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Leadership: how schools can build on their creative, community-based responses to the pandemic

Blog Editor, IOE Digital15 April 2021

annawaldl / Pixabay

Peter Earley.

The pandemic has brought schools’ vital role at the heart of their communities into sharp relief, says visiting professor and former Chief HMI Christine Gilbert in the first of a series of Thinkpieces published by the UCL Centre for Educational Leadership (CEL). The paper will be followed by a public online forum on Tuesday 27 April from 5-6-30pm.

Gilbert’s ThinkpieceComing Back Stronger: Leadership Mattersargues that the pandemic provides an excellent opportunity for the education system to build our learning from the crisis into collaborative thinking, planning and action. Schools’ creativity in managing the disruption and complexities of the pandemic provides important lessons. It is now essential for school and other educational leaders to find time for reflection on that learning.

Her Thinkpiece identifies five leadership opportunities for building a (more…)

Quick catch-up or recovery over time? a systems perspective on the pandemic, part 2

Blog Editor, IOE Digital11 March 2021

Melanie Ehren.

Education is going through a massive transformation globally with teachers gaining new digital skills, online teaching materials being developed and parents getting much more immersed in their children’s education. These transformations are, however, not benefitting all students equally, as discussed in Part 1 of this blog, with those from deprived backgrounds losing out on learning when schools were closed.

Across the world, policy-makers are thinking about how to build back better systems; in England, Sir Kevan Collins was recently appointed as the Education Recovery Commissioner, with the responsibility of overseeing a programme of catch-up but also proposing a strategy for long-term recovery.

Here are my three take-away messages for where to prioritize short-term catch up of learning loss, and how we (more…)

Quick catch-up or recovery over time? A systems perspective on the pandemic, part 1

Blog Editor, IOE Digital10 March 2021

Melanie Ehren.

While the pandemic has been disruptive to all learners, it has been more so for lower-income students. They have been particularly hard hit because of a lack of home support for online learning, limited access to good wifi or a laptop and a lack of quiet space to learn at home.

Initial studies indicate that students from deprived backgrounds have learned less compared to their more affluent peers, and their ‘lost learning’ amounts to the time schools were closed. A study by Engzell et al (2020) for example compared the result of school tests in the Netherlands before and after lockdown in spring 2020 with results from the previous three years, and found that losses are up to 55% larger among students from less-educated homes. The pandemic has brought the already existing inequalities into sharper focus and increased concern about the widening gap.

PIRO4D / Pixabay

Across the world, governments are announcing proposals to try and eliminate further unfair disparities and (more…)

How can we help teachers to support their students in catching up?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital23 February 2021

Diana Laurillard.

Teaching in every education sector has changed beyond all recognition over the past year and the dramatic conversion from primarily face-to-face teaching to wholly online has been accomplished by the teaching community almost entirely without help. Some universities, colleges and schools have central technical support staff who have offered guidance and resources to teachers, but it has hardly been commensurate with the scale and difficulty of the change.

So let’s begin with a simple acknowledgement of the extraordinary work done by all those teachers who somehow discovered how to reinvent their entire way of teaching, while also managing the pressures and commitments of lockdown and home-schooling.

There is an expectation now across the teaching and education community that the new-found skills will continue to be deployed, as both students and teachers discover that there is value in mixing conventional and online methods, to achieve the optimal ‘blended learning’ mix. We may as well plan this, for two reasons: (more…)

A-level and GCSE cancellation: a missed opportunity to rethink assessment

Blog Editor, IOE Digital11 January 2021

Lincoln Beddoe/Shutterstock

Mary Richardson.

GCSE and A-level exams in England have been cancelled, opening the door to a repeat of the confusion that marked the award of grades in 2020.

The cancellation of exams in March 2020 in England was followed by the realisation that an algorithm created to moderate the data provided by schools had led to significant reduction in final grades for many thousands of students. This debacle led to a crisis in public trust in national testing systems in England.

The students most likely to be disadvantaged by this method of grade awarding were from the poorest backgrounds. Within a few days of the results being announced, the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin (more…)

How should we assess school students now that exams have been cancelled?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital8 January 2021

Jake Anders, Lindsey Macmillan, Gill Wyness, Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities

This article was originally published by Economics Observatory

To avoid a repeat of last summer’s exam chaos, the government must decide quickly on alternative assessment measures. There is a strong case for A-level students to receive in-class testing – with flexible timing and content – to take account of differences in their learning experiences.

