Remote Learning - Expectations and Best Practice


From DFE: Restricting attendance during the national lockdown: schools Guidance for all schools in England, January 2021, the national expectations for remote learning are summarised as follows:

  • ‘The temporary continuity direction makes it clear that schools have a duty to provide remote education for state-funded, school-age children whose attendance would be contrary to government guidance or law around coronavirus (COVID-19).’
  • ‘The remote education provided should be equivalent in length to the core teaching pupils would receive in school and will include both recorded or live direct teaching time, and time for pupils to complete tasks and assignments independently.

The amount of remote education provided should be, as a minimum:

  • Key Stage 2: 4 hours a day
  • Key Stages 3 and 4: 5 hours a day’

‘In developing their remote education, we expect schools to:

  • teach a planned and well-sequenced curriculum so that knowledge and skills are built incrementally, with a good level of clarity about what is intended to be taught and practised in each subject so that pupils can progress through the school’s curriculum
  • select a digital platform for remote education provision that will be used consistently across the school in order to allow interaction, assessment and feedback and make sure staff are trained and confident in its use.
  • overcome barriers to digital access for pupils by:
    • distributing school-owned lap-tops…
    • providing printed resources, such as textbooks and workbooks…
  • have systems for checking, daily, whether pupils are engaging with their work, and work with families to rapidly identify effective solutions where engagement is a concern
  • identify a named senior leader with overarching responsibility for the quality and delivery of remote education, including that provision meets expectations for remote education
  • publish information for pupils, parents and carers about their remote education provision on their website by 25 January 2021

When teaching pupils remotely, we expect schools to:

  • set meaningful and ambitious work each day in an appropriate range of subjects
  • provide teaching that is equivalent in length to the core teaching pupils would receive in school. This will include both recorded or live direct teaching time and time for pupils to complete tasks and assignments independently… (online video lessons do not necessarily need to be recorded by teaching staff at the school)
  • consider how to transfer into remote education what we already know about effective teaching in the live classroom by, for example:
    • providing frequent, clear explanations of new content, delivered by a teacher or through high-quality curriculum resources
    • providing opportunities for interactivity, including questioning, eliciting and reflective discussion
    • providing scaffolded practice and opportunities to apply new knowledge
    • enabling pupils to receive timely and frequent feedback on how to progress, using digitally-facilitated or whole-class feedback where appropriate
    • using assessment to ensure teaching is responsive to pupils’ needs and addresses any critical gaps in pupils’ knowledge
    • avoiding an over-reliance on long-term projects or internet research activities’
  • Our Expectations of provision

    We expect our schools, subject leaders and individual teachers to know and be mindful of these expectations when considering the preparation of resources for remote learning. We will base our monitoring and evaluation on the DFE expectations and our own framework for successful remote learning

    Curriculum: wherever possible, the ‘normal’ planned curriculum is taught and delivered so that students’ gaps in learning are minimised. This should be ambitious and sequenced so that students learning is appropriately challenging and has continuity to promote progress.

    Learning platform: each school uses a singular learning platform as the main delivery of learning (HHS - FROG, KC1 - Microsoft Teams, TDMS - Google Classroom). Students should be familiar with how to access all necessary elements of the platform and know how to seek help and support with difficulties.

    Barriers to learning: each school has completed an audit of student access to the necessary technology and aims to provide from resources, where possible, so that students can access the online lessons set. All students will have printed resources delivered to supplement the online learning provided.

    Engagement trackers: staff monitor the daily submission of assignments and feedback on student engagement. Each school will develop systems for challenging and overcoming non-engagement in partnership with parents/carers.

    Remote Learning Leader: a senior leader is identified in each school who is responsible for the quality and delivery of the remote learning provided, as well as facilitating the sharing of best practice through appropriate CPD. The leaders are:

    Published information: there are dedicated pages on each website that provide the information required by the DfE and further advice and guidance on remote learning at the school. See:

    Haybridge High School and Sixth Form

    King Charles I School

    The De Montfort School

  • Our Expectations of the delivery of lessons

    We expect all of our schools, subject areas and teachers to provide a lesson-by-lesson approach to remote learning; each timetabled lesson (that is not a live lesson) should have a corresponding asynchronous recorded PowerPoint or instructional video with supporting activities to practise and demonstrate new learning, as well as a mechanism for providing timely and frequent feedback from previous lessons. All of these resources should be uploaded to the relevant learning platform in good time for students to access on the relevant timetabled day and at the relevant timetabled time.

