years settings is the focus of further research by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF)[29].

Teacher Training and Support

What training and support did teachers need and receive both in terms of digital delivery and an understanding of the pedagogical requirements to ensure impact?

There has been significant and iterative learning by teachers and support staff in the use of IT communication tools. National Foundation of Education Research (NFER) survey results[30] showed that 70% were confident that they had good skills in the use of IT. In schools where they have maintained a strong team approach to the problems (learning, special educational needs and disadvantaged students accessing learning) the impact on learning has been reviewed and teams have increased scaffolding of learning, simplified creative approaches to synchronous and asynchronous curriculum delivery and implemented coaching and feedback programmes. This has not been universal and much of the digital learning has been developed experientially rather than with a targeted programme. This often means that the learning is not embedded, or teachers have just a partial knowledge of potential power of the technologies. The evidence suggests that the pedagogical rationale and training lags behind their enhanced skills in technology.

Where schools have been successful the response to COVID-19 has been coordinated by the Senior Leadership Team including pastoral and virtual learning coordinators with regular (daily) meetings that included an update and follow up on absent students.

However, more widely there is very little change in a shift on the reliance on external resources such as BBC Bitesize and YouTube through the period. There are exceptions to these approaches whereby schools have been able to adapt pedagogy/learning, providing online support, work packs and face to face teaching.

Impact on learners and its variation

What has been the initial impact for progress of students? Have educational institutions revised and changed their approach through this period and why?

How does the impact vary from school to school and from educational phase to phase?

There is a wide variety of approach to delivering live lessons (synchronous) or recorded lessons (asynchronous). Some schools have banned the former because of safeguarding concerns. Others have thought carefully about whether this is the best use of online time with the teacher. Thinking that a student sitting through 30 minutes of a teacher talking online is motivating or sustainable is misplaced. There are indications that there is a significant drop off in engagement in online programmes suggests this to be true. Some students found the repeated practices online was boring and difficult to maintain whilst other students showed some remarkable resilience and tenacity setting up their own learning routines. Both teachers and students reported that from the end of May many students were spending less than 25% of their time on learning at home.

There are exceptions where best practice has been developed, students, teachers and parents have found engagement to be fun and inclusive with reported high impact on learning, enhanced feedback, and increased levels of student engagement through COVID-19[31].

There is a wide variation in impact on individual students. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) cite a significant widening of the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students,[32].  This commentary is echoed by the Sutton Trust report that emphasises the need for greater investment in the education of disadvantaged students[33]. However, we will need to reframe what we mean as disadvantaged in this case, the underlying factor being one of poverty. Much of the evidence about the progress of different cohorts of students and their relative progress relies on perceptions by school leaders and teachers. Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) evidence[34] found that in primary schools found 41/2 hours engagement a day for poorest quintile as opposed to 6 hours for the richest.

Evidence from the student conversations is that it is very hard to predict according to old cohort descriptors. Factors such as if the parents are key workers, or if they are working from home, or family composition brings a competition for resources or distraction in the household, mean we must re- define the disadvantage that has occurred.  Even within the SEND category there is suggestions that some Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) students and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) students have benefited from a quieter less distracting environment.

There has been an obvious tension between parents working from home and their ability to devote time to learning (which includes teachers themselves).

Equity, inclusion and well being

How has the approach affected equity and wellbeing and what have organisations done to mitigate any detrimental impacts for students and educators 

There has been an improvement in the amount of contact between schools and parents through this period although parents do not feel this is enough. Evidence is mixed here.  Where schools have adopted a fully inclusive approach 100% of families in their communities have been contacted, with the inevitable positive results.  Parents, carers, siblings, and extended family members have embraced learning, supporting students with their range of life experience and learning.

There is some real concern over the support for SEND students through this period. The SEND Jungle survey[35] found that 75% of schools had not completed a SEND risk assessment through this period. Only 16% of parents felt the work they received was appropriate to their child’s learning need. 34% reported increased anxiety. The Education Policy Institute[36] reported that they had concerns about off rolling and exclusion rates as schools reopened and asked for some clear guidance from government. It is well known the importance of early year’s provision in enabling the best possible start especially for more disadvantaged families. 34% of providers did not expect they could survive into next year. In more affluent areas only 24% felt they were at risk.

Most schools recognise the need to place well-being at the heart of the return to school but many are compromised by a priority of wanting to know where the students are with their learning and anxiety over coverage of the curriculum with key year groups.  Where schools have been most impactful is when they have combined student wellbeing with their learning e.g. utilising pastoral support and weekly checks on all students.

The exceptions being where schools and parents have worked closely together, with enhanced systems and routines in place

Shaping the Future

How will this impact on the shape of education into the future given the increase in teacher and student skill, the need to develop a pedagogical model of best practice?

This work has been consistently interrupted by changes and guidance from the government and the Department for Education (DfE). This is the context that all school leaders have been facing. It is hard for them to predict how to respond to the next phase of the pandemic and has led to them having to be very transactional through to the end of term. There is considerable anxiety in many schools as to how they will manage opening in September (see below).

Dealing with the complex present and the uncertainties about opening arrangements / examination changes means that heads of departments and their teams have been conservative with their plans for schools reopening. They are rightly concerned about finding out where students are. For the year 10 many have started that process before the summer (albeit this has inevitably been partial given the variable levels of attendance). There are exceptions where heads of department have been supported to work together with virtual learning coordinators, pastoral leaders, and their senior leadership team, providing training and development for teachers and students across their school.  Where all teachers have been involved in planning for September there is a greater sense of confidence and wellbeing with staff.

Discussions with heads of subject showed that many had not thought about the degree that they needed to personalise their work or find a blended approach, so they had the flexibility to meet any variation in schooling in the new year. Over 70% of heads of subject had simply thought about the way to compress and consolidate. They were anxious as to what to do because even as now there is no confirmation as to how examinations might be changed, how accountability measures might change or the impact in the curriculum of a concentration on core subjects. They were caught between a lack of confirmed decisions from a government and a school level and the need to be ready for school re-openings.  There were exceptions, where teachers had gained in their understanding of learning (pedagogy), assessment (feedback and student progress), wellbeing through the systems and routines adopted by their schools.

ANNEX 2: Interview Transcriptions

1.1 Primary School interviews (Summary), early COVID

3.1.1 Headteacher:  South west primary school (242 infant/ junior), Interview May 2020

School has been in regular contact with all parents and carers since the start of lockdown.  The school prides itself on being very community minded, serving the town and all families.

Teachers have been fantastic – rotated Deputy Heads and class teachers, ensuring that all classes/ year groups were covered in an extended day.

Parents have been supportive, engaged with school leadership, secretaries and support staff as needed.

Communication to parents on weekly basis.

Children have engaged with lessons; non-participation has been followed up with phone calls.

School has utilised BBC online resources.

School has been open for vulnerable pupils; staff have delivered lessons on a rota.

Vulnerable staff have been in self-isolation, supported by colleagues, regular on-line social activities.

Communication from headteacher to staff on daily basis.

