by WAYNE JARVIS | Senior Network Education Lead at STEM Learning | @waynejarvisSTEM


2020 saw the biggest shift away from the typical classroom teaching and learning environment in a generation, and it was all managed within a matter of weeks after the initial announcement of a national lockdown. The significant workload increase that resulted in the initial lockdown has continued as teachers adapt to a new normal.

The transformation maintained education for our youngsters through a shift in the approach to teaching, with many primary schools setting project-based work and/or delivering remote lessons. Despite the huge effort, many reports identify the attainment gap between the most disadvantaged pupils and their peers has widened, with some estimates reporting the gap is back to the level of 2011.

One finding, from the Education Policy Institute (October 2020), indicates that there is “strong evidence that disadvantaged pupils received the least amount of home learning” in the initial lockdown, with the difference between disadvantaged pupils and their peers averaging “75 minutes per day”. Put into context, this equates to 15 days’ less learning for these pupils.

There are three key implications which the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) identified as a result of school closures.

The first is, as already identified, that the attainment gap has widened significantly. The second is the importance of a sustained and multi-strategy approach for targeted intervention with pupils whose learning has been impacted most significantly. The third is the quality of teaching, especially in respect of the delivery of remote or blended learning. This is best supported through teacher professional development.

Key priorities are those linked to pedagogical approaches that are likely to be effective for disadvantaged pupils, more effective delivery of remote or blended learning, and to support literacy and maths, especially through subject contexts. At a time when workload is high and when pupils have been out of school for so long, it may seem counter-intuitive for teachers to leave the classroom to attend CPD. However, with the quality of teaching at the forefront of recovery, the short-term implications must be outweighed by the longer-term benefits.

We have developed a series of remotely-delivered, high-impact CPD to complement the existing locally-delivered and intensive residential offer to help teachers to engage with professional development. Our remotely-delivered courses are often available outside of classroom contact hours to enable teachers to engage with the learning without having to sacrifice contact time with pupils. Many courses focus on providing teachers with strategies and tools to support their pedagogical knowledge for remote teaching.

Whatever the medium of teaching, it is important that teachers consider how to transfer what they know about effective teaching from the classroom environment to their remote teaching? The key factors, identified by the EEF in its Remote Learning Rapid Evidence Assessment, that support high quality teaching are:

  • making sure that pupils receive clear explanation/instruction
  • building tasks to enable pupils to be confident in their learning
  • applying new knowledge and skills, and building on prior learning
  • providing feedback to pupils to include what they need to do to progress

Technology is an important factor to consider when planning remote lessons. Teachers should use a variety of techniques just as they would in classrooms, including project work, to support learning. Some useful ideas of how to use the technology include:

  • using concept cartoons and asking pupils to vote on which they think is correct, using a poll. The use of breakout rooms will enable the promotion of talk by pupils. An example using The Snowman’s Coat concept cartoon could be set up using a platform such as Kahoot
  • researching secondary sources, such as apps (see our useful apps link to the right), to complete a project. This will also enable coverage of one of the five enquiry skills from the national curriculum
  • recording ideas on a padlet or jamboard about a topic (such as what pupils know about parts of a plant) to create collaborative floor books
  • using photos to engage pupils in a particular challenge – for example, finding things that are alive. These photos could be taken by the teacher or by the pupils themselves, and posted to a learning platform

Ofsted, in its COVID-19 response reports, has identified that many primary schools are prioritising reading and mathematics with very few focusing on science. Science is important due to the transferable skills it develops, which will be valuable to pupils in the long term. Some of those transferable skills can be seen in The Royal Society’s video, Why science is for me. Although focused at secondary pupils, it is clear why these skills are important.

It is expected that Ofsted will return to inspections in the summer term of 2021. It will still be focusing on the broad and balanced curriculum offer that schools are providing, the sequencing of learning, particularly following the period of school closures, and the quality of the teaching and learning that is taking place.


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