    In years 12 and 13 (across the full timetable) and for some of the lessons in other years (details organised locally in each school), these lessons will be ‘live lessons’ where the teacher will host the lesson that subsequently may follow the same pattern as outlined above or, alternatively have a specific purpose such as assessment/feedback.

    In the classroom, we can direct a pupil’s wavering attention, we can pose questions with ease and purpose, we can judge how work is going and where we need to change the pace. A virtual classroom is a very poor proxy for this space. That isn’t to say that I think there is no place for live remote interaction. I have found that live sessions are really useful for keeping pupils motivated, for keeping in touch and for giving feedback on previous work. They can work really well with a smaller group of pupils for a short time, investigating a particular question.

    - Mark Enser, TES, January 2021

    Live online lessons cannot replicate the normal classroom and we shouldn’t expect that they can, however they do allow students an opportunity to interact with the teacher and each other and to ask and be asked questions.

    We do not expect or wish for teachers to be ‘talking’ for the entire duration of a live lesson. A brief welcome, a mid-point check-in to discuss any issues and a plenary session to summarise progress may suffice in order to provide students with the necessary support to complete the independent tasks set.

    Research suggests live lessons are best for feedback, assessment, dialogue and interaction with students.

    Live ‘tutor-time’

    All schools will deliver a live ‘tutor time’; the primary purpose of these short daily sessions is to improve engagement with the work set with a structured start to the day. Tutors will meet students each morning - so that staff can ensuring readiness for learning and check welfare - as well as facilitating some contact with peers and the wider school community through a weekly programme of activities to enhance motivation.

  • Best Practice in planning and preparing for remote learning
    Our brains don’t learn differently using remote education, so everything we know about cognitive science and learning still applies. We don’t have to make huge changes to the way we teach. There are of course some things that need more careful consideration when teaching remotely. For example, when using recorded lessons, clarity of explanations becomes even more important as we can’t as easily correct misunderstandings or misconceptions. As it’s harder for pupils to concentrate when being taught remotely, it’s often a good idea to divide content into smaller chunks. Short presentations or modelling of new content can be followed by exercises or retrieval practice.

    - Daniel Muijs, What’s working well in remote education, OFSTED, January 2021

    The basics of good teaching do not change, however the challenges for good learning to occur remotely require an additional attention to detail in the execution of planning; we will not be able to rely on picking up quickly that students are ‘stuck’, so we have to endeavour to mitigate for this in our resources and support processes. All lessons will require a detailed and clear set of accompanying instructions. The key aspects to include are:

    • Explanations of new content: teachers should carefully prepare resources that explain new material. A ‘begin with the end’ approach may be beneficial for clarity, by posing a key question at the beginning of the lesson that mirrors the assignment task set at the end (see below). Whilst commercial material may be useful and beneficial, teachers should ensure explanations build on prior knowledge in the context of the students and seek to pre-empt problems of misunderstanding; no form of remote learning can replicate the classroom for the instant feedback that teachers intuitively pick up on. Teachers should focus on the key building blocks required and ‘chunk’ explanations even more readily than in the classroom. Teachers should also consider back-up resources, weblinks or text book references to supplement introductions to new materials. Students should know how to ask for help and teachers should respond as quickly as possible.
    • Practice tasks: students should have the opportunity to practise new learning with scaffolded and modelled answers related to the new content where appropriate. Teachers may need to adapt existing materials to enhance the support available for students to access the task and provide an accompanying answer sheet, self-assessed quiz or online quiz which gives immediate feedback to students - and directs back to the explanation or aspect of miscomprehension.
    • Assignments: each lesson requires a submission of work or ‘response’ so that teachers can assess engagement and check understanding and progress with learning. Not all of these will be marked /assessed pieces of work. It may be beneficial to relate the assignment directly to the explanation given (see ‘begin with the end’ idea)
    • Assessment and Feedback: as in the normal classroom, the value of assessment/feedback in enhancing progress and motivation remains hugely significant for students and teachers should plan assessment and feedback with detail. Assessment always has a dual purpose – to inform the teacher of what students have learned successfully so that teachers can adjust future planning and, through feedback strategies, to inform and motivate students with next steps to enhance progress. Teachers should ensure feedback is timely and frequent; instant thanks and praise for submitting assignments delivered through learning platform feedback forms will be beneficial to student motivation. All traditional forms of assessment and feedback will have a place in provision:
      • Low stakes tests (quizzes etc) with accessible answers or assessed through software packages (e.g. Seneca) are a simple feedback mechanism to check understanding – and are easy to set and share with groups.
      • Individual feedback, particularly on extended writing, is time-consuming but valued by students, so should be used judiciously on key pieces of work.
      • Whole class feedback through an asynchronous video/recorded Powerpoint for the next lesson content will connect the students’ learning between lessons.
  • Enhancing Motivation
    It is important for teachers to stay in regular contact with pupils. If necessary, they can even do this by using technology to automate communication. Some teachers have set up automated check-in emails to pupils to identify where they are with set tasks. This also gives a perception that teachers are ‘watching’ while pupils are learning remotely