Head has been in regular contact with governing body and local authority.

3.1.2 Headteacher: East of England (120 infant/junior), Discussion June 2020

School has been under pressure, small staff, same problems as larger schools.

Governing body has been very supportive, engaged every day. 

Teachers have provided lessons and online support for all pupils.

School has been open for vulnerable pupils – low attendance, follow up has been slow.

Parents have been contacted on a weekly basis.

Time for planning is difficult with small staff. Pressure has been immense.

Head teacher being supported by MAT, this has been inconsistent.

3.1.3. Headteacher: East London primary (690 pupils, 3 – 11 yrs. old) Discussion June 2020

Headteacher is also Exec head for a neighbouring school.

This was both a positive and a challenge. It was positive because, initially, head closed one school completely and ensured that all the vulnerable/key worker children across both schools were located in one setting. This helped us to keep safe because staff and children were located on one site. However, it then became problematic for me once numbers expanded. I needed to lead both schools and my preference is to be at both schools each day. However, there was the danger of cross contamination and i needed to leave time in between moving from one school to the other – ideally 48 hours. I am very much a ‘hands on’ leader and I found it challenging to lead a school remotely.

Detailed planning and delivery with all pupils engaged.

We worked in close partnership with all stakeholders to ensure that we were doing the very best for our children – considering what was required from staff in terms of planning. We communicated closely with parents, with regular parent forums to understand their perspectives. We had to personalise the learning experiences to ensure all children were engaged. For example where there were children who had no access to online learning, we delivered hard copies.

Vulnerable children have been supported in school by teaching staff and teaching assistants.

All vulnerable children had the opportunity to attend school throughout the period.

Additional support provided where needed by local authority services.

We tried to access support where we could but often, communication was very slow eg. food vouchers, laptops. It was really dependent upon the school to identify key needs and to act quickly e.g. delivering food to families. 

Head teacher regular communication with all pupils – daily online assemblies.

We had weekly newsletters to all families and an online assembly. The assembly was really popular.

Staff meetings held 3 times a week to ensure health and wellbeing as well as delivery is supported.

Staff meetings were regularly held with different groups. Regular Zoom meetings enabled everyone to feel included. There was also a whole school staff briefing via Zoom every Monday morning.

Team approach has been valued by everyone involved.

1.2 Coventry Secondary school case study

Focus Groups Interview Scripts, July 2020


Describe the provision in your school

COVID-19 Report and RecommendationsCOVID-19 Report and RecommendationsCOVID-19 Report and RecommendationsG Teacher of maths

Not everyone is on board, on average 18 students out of 30 join online (synchronous learning).  The majority of the others access when they can, e.g. when siblings have limited access to laptops, they will join when available.

The successful solution has been video route, which makes routine possible, What are we going to do?’ What are we going to achieve?’ Making sure that in each lesson and outside of lessons teachers are reassuring students that they know that teachers are there for them. Teachers know that they are ‘answering’ for the school. For feedback, access is in real time, a set time, students value this engagement.  The use of visualisers has been useful in lessons and in feedback, making it easier to explain rather than the teacher typing during lessons.


Parent (Year 10 / Year 12/ university student) – Dr F

Very happy with the online assignments delivered by the school through Google Classroom / Outlook messages from the school are clear, online teaching ensures learning rather than just giving the material.  The school is committed to cognitive, emotional, and behavioural engagement, which means that children do not lose interest,  we will want more teachers to be committed to delivery that will ensure positive engagement in those three aspects.’

.  Managing three children in the house, all of whom are learning and need access to the laptop can be challenging, in addition to own professional role – GDPR issues with using work laptop.


Yr 10 male student

Very happy with lessons, have been able to access all lessons.  Online learning is not the same as being in school.

Have also been able to go into school (2 days a week).

Completed work experience with Severn Trent, preparing for apprenticeships – not to be shy – getting ready for the role.


Describe the Impact of COVID-19 on students and staff in your school


G Teacher of maths

Miss the routine of being in school.  Two children aged 2 and 4, the challenge is keeping them entertained.  Miss social interaction, communication with colleagues learning from each other about children (students).

Children, when they came into school had forgotten how to communicate – social interaction was missing – ‘pin drop silence’ – began by inputting opinions.


Parent (Year 10 / Year 12/ university student) – Dr F

This situation has added to workload, working for the university and supporting children.  On-line working has added to workload, checking that child is doing their work, providing the IT infrastructure, internet service is not great at home.  Economic impact, health challenge, immigrant status meaning university child is not covered by student finance, works in hospital, this is a massive challenge.


Yr 10 male student

Not socially excluded, have been playing football.


Describe your plans for September and Beyond


Acting Head teacher

The school will be fully open in September.  Zones will be set out, a suite of classrooms, own entrance and exit, hands washed, social distancing – risk assessment has been completed. The aim is that students will see three teachers each day, children will stay in the classroom, teachers will move to them. There is a change in the timetable throughout the school.  Health and Safety. Communication to parents and carers continues to be regular, the messages are clear ‘painting a picture’



G Teacher of maths

Staff have been looking at plans, equipment cannot be used, children may not be confident in the classroom at all times.  Important that the curriculum and staff are seen to be supportive by the whole community.  Curriculum will also need to consider modes of assessment, diagnostic analysis, those students who have / have not engaged.

There has been massive progress in the use of technology in providing feedback rather than comments in books.


Yr 10 male student

Aim to attend as many extra revision sessions as possible

Parent (Year 10 / Year 12/ university student) – Dr F

Whatever plans are in place there is the likelihood of a second COVID-19 spike.  The impact on personal workload will be positive, with more time to support learning at home, this is free for all students, free for them to access, beneficial for them.




Describe the provision in your school


Teacher – Leader of Learning – Geography

Positive engagement within the context of COVID-19, very sudden, all online.  Staff were able to complete courses with students. Revision and consolidation were able to take place. This was a brand-new approach, which was difficult at the start. Work packs were sent home. This was a journey across teachers and students.


Yr. 10 female student

It has been easy to keep up with work, there has been face to face access, we have 2 laptops at home, technology has been going well. Teachers/ experts are there, also supported by elder sister. Easy to access and does access lessons.  PE has not been provided (just 1 lesson), this would be difficult at home.


Parent (Year 10 / Year 12) – Father

Able to check up on provision, thankful to the school authorities for the support provided for daughters.


 Describe the Impact of COVID-19 on students and staff in your school


Teacher – Leader of Learning – Geography

Naturally social, love lessons – not the same level of interactions.  Celebrate birthday’s etc.  Have been able to provide/ develop online feedback.

Personal situation – live in a flat, feel isolated, house mate has gone home.


Yr. 10 female student

Been able to keep in contact through video calls – feel as though kept in touch


Parent (Year 10 / Year 12) – Father

The bigger picture is the invisible enemy, hostile moment for everyone, feeling of isolation, government guidelines need to be followed.


