Award-winning educator and speaker Kellie McCord, founder of Uplevel Academy, discusses the education landscape in the wake of the pandemic.
Hi Kellie, how will the pandemic fallout affect the current school-aged generation?
When the school gates were closed during the initial lockdown, the biggest issue was the lack of standardisation. Each school had their own way of doing things. Some schools literally printed off packs and gave them to parents to complete with their children, with little to no feedback.
Others had an online school – students still had to be registered and were able to receive live lessons with their teachers, where work was submitted and marked daily. Even within the same school, there was disparity, for example key worker kids were able to attend throughout the pandemic and so benefitted from teacher input and socialisation, while some of their classmates did not.
Furthermore, one underlying complaint that all parents seem to have when they speak to me is the lack of feedback. Feedback is vague and lacking, or it is ‘sugar-coated’ – they say their kids are doing well but it turns out are behind. For example, one parent got in touch with me to say their teachers had told them that her twins were doing brilliantly in English. Yet, when they did their GCSE mock exams, her son achieved a Grade 3 (below a pass mark) and their daughter achieved a Grade 1 (well below a pass mark).
Why didn’t anyone flag this up? So, the parent is now anxious as her kids are going into Year 11 well below average. She does not feel she can trust the teachers’ feedback. This is a common complaint among primary and secondary school parents, especially for English.
Are the recent adaptions, such as the embracing of new technology, set to have a lasting impact on teaching?
Whether we like technology or not, it creates greater equality in learning. For example, rather than being limited to resources that you can afford to buy, you can now access a myriad of free online resources to supplement children’s learning.
In traditional school environments, it allows for children to develop crucial skills, such as research and applying critical judgement, as they have to discern what source of information is relevant and accurate from those that are not useful and lack validity.
It also allows students with special educational needs and disabilities to contribute more. For example, on an online platform, a child with anxiety does not have to be put on the spot to engage and interact. They can communicate privately to the teacher via a chat function, allowing them to build their confidence and feel part of a community, rather than sitting on the sidelines, or being put on the spot and made to feel worse.
Will changing isolation and bubble rules affect schools?
Parents and students are generally fed-up with the constant changes in rules and the hypocrisy. From speaking with parents, they have been more than willing to comply to the idea of a bubble even when kids were sent home after someone in their child’s bubble tested positive for COVID. However, they are becoming less patient with it, especially if their child tests negative. Because a classmate or someone in their bubble has tested positive, they still have to self-isolate. Many want this changed to prevent whole classes from being sent home, especially if their child has tested negative.
Are exam results and entry requirements to be calculated differently in lieu of lost teaching time?
Yes, the government has stated that the exams will follow a similar style to the 2021 GCSEs. Students will be given a list of topics to prepare. English Language is one subject, however, that will remain unchanged, which is why it is essential that parents get support for this as early as possible, especially if you feel your child is behind. Again, this is a subject that many students (at the best of times) find the most challenging as they are confronted with unseen texts. Moreover, they are also given a creative writing extract to complete in timed conditions. Many panic, but if we expose children to the end goal – for instance, exam papers – it allows them to know what is expected of them, reducing fear as they have fewer unknowns. And in terms of whether universities and colleges will be more forgiving in their offers if students miss their target grades, it really depends on the institutions. Many were more open to helping students by giving greater guidance, for example asking them to sit Foundation courses or, to apply another year if their grades were not at a level they required.