Schools better prepared for home working, with live lessons online until at least mid-February

By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter

Teachers and pupils alike are having to adapt to a new way of schooling as England enters its third coronavirus lockdown.

Instead of heading back into school next week, pupils will be doing all of their learning online until at least mid-February.

Originally secondary schools across London were set to return to school from January 11, a week later than normal.

But on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the national lockdown, including the closure of all schools.

Rob Hitch, principal at Harris Academy South Norwood, said lessons learnt in the first lockdown last March have made the transition smoother this time.

The school has already handed out 200 laptops to children who need them and expects that to increase to 300 by the end of next week.

All children at the secondary school having the right equipment means that teachers – most of whom are also working from home – can deliver live lessons online.

Mr Hitch said the school has been preparing for a full lockdown since term ended in December.

He said: “We were planning for both scenarios. We had done a lot of work on going fully remote before Christmas as we knew it was a possibility.

“At the moment it is all live lessons and kids follow their normal timetable. We think live lessons are the way to go but we have to be careful as sitting in front of a screen all day can be difficult.

“So one lesson might be 20 minutes of teaching followed by the children doing 20 minutes of work set for them.

“There is no substitute for face-to-face teaching, but while it will definitely have an impact on the children, I think they will develop other things like resilience, they have been thrown into quite remarkable circumstances this year.

“I am hoping that the kids will be back quickly, everyone misses them and staff are really keen to have the students back in front of them.”

The principal thinks the lockdown was the right thing to do but is disappointed that GCSE and A level exams have been cancelled this summer for the second year running.

“They were all really grateful to be back in last term and were working really hard,” he said.

“I wanted exams to go ahead. I believe in the exam system but I think it was a really difficult decision as it would be hard for it to be a level playing field.”

Pictured top: Rob Hitch, principal at Harris Academy South Norwood

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