Describe your plans for September and Beyond


Teacher – Leader of Learning – Geography

Excited to go back to school, to support year 10 into year 11 and year 9 into year 10, to consolidate the learning that has been taking place over the summer term (lockdown).  To end topics and ensure learning.


Yr. 10 female student / elder sister

Important points need to be considered, has given opinion to the school.  Information from the school and government has been helpful.  Risk assessment has taken place – a lot of concerns when there are no medicines or treatments towards reducing the risk of catching the virus – travelling to and from school is a concern, studies and research state that virus is in the air, this is a risk to wellbeing. We could see a second wave – possible in a cold environment, it is risky to leave home.  Safer and more suitable provision has been made in South Korea.


Parent (Year 10 / Year 12) – Father

In addition to health and wellbeing, there has been a loss of education, long time away from the classroom, platform education is not a compromise.  The support online has been good for the students.  This may be the best for students in the future.  There is a need to identify gaps in knowledge in all classes and all knowledge.




Describe the provision in your school


Teacher – Leader of Learning – Geography

Provided further support for year 11’s, provision has been similar to normal.  Uploading A level geography texts, individual support has been provided.  Support for the 5/6 students ready for the course, providing for September (MAT shared provision)


Yr. 11 female student

Google classroom has been provided, homework set, no loss of education, everything has been ‘top, top’

Group – 6th form preparation has been in place, activity has been positive

Good news to be nominated and receive an award in the end of year celebration


Parent (Year 11) – Mother

Totally agree, everything has been great, teachers have been great, feedback has been straightaway, replies have been provided when needed.


Acting Headteacher

Small team for Year 11 has been keeping in touch with students.

End of year celebration took place online, Headteacher wore his bowtie.

For Year 11 students who worked hard there was recognition with certificates, booklets with winners and reasons – some before, some after lockdown.


Describe the Impact of COVID-19 on students and staff in your school


Yr. 11 female student

It has been hard just sitting at home, missing the social interaction with friends, missing talking – there is not much to talk about, nothing interesting.  Have spent time walking, following government guidelines re mask and hand gel.  Shared artwork with us all – created on bedroom door – landscapes and flowers, a reminder of what she enjoys – [it is amazing]


Acting Headteacher

Slower pace of life since lockdown.  9-year-old son / 13-year-old daughter, son (Year 5) has been sat next to her doing work together, there have been fractious points but enjoyed seeing what he has been learning and helping. It is time we will not get again.

Have enjoyed working on-line with pupils delivering lessons (English), quite ferocious pace to answer questions and set individual learning pathways for each student, keeping the threads going.  Have got to know children, knowing what the thoughts are – like the on-line learning, can also step off and spend time with own children.  The children online are chased if they are late, very strong relationships (ear wigging on each other).


Parent (Year 11) – Mother

I have had quality time with my daughter, but now getting bored.  Have made cookies together, artwork, de-cluttering, making sure that we are not depressed.



Describe your plans for September and Beyond


Teacher – Geography

Transition support has been in place preparing Year 12’s for Year 13. Coursework ready for Year 11s into Year 12.  A level geography is delivered across MAT schools.  School remains in contact to ensure that they feel as comfortable as possible, regularly spending 1 or 2 hours back at school who do not abandon them.

Teacher will provide support when exam results are out.


Acting Headteacher

Results will be emailed to students who have been prepared on how to access results.  Associate Teachers have been calling students to check that they have login details and have received the insight letter.

On the school website the Head of 6th Form has provided instructions for next year.

Associate teachers can be asked for support – contact can be in place.

It is not viable for all students to be invited into school – solution is online, or door stop.


Parent (Year 11) – Mother

It will be good for daughter to be back in the classroom.  School rules on social distancing, implantation is important, face mask.

Daughter not taking exams has been disappointing for her.


Yr. 11 female student

Happy with mock results, invested a lot of time in revision, would have maintained or improved outcome, can retake in the Autumn – invested in future as reflected in art door.




Describe the provision in your school


Acting Headteacher

Team has been involved in careers interviews, working together with the Head of 6th Form.

If students were not doing work – Google Hangout – they would be contacted by phone / door stop by an Associate Teacher (AT).

Year 11’s found it good to talk, they could communicate to AT’s about anything.  Of 880 students in total, 560 students were involved, receiving regular support.

All students were set silly challenges through Google classroom – squiggle challenge, bird box challenge.

If a child did not respond at all, they were chased, from Year 7 and 8 through the whole school.

College leaders (school – house system) were involved to keep school alive for pupils, e.g. food challenge, featured in public messaging – school partner Heart of England MENCAP to help Adult learners – hand drawn messages of thanks were sent to the school.


Associate Teacher Team Leader

Role is within SLT, focused on student support at all levels.  16 ATs in the school, all with clear tasks.

Key question Are they (pupils) fine?  Making sure that no one is left behind.  ALL Key Stage 3 (Years 7, 8 and 9) have had regular 2-hour sessions in school, enabling the team to cast an eye on them, are they happy? Are they safe? Sessions were offered to all Year 7, 8 and 9 but not all chose to take this up.

Detailed follow up on safeguarding

AT’s delivered laptops – last government laptops delivered w/c 20th July 2020 – arranging delivery/collection of laptops.

Week 1 into lockdown – an initial contact with all students and families by ATs.  Parents were involved – chased if necessary.

Main worries were the unknown (COVID-19 and future), results (GCSE’s). 

ATs also picked up and collected schoolwork and checked that technology was in place and working (door stop)

FSM access – checking lunch vouchers were being delivered/ received.  Vouchers also included, food bank, gas/electric.

ATs ensured that children were not socially distanced, and that parents were able to help with their children – to help them through it, how parents could help their child.

Children and parents were/are anxious, there were/are mental health issues.  Key children with anxiety, examples of children self-harming 2 – 3 times

Every child is rung every week covering technology anxieties/safe and well check.

Every AT had a phone issued at the start of lockdown.

Door stop contact for the delivery of work packs in place – for those who could/ would not access technology

Child protection meetings took place

Yr. 8 injections were organised on the phone

Exam results will be supported in a similar way


Describe the Impact of COVID-19 on students and staff in your school


Associate Teacher Team Leader

Safeguarding issues increased.  Alerts to poverty (135 students) LAC/ EHCP supported.

ATs checked in with local LA with team meetings each week.

All children consistently received support from teachers, ATs, SLT – parents have appreciated the level of support and contact.

EAL – high number of second language speakers, large numbers without laptops.

Strong professional AT (Romanian speaker) gave daily support to children and parents – no child left behind

AT was supported – support the supportWhatsApp group ran to support each other.


Acting Headteacher

Years 10 and 12 In school on rota.

Good communication.

Yrs. 11 and 13 / AT careers provided additional support covering destinations, what has been happening to children, university applications and changes.

Year 6 into 7 transitions, meeting with primary schools and Head of Year 7.


Associate Teacher Team Leader

To a certain extent nothing changed – hidden harm / disclosures still an issue – Business as usual. Same level of support offered to parents/carers and students during lockdown but greater focus on making sure contact has been made with every family. Been with the families every step of the way.