While the uncertainties of a global pandemic make this one of the most volatile periods of education policy in history, if there is one lesson we should all have learned since last March, it is that indecision is costly. This has proved true repeatedly for public health and looks just as relevant for education.

As we saw with last summer’s exam fiasco, the failure to act decisively led to there being little alternative but to (more…)

A Covid generation: who are the winners and losers of a disrupted school year?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital7 January 2021

PIRO4D / Pixabay

Melanie Ehren, Martijn Meeter and Anne Fleur Kortekaas.

The term ‘Covid generation’ has become the new buzz word to refer to children and adolescents under 20 who are affected by school closures and other disruptions.

A report by UNICEF estimates that globally, more than 570 million students – 33 per cent of all enrolled students worldwide –were affected by country-wide school closures in 30 nations as of November 2020. They will have had varying access to remote and online teaching during these closures, and many students from disadvantaged backgrounds will have had little to no learning.

Some believe the lost learning of this generation will have a detrimental effect on the rest of their school and employment careers. This phenomenon is called the ‘Matthew effect’, after the Evangelist’s saying that “For whoever has, to him shall be given […] but whoever has not, from him shall be taken away even that he has”: (more…)

A few words in the OFSTED framework could help boost the digital skills children need for learning outside of school

Blog Editor, IOE Digital11 November 2020

Sara Hawley.

While the pandemic continues and individual pupils, groups or classes stay home self-isolating, the DFE has made remote learning part of schools’ legal duty for now. OFSTED has suspended routine inspections but is carrying out interim visits (without grading schools) to understand the lay of the land.  Yesterday, Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman published a report detailing the skills many children had lost during months of absence from school and acknowledging that home learning remains ‘patchy’.

For those of us working in and around schools in England over the last decade, it comes as no surprise to read of the huge variation in online learning provision across the state sector now and during the spring lockdown. Funding and policy choices made over recent years have in many ways taken things backwards. The abolition of BECTA (British Educational Communications Technology Agency) in 2010 meant the end of a coherent national strategy for online learning resources and infrastructure.

Since then, schools have been left to their own devices, navigating a baffling range of commercial options, often relying on any expertise held by enthusiasts among their staff. Compounding the difficulty has been (more…)

Helping England’s school system to get better at getting better

Blog Editor, IOE Digital9 November 2020

IOE Events.

Does England have a school system that’s good at getting better? And do the Covid-19 disruptions offer an opportunity to think more radically about how we accelerate higher standards for all? These were the questions raised in our latest debate – What if… we wanted more effective school improvement?

We were delighted to be joined by former London Schools Commissioner Sir Tim Brighouse; Leora Cruddas, CEO of the Confederation of School Trusts; Lucy Heller, Chief Executive of Ark Schools and, in the chair, TES editor Ann Mroz.

Taking us on a potted history of school improvement, the debate talked us through the emergence, in the 1970s, of the very idea that schools could be improved, to the heyday of Local Education Authorities, ambitious initiatives like the London Challenge, and on to the ‘school-led’ epoch we have today.

It’s a journey (more…)

Uganda: lockdown brought increased inequality and violence for young people

Blog Editor, IOE Digital19 October 2020

Jenny Parkes and Simone Datzberger.

Young people the world all over have been deeply affected by lockdown measures due to COVID-19. Our new study on Young people, inequality and violence during the COVID-19 lockdown in Uganda offers insights from young people on how and why the pandemic may be amplifying inequalities, thereby creating the conditions for multiple forms of violence.

In March 2020, the Ugandan government introduced stringent lockdown measures – closing schools and businesses, banning public gatherings, restricting travel, and introducing a night-time curfew. Against this backdrop we wanted to learn from young people first-hand how response measures during the early stages of the pandemic have affected their lives. Thanks to strong local partnerships and a well-established collaboration with Ugandan researchers, we were able to conduct phone interviews from May-June 2020 with 18 girls and 16 boys (aged 16-19 years) at a time when lockdown measures were still in place. All of our interviewees are participants in  longitudinal research (2017-2022) for the Contexts of Violence in Adolescence Cohort study (CoVAC). This allowed us to relate findings from our phone interviews to their biographical narratives recounted to our researchers over the past two years.

Most of the young people interviewed faced financial hardship: loss of livelihoods left families without the means to purchase basic (more…)