So how do NQTs feel about teaching from home? Given that they have not yet completed the NQT year, the challenge paused by corona virus is a testing time indeed!

Keeping contact with NQTs and extending our support for them during this difficult time has demonstrated an added dimension to their resilience and their determination ‘to keep learning alive’ for pupils against all odds. A decision by the government to close schools to most pupils led to concerns that poorer pupils’ education could be more adversely affected, because they are less likely to be able to study at home, and are already more likely to be behind at school.

The following discussion was shared with NQTs:

Coronavirus- Lockdown - widespread reliance on online learning
The government has not closed schools down, and because they are still teaching online then children who can't access that teaching are missing out and likely to fall behind their peers. Widespread use of online learning during lockdown illegally disadvantages state school pupils who lack access to tablets, laptops or adequate broadband. In many families children are sharing such devices with siblings and working parents and may have access only to a mobile phone. What is your experience of teaching from home and online during this difficult period?

The responses below reveal the challenges faced by NQTs but implicit within is the positivity and determination shown by NQTs to do their best despite the limitations.

‘I am an NQT year 5 teacher in a school in an area of high social deprivation, I do agree with the points above that suggest some children will be disadvantaged from lack of devices or Internet connection. The issues go wider than simply providing the equipment – the expectation for parents to come on board with home schooling at a drop of a hat is unrealistic. This approach needs ongoing support too.’

‘My experience has been fairly overwhelming; my school has deployed an 'all guns blazing' approach to home learning and teacher time during this period of working from home. Initially, teachers were asked to prepare a physical home learning pack for children. Children who do not have access to pens, pencils and paper were provided these, due to the short notice of these packs needing to be made available and the restrictions on printing, the packs contained two weeks worth of learning; this was distributed to all children in my class. As children are working from home, I do not know if children are accessing this pack unless they send me pictures via email.’

‘On average, I have ten children per day completing the set tasks. I do believe that it is necessary to set work in an accessible way for both children and the teacher, however it is the disadvantaged children who are often not completing this work. These are the children that may be working below year group expectations and therefore the children who would benefit from completing these tasks. It has also proved difficult to make contact with parents. However, I do really like the online connectivity, which allows me to stay in touch with my class and monitor their work (those that do interact).’

‘I am an NQT teaching in an area of high social deprivation. Due to the lockdown, we sent pupils home with two weeks of printed work and pens, pencils and paper. Other than through one of our subscription websites (Purple Mash), I have no contact with my pupils and even then it is very limited. I have no way of knowing if they have completed the paper-based learning and only around 5 pupils are engaging with the online learning I have set.’

‘It's concerning as so many of my pupils are already behind their peers and have significant gaps in their learning. I know of teachers who are using online video calls to support their pupils' learning and to stay connected during closures but I'm not sure it would work for my pupils. They don't all have access to tablets or computers and some are from large families so their siblings also need to access their learning. I also haven't been able to call my pupils or their parents though I know one of the behaviour mentors has contacted some pupils.’ 

‘I'm not sure what the solution is to this unprecedented situation. I do feel that disadvantaged children are going to suffer the most in this situation but short of having small group teaching available at schools for just these pupils, I can't think of a solution that follows the lockdown guidelines.’ 

‘I am concerned about the high levels of social deprivation in the area where I teach in Reception. The approach that has been taken in our school is that unfortunately we have to work for the majority of the children and their progress, assuming that they have access to the internet and a device. Through my planning I do however ensure that the activities do not need to be completed online and require resources which can easily sourced in this time, or that the families will already have access too. My concern is not only access to the internet to see the activities, but also ensuring that all of the children have accesses to basic resources.’

‘We provided the children who we believe have the least access to resources with packs of pencils, paper, a white board pen and a laminated sheet of paper. However, once it became clear to us that the schools were going to be shut by the government a lot of our children were already off school, either showing symptoms or simply due to taking caution. So, it unknown whether all of the children who I would have liked to give extra support to have access to the basic necessities.’

‘I add notes to each lesson asking the children to upload photos or videos of their work and whilst I do receive feedback, on average I’d say that I know for sure that around 7 of my 30 children are completing the tasks. The 7 children who upload work daily were all ‘on track’ for achieving the early learning goals by the end of the year, at the time before lockdown.’

‘Each school seems to be dealing with this situation in their own way. I too do not know what the solution is for this situation, at the present time. However, I would like to have the ability to communicate with my children and especially have the ability to check in on those who I have not heard from, my children who are low achievers or even the families, because I think it is important at this point to treat mental health and wellbeing just as seriously and importantly as academic achievement. This pandemic is doing our most vulnerable learners the greatest injustice and a solution must be found to support them which also follows the guidelines set regarding lockdown.’

My thanks to NQTs for sharing their thoughts. Views expressed above by NQTs mirror the findings of surveys commissioned by Teach First and the Sutton Trust, (April 2020) that teachers in the poorest areas are four times less likely to believe their pupils all have access to the right devices for home learning than those in the most affluent schools.

The survey also found a quarter of teachers in the poorest communities believed that at least a fifth of their pupils did not have adequate access to a device for online learning at home, The findings also show that we need to stand behind disadvantaged young people now, or else the gap in the achievement and opportunity between the rich and poor will become wider.

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