Describe your plans for September and Beyond


Associate Teacher Team Leader

Staff work throughout the summer break – ATs will see students and break or lunchtime.

Conversations continue – working around the teams, shared knowledge.

Exam results – catch up with parents via AT.


Acting Headteacher

Staff continue to receive emails from students who are not coping – there were examples of parents making children learn all the time – advice was needed for Year 11 parents to allow students to have breaks from screen time

Social planning needed.

Foundation (EHCP/ EAL) Groups found will find hard – they will have forgotten how big school is

School brought them in in final days – they struggled – Foundation Teacher enjoyed the experience.






Describe the provision in your school


Year 13 Female student

Contribution to live lessons – Google meets – foundation topics – 30/45 minutes, produced a power point with audio of learning experiences – provided feedback.

Also worked with Year 9 students with smaller intervention groups to fill in KS 3 gaps preparing the way for Year 10.

AT role to improve aspirations, breaking down the learning, providing feedback, evaluations on progress. The impact on student confidence is significant.


Acting Headteacher

Student has role to help students to get through GCSE’s, giving back time.

Recipient of Headteacher Award – 2 awarded in summer 2020 can be employed as AT by school during university vacations.  On graduation can train as a teacher through either Teach First or School’s Direct programme – a job for life at the school.


Director of Learning for English

Continued with Year 13 lessons during lockdown – Google classrooms – continued to work over Easter to produce GCSE/A level evidence, to get the best results.


Year 13 student – Father

The school has been very supportive.  Daughter and father both valued the support provided by the school during lockdown.


Describe the Impact of COVID-19 on students and staff in your school


Year 13 Female student

It has been a bit weird keeping in contact through lessons – telephone contact with friends only.

Also been on bike rides with family, and trips into the city.

Hobby is reading books, latest is Homo Sapiens – History of Humankind


Director of Learning for English

The impact was sudden, a massive transition to a new way of working with a team of trainee teachers and NQTs.

Their inexperience emphasised the importance, and necessity, for robust systems and routines to support them in the transition to a very new way of operating.  Initially, it was hard to separate personal and professional life, to stay with regular hours, and make separate time. Establish rhythms.

On-line was not an area of strength, using online facilities is improving, becoming more and more creative.


Describe your plans for September and Beyond


Director of Learning for English

Building student and staff confidence in learning and interventions, those who were uncertain, they now own their motivation. Building independence and resilience, sometimes not possible online or in the classroom – hybrid approach can develop a holistic view of learning, of the student experience.  Whilst set against a challenging backdrop, the use of online provision has enabled students to deepen their ability to independently learn and navigate their studies. Long-term I believe this will have a profound effect upon their resilience in study – particularly in preparations for exams.


Year 13 Female student

Learning about learning – how to break things down, understanding what you have learnt, this will apply to university. Also, to continue to help Year 9 students who have learnt about learning – smaller groups – a lot more support.  Developed impact – language.






Describe the provision in your school


Director of Learning for English

Learnt about the way students learn. Our process online was an ever-evolving rhythm. We adapted provision as we found the nuances of what worked for our subject and our students. The more live, or interactive, the experience could be made, the more impact it had. Proficiency with google documents for both staff and students were a game-changer in this regard. When coupled with audio on a live call, it was possible to simulate a classroom experience – a teacher could guide, encourage, and expand, when occasions arose. This process has exposed the core elements of a lesson that truly matter to a study. Feedback – and how this is delivered – is key to this.



Director of Learning for English

Feedback has been verbal with live calls in smaller groups, students have felt more confident with live feedback, reciprocal, peer support, guides on live support provided – Google classroom has enabled Feedback And Response (FAR) development work.

KS4 – reediting work online at a quicker pace than in the classroom.

Quiz platforms – feedback on knowledge and recall on information – evaluation by students, feedback has been better online than in books, more specific.

Google docs has enabled students and teachers to respond through direct messaging.


Describe your plans for September and Beyond


Assistant Headteacher of teaching and learning, Line Manager of Maths, Teacher of English

One aspect of curriculum delivery we scoped was a different way of learning 2-hour block – tutorial concept with tutor being the gatekeeper to other members of staff [Ken Robinson’s TED Talk].

Staff are more confident to lecture across more than one subject/area and to facilitate learning with other colleagues.  Depending on the guidance for September and potential viral flare ups this would be something that may be implemented.


Director of Learning for English

Flexible learning? Opportunities for different pathways – a block of leaning and online?  As in Japanese system, case studies of teaching in the modern way, e.g. All subjects focus on Climate Change – how to change the world? Curriculum is then thematic, the world.

Applied maths and applied learning, maths for mortgages or the economy.

Online learning – Homework will be different.

Strong communication across departments now developed – mutual development across the team – great strength in teams.


FOCUS GROUP 7 – Contextual information

Acting Headteacher

Social Care / Safeguarding

There have been a couple of students who we have contacted more than others due to concerns or well-being.  To clarify – with one student there was a referral to social care, but we continued to have email conversations so that we could continue to support.  There was another student who had fallen out with her friends who were really important to her – we were giving her a sounding board and offering support and guidance.

Some children have engaged with the school through other means as technology has been difficult, work packs have been delivered via post or where needed, to on doorsteps.

Overcoming barriers awards were included in the celebration event for students who are overcoming barriers at home – some have been  unsettled – AT leader has been on the phone, or where necessary,  to homes just to check students are safe.


Exam classes

Year 11s – school has been confident of higher results than previous years due to investment throughout school.  Year 11’s when Year 10’s, there has also been a difference, indicating improved results through tests and mocks – results will be higher this summer based on student performance indicators.

Continued support – student in hospital, student suffering with anxiety, student p/t in school / college, students returned to Romania continuing with studies. During lockdown, packs of papers were sent / delivered home, sent carefully to ensure accuracy and condition to get continued evidence for exam boards.

Purple books – AT supported dropping off then marked.

Conflicting evidence from government re year 11 – that they should not be completing anymore work – wanted to continue to support them – not cut short – particularly extreme, results in line with purple books – extra piece of evidence.

Relationships are key

Year 10s – online – on average 15 students log on straight away (English) – non-attenders receive a phone call, AT phones during the lesson, see numbers increase during the lesson as ATs are reminding students the lesson has started – good to touch base, not wasting time.

Years 7,8 and 9 have also had regular contacts – lists of sending work packs – cannot always guarantee what support they have at home.

Government laptops – 20th July for the summer

Year 12’s

2 students with severe anxiety – referral, real panic, AT called regularly reassure work would be enough to get by


In school 2/3 days a week during lockdown, engaged in the anxiety case

EHCP / EAL students in school as Foundation Groups (FG’s) (vulnerable students), spending time with 1 teacher and 1 AT, work packs then taken home.  FG’s are set up as in primary – with 15 students in each group.

Nowhere for students to escape! Some students struggled with the inability to have downtime. Parents will be contacted to ensure that they log on and work from home.