    - Daniel Muijs, What’s working well in remote education, OFSTED, January 2021

    Getting students motivated to complete the work set is the number one concern for teachers and parents/carers. Teachers can consider a number of strategies to promote engagement in their groups:

    • Ensuring that students know who to email to ask for help and that questions and queries are responded to in a timely manner – if possible as near to instantly as can be realistically achieved
    • Using feedback functions in the learning platform to thank students for submitting work and give instant feedback
    • Sending whole class emails to motivate and check that students are ‘on track’ with work
    • Seeking ways to allow students to work collaboratively on tasks

    Schools should endeavour to provide further opportunities for peer and/or staff interactions for students. These might include:

    • Video assemblies/year leader messages
    • Challenges and competitions such as house/inter-form events
    • Careers/pathways provision for relevant groups of students
    • Extra-curricular activities that may allow for students to meet up

    Schools should communicate regularly with parents/carers and students through a weekly remote learning bulletin and share the successes in learning as well as providing updates on provision and appropriate guidance for parents/carers and students to ensure success in remote learning.

  • Safeguarding, SEND and welfare considerations

    All schools will prioritise the welfare and safety of every student by using all means necessary to ‘check-in’ with every student and family. Leaders should ensure that there are local systems to ensure this is rigorous. All staff should pay attention to the specific guidance in the additional policy documents in each school in relation to safeguarding.

    Vulnerable learners should be invited into school to complete their remote learning with support. Those who do not attend should have enhanced procedures for check-in from key staff.

    Some SEND students will also require enhanced support in ensuring remote learning arrangements are clear, accessible and that they can complete and submit work, with the support of school staff as is required.

    We do not believe it is healthy/sustainable for staff or students to have long periods of uninterrupted screen time every day and, therefore, we do not support a full timetable of live lessons for most students.

    Live interactions (live lessons, live tutor time) all require a clear and shared approach to ensure that staff and students can participate safely, yet still ensure these events have value. The following are MAT wide agreed principles:

    • All schools will develop a code of conduct for staff, students and parent/carers for safe and productive live interactions and review this as the need arises. Students and parents/carers will be asked to give written consent that they support the code of conduct, although will still be permitted to join while this consent is being sought
    • Our expectation is that students have ‘camera on’ for all live interactions. The benefits of seeing students (engagement, motivation, understanding) and being seen (more likely to be addressed directly by teacher/peers) outweigh the possible negatives. Teachers should not dwell on students who do not switch on cameras or prevent them from accessing the lesson. Teachers should follow-up after the lesson with support from pastoral/safeguarding teams to understand the reasons students may not have ‘camera on’.
    • Lessons should not be recorded. Although, this may seem intuitive as part of the safeguarding process, it raises more questions with regards to data/image storage. A strong code of conduct that is shared should minimise any risks to staff/student online safety.
    • Teachers should not interact ‘live’ one-to-one, without the express permission and knowledge of their line manager.

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