The Journal for Executive and Governance Leaders

Journeying through a ‘new normal’ together

It would be fair to say that Covid-19 has turned education on its head.

The last three months have been unprecedented and not without their profound challenges, but in the 30 years I’ve worked in education, never have I seen schools, families, businesses and the wider sector come together so powerfully to support learning.

The examples of school leaders and teachers going above and beyond to support their students’ learning, parents brushing up on their own skills to better support their children or the countless celebrities and organisations making their resources freely available, have been inspiring.

Learning is at the heart of everything we do at Pearson. In these uncertain times, it has been critical that learning continues, so we’ve concentrated our efforts on innovating the resources and services we provide to best support young people, educators and parents with the challenges that have come their way.

While the pandemic is most certainly not behind us, it’s possible to reflect on what learning over lockdown has taught us so far, and what it might mean for the future of education.

Here are a few things that have struck me over this extraordinary time:

1. Digital is here to stay
From remote video lessons to online platforms and learning apps, digital learning has been a fundamental feature of lockdown-learning. Pearson’s online lessons and maths school have supported half a million students over lockdown, while UK Learns has enabled learners to access certified courses in the comfort and safety of their homes.

Digital learning is here to stay, but what does it mean for teachers? It’s not simply about adding technology to classrooms, but about understanding the unique advantages that are essential in using a digital approach. The opportunity for individualised learning pathways and the greater flexibility in the time, place and manner in which students now learn, all need to be considered. We are reviewing our pedagogical approach, so it’s informed by the possibilities opened up to us by online learning, which has meant a re-examination in how learning best takes place. Of course, we’re also considering the infrastructure required to ensure accessibility and inclusivity for all.

2. The importance of assessment
The cancellation of this year’s exams has reinforced the value of different kinds of assessment and the importance pupils place on demonstrating what they can do.

We’re supporting schools and colleges to make sure that young people can continue to make progress and move on to the next steps in their education or career, despite the circumstances.

Looking forward, both formative and summative assessments have significant roles to play. In the wake of such disrupted learning, formative assessment will be crucial in helping teachers to understand where children are with their knowledge, identifying gaps and informing them of the best support for progression.

The last three months have been unprecedented and not without their profound challenges, but in the 30 years I’ve worked in education, never have I seen schools, families, businesses and the wider sector come together so powerfully to support learning.

Sharon Hague

Every learner is unique and will have been impacted in different ways. Innovations in technology and learning will make assessments more accessible and inclusive, enabling teachers to gather robust views of every student’s performance including those with SEN and differing learning needs.

3. Happy and healthy school communities
There’s no doubt that these unsettling times have had a significant impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing.

It’s crucial that as schools return, we not only focus on academic progress, but work together to foster a culture of positive wellbeing and mental health. There may be a new sense of anxiety around returning to school for students and teachers alike, alongside potential behavioural issues as children revisit structured learning in the classroom. A priority must be to build healthy and happy schools where learning can take place effectively.

The interest in our Wellbeing Zone, a space with free resources ranging from advice on coping with anxiety, to mindfulness and resilience-building techniques for teachers, parents and students, has demonstrated that this is at the forefront of peoples’ minds.

4. Continued collaboration – the village behind every child
The pandemic has highlighted the power of collaboration – how people, sectors and communities have come together to support one another through challenging times.

The same can be said of education and the village of people and organisations who care about children’s learning and who strive to support it in whatever way they can.

As the dust starts to settle in the wake of Covid-19, now, more than ever before, it will be important for us to harness these networks, remove barriers to learning and ensure that children can aspire and achieve without limits following this period of significant upheaval and loss.

At Pearson, we’re committed to continuing to collaborate as we navigate this ‘new normal’ together.

See how Pearson is supporting UK schools through Covid-19 and beyond.

Pearson are a CST Platinum Partner.