TEFL (no English) / EAL (some English) students are in discrete groups – Romanian, Italian speakers work with students and their parents including focused attention to keep contact if students have returned to their own country. Those who returned to own country during lockdown. Use Spelling Wise and a specific language pack to support.  AT speaks their language, ensures that they have been online – parents respect the AT.

Online – Got to be online – child at the centre

Relationships – Excellent at relationships

Timetable for return is being created based on children located in year groups staying in their area/classroom with the ideal of 3 teachers with them each day – teachers are selected by the relationship they have with students.  Timetable is created on a spreadsheet not through a timetabling package to allow for knowledge and interpretation to inform the rhythm of the day, i.e. minimise negativity maximise positivity.





1.3 Summary of Secondary School response to COVID 19

1.3.1 Secondary school – South of England, 1120 students, 11 – 18 yrs old

School responded to COVID-19 by:

KS3 students: online curriculum provided in all subjects, delivery in synchronous and asynchronous time. Some subject leaders provided creative response; others relied on a more over-arching project approach.

KS4 students: Year 10 supported to complete course work across the curriculum.  Daily lessons provided in synchronous and asynchronous time.

Face to face or online ‘Personal Progress Tutorial’ for every Year 10 student to review progress/set targets
Senior staff monitored the quality of content.

KS5 Y 12 students: Face to Face or online ‘Personal Progress Tutorial’ as per Y10
Considerable support provided by 6th form team, led by Head of 6th Form.  All students engaged.

Handbook created to support learning and career planning.

Virtual Careers week and Year 12 Induction.

KS5 Y 13 students: Career/ university advice provided at individual level.

Vulnerable and disadvantaged students attended school.  Individual students supported by an experienced team in contact with local

Whole school: Regular informal learning provided through House based creative activities.

Parents and carers

All parents contacted by headteacher at least weekly, or when needed.

Three emailed updates a week to parents and students – Mon, Weds, Fri


Senior staff met every morning to plan with secretarial and IT support.  Issues were addressed.  Positive support provided by headteacher and SLT for all community.

Three emailed updates a week as per parents and students

Three full virtual staff meetings

SLT also met with Department headteachers.

Department meetings held on a regular basis to support all staff.

Informal support to staff provided through on-line meetings.

Headteacher provided additional communication / commentary through radio and social media interviews.


1.4 FE College Summary

Interview with Director of Foundations and Adult Learning (July 2020)

FE College has large provision including entry to Level 7 (masters), 16-18 study through to adults, apprenticeships, 7,000 students (Full-and part-time) serving southern coastal city and surrounding areas, 60% are students are from the city.

Dealt with lock down really well, moving to online/distance learning. Students were contacted straight away; all staff were issued with mobile phones and computing equipment.

Support was provided for vulnerable students, staff mentored the most disadvantaged and needy, keeping in touch with students and their parents on a regular basis.

The college had two days to ‘get going’, the main tool used was Microsoft Teams.

Staff provided workbooks for students who did not have laptops, sent to students by post, with stamped addressed envelopes to post completed work to their tutors.

The College was also open to students one day a week, for those who preferred to collect their work.

The College covered every eventuality, students engaged with staff on a regular basis, engagement was positive with online lessons and 1:1’s. Students felt staff were available 24/7.  Staff gave extra hours, they adapted brilliantly.

Additional support for vulnerable and disadvantaged students started after Easter with ‘bite size’ programmes and sessions, students also accessed to sport and fitness.

Safety in the college is a priority, the building is now ‘unrecognisable’ with 2m signs in place, students have their temperature taken, those that have come in feel safe.

In the last two weeks of the term students with work to complete have come in for extra support, cleaners have also provided extra support.

Attendance has been standard across the lockdown, in some cases it has gone u, some dips, which have been followed up, this has shocked us all.

Staff have been in constant contact with each other and students.

Principal has provided an update 2/3 times a week through Q and A, videos were sent out to those working at home. Communications kept everyone involved.

Health and wellbeing sessions were provided for staff – not all online, not all work related, included virtual online walk, staff quizzes etc.

Transition is an issue; September will be difficult.  The college has produced 2/3 different timetables including continuing online, blended learning and face to face.

There may the possibility of running split groups with independent learning, groups, and face to face.  2metre rule will be kept as long as possible.

Students may only be in for 3 days not the usual 4.

Communication with awarding bodies has been good, grade and rank order has been provided by staff – November resits will go ahead.

Pharmacy Technicians came into complete exams as the numbers were small.

Fundamental skills exams continued through the summer.

There has been an agreed approach to exams, grading and reporting.

Staff meetings have been held on Teams, these have been regular, staff have been available working from home. Staff are informed, regular communications.

Executive team has been in twice a week.

Lockdown has been managed well at the College – sound common sense approach.


  1. 5 Independent International School – South Korea

All through school – 580 student 3 – 19 yrs., 1/3rd maintained students, 2/3rd s fee paying students, International Baccalaureate curriculum

100% students engaged throughout extended COVID-19 period

3.4.1 Interviews – April 2020

Contextual information:

A private international school (500 students, 3yrs – 19yrs), established by the Executive Head in 2012 in Seoul, South Korea having worked with the organisation for over 20 years. The curriculum is delivered by an established faculty of qualified teachers and leaders recruited from across the world, the majority live within 300M of the school building.

School has extensive learning support provision – EAL, SEN and D.

School has utilised technology in the classroom and at home since 2012, all students are familiar with the range of IT packages used they use IT in the classroom everyday (1:1 delivery on MacBook for KS2 and above, Sea Saw used in Early Years and  KS1).

School has been closed to students since February- now 7 weeks – the school has been open to students apart from the Spring break (one week)

Sustainability is the key:

During this unprecedented time, sustainability is central to engagement with learning, consider:

  • How online learning impacts on the lives of staff and students
  • Use platforms that are already used – do not role out new IT programmes
  • Google hangout and Microsoft teams work well
  • Parent and carer wellbeing, what part do they play in their child’s learning?
  • Do all students have a place to work, what is the learning environment at home?
  • What other support is needed? (Safeguarding, Pupil Premium, English as an Additional Language, Education, Health and Care Plans)
  • Good pedagogy and teacher fatigue, producing endless power points is not good pedagogy and causes teacher and learner fatigue
  • How much time is healthy for students of all ages to be looking at a screen?
  • Parents, carers, teachers, and students need fresh air
  • There is no shortage of devices that can access learning
  • High levels of enthusiasm for technology and learning needs to be maintained
  • Parameters need to be in place, boundaries need to be set (GDPR, safeguarding rules)


Curriculum delivery (International Baccalaureate):

Synchronous learning:

At the start the school began online delivery live (synchronous), staying with the timetable, providing live feedback. Units of work were more theoretical, e.g. mini units. Tutorials were held for weaker students (see Quest). All lessons were delivered using Google docs.

Teachers provide feedback to students (written or oral) on a daily basis.

Asynchronous learning:

This began with older students, now extended further, lessons have been pre-recorded. Tutorials (group and 1:1) are scheduled with drop-in sessions when needed, these have helped support both the stronger and weaker students, and combat teacher fatigue.

In Early Years and KS1 specialist teachers send out the weeks plan to support parents

A rhythm of synchronous teaching (7 minutes max) in recorded sessions and tutorials has been established, there is a seamless blend of delivery and support, 2 taught lessons followed by 2 tutorials.

Learning support – Quest – Episodic learning with targeted support for those who need it

Additional, specialist support has been provided for Quest students, with support teachers joining lessons in order to provide bespoke follow up teaching where needed, all students feel safe.

There is one Quest teacher available for each Early Years and KS1 class, this helps with student, parent teacher relationships.

The timetable has remained the same with Quest periods, Quest teachers are available whenever they are needed to have a conversation with students.

Variety of task (written, multi-media, physical):

Teachers have become more creative, recording videos (these do not have to be of the highest quality), teachers have shared the task of editing materials.

Conversations with teachers are scheduled for all students

Creative videos (YouTube) have been made

Feedback is important, formative, and summative. Course work has been sent to school. Exams have been set, taken, marked, moderated and grades submitted – language exams have been recorded. A grid management system is already in place, with online grades fed back (written and numerical)

Physical education, dance, music has all been encouraged (e.g. STOMP for music using kitchen utensils)

Record lessons, be very clear about structures, be consistent how you communicate, be very explicit in expectations

Report cards have been sent to parents and carers, parent and student conferences have taken place.

Teachers have been strategic about tasks, consolidating learning

Project Based Learning within and between subjects

Students and teachers have created projects, e.g. Netflix film and book clubs, posting up the film/ book at the start of the week, inviting discussion

Teachers have worked together (on-line) to develop project-based learning – specialist and core subjects working as a team to provide challenges and support for all students.

Early Years an KS 1 literacy and numeracy has been similar to Sesame Street, learning kits have been made by teachers for parents.


One-to-one relationships as well as one-to-many, many-to-one, and many-to-many

In early years and KS1 teachers have sent out regular messages, ran full class and individual tutorials, students (aged 3 – 7 yrs.) are used to visiting the ‘Home Room’ online and have stayed connected with their learning throughout

For all students’ tutorials can be simple, it is better to hear from your own teacher

Early Years and KS1 have had a Google Hang Out meet twice a week for circle time, video messages have been sent asking students about their weekends – Baby Shark washing hands song is a favourite!

Whole school and year group assemblies have been held weekly

Scholarship meetings with 6th formers have taken place.

Student’s attendance has been consistent – 100% / 97%, absence has been due to the availability of equipment (4 students in the same family – additional support has been provided)

Well Being and more – Welcome to the way 21st century companies work… great preparation for children and young people for the job market

There is no shortage of devices – consolidate what you can deliver in terms of content, this is not the time to be introducing new devices, ‘less is more’

Students have felt safe, able to excel.

COVID -19 Social calendar has been maintained (films, books, quizzes, challenges etc.

Shared announcement and eating time are in place (on-line) each week, bringing the community together to boost morale, creating a tight community.

Feedback from parents and carers has been important, through a parent survey.

Student Council have led student socials and provided feedback

Students present the morning announcement via YouTube

Teacher wellbeing is also monitored – teachers are ‘in this together’.

1.5.2 Q and A May 2020

Q1 Is current practice a ‘stop gap’ for the school?

A Not a ‘stop gap’, learning, assessment and feedback will continue in this form, there is considerable drive from the school

Q2 What is online learning?

A Not on a screen all day, every day, this would not last, we continue to motivate students using different approaches (video, games, lectures, films etc.), to ensure that this is not detrimental to the students and their parents

Q3 How have you sustained a positive relationship with parents?

A Regular newsletter, comms department advised on best practice providing a system to support communication – ‘flashback Friday’ pick of the week activities.  Combination of formal and informal communication.  Constantly reviewing what is happening, regular comms.

Secretaries for upper and lower school rang parents if child was missing from lesson after 10 minutes. Secretaries also carried out daily reviews in all year groups.

Q4 What happened in Week 3, 4 and 5?

A Focus on different agenda, key was to communicate with individuals.  Google surveys sent to students and their parents on Sundays, allowing teachers to trouble shoot if students were finding subject/learning/social aspects difficult.

Q5 Safeguarding for teachers, students, and their families

A Advice was provided on what to present at home, what to wear, location, what to share.

Q6 What devices were used by students?

A Any device is powerful enough for e-learning.  There was the opportunity for video work from students in response to work set, i.e. not having to type.

There were pressures on accessing laptops and space for working with parents working from home.

The school supplied Apple devices. Software was in place, platforms were up to date prior to COVID-19.

For the future there will be more technologies, the school will be using online learning as the next stage in developing pedagogy. [Korean government not working at the same level]

Q7 What will happen when students return?

A There has been a generous schedule support, preparing students for return 1st August 2020

Q8 What support has been provided to Y13?

A School has also provided careers and university advice.  School has tracked what has happened in terms of international university opening post COVID-19 – Australia, New Zealand, Canada, US, UK etc.

Q9 What support has been provided for vulnerable students?

A School monitored whole community, focused on anxiety – e.g. student arriving new to the school (and country), SEN (Quest department), EAL support provided.

School also provided counselling support – SEMH – weekly online meetings, which have been working well.  School refuser supported, working with child and family until a solution was found. School rejection/ resisters supported; ADHD students supported.

School supported a family with 4 children, curriculum coordinator provided material knowing what was available at home.

Q10 How was Early Years supported?

A Sea Saw scheme used, both written and recorded tasks, depending on student’s ability.  Teachers go through every single task and provide feedback direct to the student and in writing.

Grade 1 (Foundation) students were asked questions.

Shifted focus to literacy and numeracy

Q11 How has social and emotional support been provided?

A Great team set up office hour support and help line.  Students could see and interact with their teacher in real time.

Q12 Looking ahead what will happen if students do not turn up? Non-attendance?

A School will continue to provide online learning, blended leaning approach – regular learning integrated – just online would be too difficult to sustain – pressure on students.

Q13 What has been the impact on teaching and learning?

Conventional school will be supplemented by an online credit value towards matriculation – you have to participate – if students do not show up [online] they will be responsible.

For a number of teachers, the experience will have changed their way of teaching, we need to pause and reflect – blended learning will impact on teaching style.

More shy students have ‘blossomed’ enjoying aspects of writing down responses, getting 1:1 response etc.

Q14 What specific guidance would you advise?

A Staff / pupils need protecting from negative social media updates.  Protected during lessons – Google Hang Out. Any issues were managed on a case by case basis.

Risk to the student posting/ receiving negative social media, school boundaries set, supported at home,

Digital Citizenship guidelines provided throughout the curriculum; parental responsibility made clear.

Backdrop to the lesson for student and teacher will be the vision held by others, the character and culture you are, where and how you live, family information shared – guidance was provided.

Q15 In Early Years – specific advice?

Youngest children who cannot read and write, provide concrete experiences.  Sea Saw used, with additional commentary, instructional videos, encouraging learning.

Resources sent home in Week 4 – Number blocks, videos also encouraged using equipment from around the house.

Instruction was delivered differently, home being more interactive.

Brothers and sisters supporting learning of younger children, joining them online when they can.

Parents were not the teachers at home, school did not turn to the parent to become the teacher.

Q 16 Is there a real emphasis on early childhood and learning in South Korea?

A Government authorised TV programmes, these included storytelling, developing speech and language.


Q17 What forward planning is taking place?

Executive began planning in May for August return, which will be on-line and face to face – this will be a ‘Force Majeure’ from the government.

Online learning will be ‘tested’ similar to fire drill

New contracts for all staff, you will be teaching online, this will be in contracts.

Global Executive – a new school will be created with 50% online teaching / 50% face to face – impact on learning will be measured.

There would always be a coach / teacher – knowledge will be delivered through teaching – knowledge will be across the curriculum.

For the school, plastic windows are in place, temperature checks will be introduced for all students entering the building, social distancing (no hugging, no handshaking, additional wash stations etc.)

International Schools Action Conference sharing the above with schools across the globe:

Dubai, Seoul (South Korea), London (England), New York (USA), Kochi (India), Suffolk (England), St Petersburg (Russia), Silicon Valley (USA), West Shore (Canada)

  • Connecting schools
  • Training for Early Years
  • Curating/ quality assuring content
  • Sharing information on platforms
  • GDPR statements – Zoom, Teams, Google Hang Out etc.


1.6 Feedback from students


Charlie is in year 10. Both his parents are also working from home through this period. He has a sister at primary school. He is interested in motorsport and engineering and thinks might be the direction of his career.

He has created a quiet space for himself to work from home. This is important to him- he needs the quiet to work. He has engaged fully with google classroom and has really welcomed the feedback from teachers and the online coaching sessions. He has developed a daily routine.

His teachers have explained that he does not find English easy but has shown real independence in his learning and a determination to improve through this period showing real flexibility and resilience.

He especially misses his sport (rugby). He described how hard it has to keep up the moment after the first 6 weeks, but regular coaching conversations have helped.


Kian is in year 7. He has a 6-year-old brother but like Charlie he has created a calm workspace with his own executive style chair.  He explained that before lock down he was called in to his head of year’s office to eb told to concentrate more and that he was not achieving as he should. He describes how he is easily distracted, especially in the afternoons. He says that the noise and excitement of lunchtime stays in his head and he finds it hard to calm and concentrate.

That is what he likes about working from home.no distractions. He works every day for 6 hours with just a break for lunch. HE regularly goes for a run first thing in the morning to relax and he finds this gets his mid ready for concentrated work.

He gets very little help from his parents because they are also working.

He wants to work in CSI and realises that maths and Science are rally import to him He has found History the hardest one to engage with in lockdown. He feels his English has really improved.

#His teacher describes how he is always first there in the google classroom and chases up his classmates who are late or missing. He is happy to share his work and talk about his difficulties and take advice. His confidence and literacy have improved immensely. He is much more articulate and self-confident.

Other students

The first group of 5 students spanned years 7 to 10 and were children of key workers who had been in 4 or 5 days a week since lockdown. They mostly spoke positively about being in school but said it felt a bit ‘weird’ and boring. They all used chrome books provided by the school. Like the individual students they all talked about being positive at the beginning but over the last month they had struggled to maintain enthusiasm and pace. Although they had teachers in school, they missed having the subject teachers at the time they needed them. They all welcomed the opportunity to work on longer pieces of work without the structure of the school day although one of the students, who clearly did not like school saw it as just something she had to so and somewhere she had to be.

The other two groups of 5 students reported finding it difficult to work from home. They reported being easily distracted by TV, play station or family members. The school had provided a regular routine, but they reported at the beginning they were working -60% of the time but this had now dipped to 20%

Some did not like google classroom and always had the video turned off. Although they agreed that school had provided a great platform for learning they missed having teacher explanations, they identified a range of different subjects that they found more difficult.

Expressing their feelings about the last few months they said.

I am worried how I will be able to be ready for the examinations

I am feeling really stressed and want to be back to school but I’m worried about a second spike

I need to get back onto a routine and starting to feel quite stressed about the future

My grades at the end of year 11 are bound to go down and worried that I may not be able to go for the career I am interested in

I am not stressed. I feel I will be fine and can put this right with the teachers

In thinking about what they would like the school to know going forward, most through just getting back to normal was the best solution. But one or two thought a mix of the ‘normal’ and more digital or flexible time to work on things would be welcomed. The majority of year 10 stunts were not averse about repeating the year although they all felt they really could not see what the way forward was.

They felt they had had good feedback from teachers, and it had been more individual and personal. They all were positive about the online coaching they had received alongside their work schedules.

UTC feedback

Wafa is in year 10 and is ambitious to be work in science – biochemistry. Wafa arrived from India at Christmas. She described how enthusiastic she was at the beginning of lock down and enjoyed being able to work at her own pace and organise her work schedule. Although as time went on, she found it harder to avoid distractions in the home but maintained a positive work ethic. She found that the teachers had really helped her and had always responded to questions she had.

She remains optimistic for the future and rally likes working in this way. She describes how she feels anxious in class and answering questions in front of her classmates. ‘I am much more confident online’.

Even though there are times for here to return in year 10 before the summer she has remained isolated. She is worried about the travel by bus into school. She would like to continue to work just like this. She likes being able to research around her studies and extend her learning.

Darius has likewise enjoyed working from home and has found the remote teacher support and feedback helpful. He has been able to create a regular schedule with clear goals each week. There are useful in line learning like Hegarty maths that have given him instant feedback

In the last month though he has started to be quite bored by the lack of interaction. But he reported not feeling too stressed about going forward and does not feel as though he has missed out.

Both Darius and David are accelerating students who are of year 9 age in year 10. They went straight form year 8 to year 10 at the UTC from previous schools. Although David has been able to engage fully in the work and again feels he has had the feedback and support when needed he hated the whole of lock down. David has three younger siblings and has isolated himself in his room most of the time to achieve he work. David is a high functioning Asperger’s student and finds change very hard to manage. He has done a remarkable job to control his feelings and moods but misses his peers and interaction.

Kelsey, Emmanuel, and Jeffrey have struggled through this period. They are more disadvantaged than the other three students in a range of ways. Kelsey has a very supportive family who work hard with the school to keep her on task. However, it was clear that the family situation and especially a number of younger siblings who kept appearing in the course of interview there were many distractions for her to manage. She described how she had worked out a pattern of work that sometimes meant she worked late and once to 1 pm.

All three felt it was better to be in school and both Emmanuel and Jeffrey reckoned that they had done little work despite constant calls and support from school. They were not hopeful about their futures at the end of year 11.

There were two question at the end. Jeffrey wanted to know if he would have to serve a number of detentions for non-completion of work. Emmanuel wanted us to tell teachers that to recognise they will be coming back rather dumb. They were hoping for 1-2-1 or smaller classes to help them back on track.


  1. Supplementary Interviews September, October 2020

2.1 Focus Group School (800 students)

The role of the Virtual Learning Coordinator is to coordinate learning between the home and the school, also in classrooms.  A Lead Practitioner responsible for teaching and learning in all classrooms. Teachers can pick this up wherever they are, including those who are self-isolating, supported by the cover supervisor located in the classroom.

On-line programmes/ lessons would also support anxious children working at home.  Exclusions are a thing of the past.  For children who are unsafe on the premises they can work at home or in any other classroom.

The VLC can organise/ coordinate a shadow timetable, focused on key lessons each day, students can then tap into technology accessing the curriculum from wherever they are located.  Also link to other curriculum providers:

Virtual ways of assessing and reporting progress (this school uses a purple book) helps the students, this accumulates over the years, providing a digital portfolio for all students in all subjects.

The role is part of SLT, new role that spans across SLT.

Technology lent to students, resourced by central government and school, irrespective of means testing, access to the equipment is via VLC (as advised by teachers and leaders).

The government should trust the schools to put in their own IT systems.  Refurbished machines from industry are available at £90 each, which supplementary material would cost £130 per student, all schools should be able to provide for all students.

Staff in every classroom have a desktop, laptop, and visualiser (camera). Staff in school also hold all meetings from home – avoiding COVID-19 outside of school.  All meetings in school, if they are needed, are on Teams.  Leaders and teachers speak each day.  Lockdown 100% of students were supported on-line each day.

School also purchased 25 mobile phones for support staff, who support up to 20 students each, ensuring that over 80% of students attended all lessons.  100% of students were contacted, they were all engaged in learning (workbooks etc.).

Most students were provided with ‘Dongles’ and/or BT credits.

SMART Phones can be used.

Additional technologies:

  1. Century
  3. Clickview
  4. SAM
  5. Google classrooms


2.2 International school (500 students)

Virtual Learning (Dean) role – responsible for all virtual learning across lower and upper school.  All teachers supported in virtual learning training.

Lessons are creative, innovative; teachers are supportive about the way in which all subjects can be delivered.

All students have appropriate equipment, provided by the school, with Wi-Fi.  All families are provided with guidance on how to use the equipment.

Assessment is online – formative and summative, reported and recorded in school.

There are a number of vulnerable children (SEND) who require additional support, these are helped by VLC and Head of Quest (SEND).


2.3 Primary school (630 students)

All children are supported by class teachers, who are supported by Director of Teaching and Learning (Deputy Head), including virtual learning.  Teachers have a vast amount of support and training from D T and L.

Teachers are engaged with 100% of students.


The school day is indeed shorter and greater time is spent on ensuring hygiene and social distancing. Potentially, there are also less opportunities for collaborative learning.


Remote learning is more difficult, the younger the child is.


It is very difficult to effectively differentiate through remote learning, particularly in terms of challenge. It is also dependent on the support at home or independence skills if the child – and disproportionately impacting SEND children.


The focus of remote learning will be on transmission mode rather than dialogic social learning processes.


Additional money in education should be given to schools, not directed to external tutors/schemes.


Unlike Finland and South Korea, as you have highlighted, I believe there remains a lack of professional respect for teachers and the wider profession.


2.4 Independent School (600 students)

Virtual learning incorporated in Deputy Head of Teaching and Learning role- significant impact, with learning from Harvard.

100% of teachers supported, 100% students engaged.

Working together to produce an interactive, innovative curriculum across all subjects.


2.5 Professor Caroline Relton, University of Bristol

The aim of the study is to establish the impact of COVID-19 on Bristol school students.  A supplementary aim is to increase confidence for BAME, vulnerable and disadvantaged families that education should be prioritised, children and young people should attend school.  This is a particular issue in hard to reach, and multi-generational households.  Research will provide clarity for leaders, teachers, and the school population in Bristol.





[1] Lloyds Bank (2019) UK Consumer Digital Index: https://www.lloydsbank.com/banking- with-us/whats-happening/consumer-digital-index.html


[2] https://www.goodthingsfoundation.org/news-and-blogs/blog/new-analysis-ofcom-2020-data

[3] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/billion-pound-covid-catch-up-plan-to-tackle-impact-of-lost-teaching-time

[4] https://schoolsimprovement.net/almost-half-of-johnsons-education-catch-up-fund-remains-unallocated/

[5] RISE headteacher interviews – April, May 2020

[6] https://www.suttontrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/COVID-19-Impact-Brief-School-Shutdown.pdf

[7] https://www.nfer.ac.uk/schools-responses-to-covid-19-pupil-engagement-in-remote-learning/

[8] https://www.rcpch.ac.uk/resources/covid-19-research-studies-children-young-peoples-views

[9] Chartered College of Teaching, September 2020

[10] https://www.nfer.ac.uk/schools-responses-to-covid-19-the-challenges-facing-schools-and-pupils-in-september-2020/


[11] https://nationaltutoring.org.uk/faqs.

[12] RISE empirical research September 2020

[13] Interview, October 2020, Annex 1

[14] School-system priorities in the age of coronavirus www.McKinsey, 21 April 2020.

[15] RISE interviews, June, July, August, September 2020

[16] https://epi.org.uk/publications-and-research/disadvantage-gap-covid-19/

[17] https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/ofsted-covid-19-series

[18] https://research-information.bris.ac.uk/en/projects/covid-19-mapping-and-mitigation-in-schools-commins-mrv0285451

[19] The impact of Canterbury earthquakes on successful school leaving for adolescents. Beaglehole B, Bell C, Frampton C, Moor S 2017)

[20] Achievement for All – www.afaeducation.org


[22] https://youngminds.org.uk/about-us/reports/coronavirus-impact-on-young-people-with-mental-health-needs/

[23] https://www.thedigitalenterprise.com/articles/iot-ar-wearables/mobility-the-future-of-education/

[24] http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/000000734.htm

[25] https://www.helsinki.fi/en/news/education-news/why-is-finnish-teacher-education-excellent-teacher-training-schools-provide-one-explanation

[26] https://ec.europa.eu/assets/eac/education/policy/school/doc/teachercomp_en.pdf

[27] http://tuningacademy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/RefEducation_EU_EN.pdf

[28] RISE Case Studies and Interviews June, July 2020

[29] https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/news/new-eef-commissions-new-research-on-impact-of-covid-19-school-and-nursery-closures/

[30]  https://www.nfer.ac.uk/schools-responses-to-covid-19-pupil-engagement-in-remote-learning/


[31] RISE Case Studies and Interviews June, July 2020

[32] https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/covid-19-resources/best-evidence-on-impact-of-school-closures-on-the-attainment-gap/

[33] https://www.suttontrust.com/our-research/covid-19-and-social-mobility-impact-brief/

[34] https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/14975

[35] https://www.sendgateway.org.uk/r/special-needs-jungle-a-survey-on-coronavirus-and-send-education.html

[36] https://epi.org.uk/publications-and-research/disadvantage-gap-covid-19/


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