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Staff CPD as key to effective distance learning

Written By: Carol McLachlan
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3 min read

Context

Vision Trust is a trust in the heart of Greater Manchester serving 1,118 pupils and their families. The demographic intake and context of each school is very different across the Trust. Twenty-eight per cent of children receive free school meals and 25 per cent have English as an additional language (EAL). The trust’s core values centre around: happy, challenged, successful and proud. They are also supporting two other schools with school-to-school support.

Challenge

The main challenges during the pandemic have been ensuring that all children – regardless of background – continue to receive the highest standard of teaching and learning within a broad and balanced curriculum. Another challenge was ensuring that agreed systems and procedures were communicated and understood by all stakeholders, creating advocacy from the beginning. Once ‘buy-in’ was established, we then had to ensure that staff members’, parents’ and children’s technological skill set was up to date to be able to utilise the technology effectively in delivering our full curriculum offer.

Innovation

As a trust our purpose was clear – we wanted every child to receive and access the same remote learning offer. Following extensive research, we designed and implemented a comprehensive ‘remote learning’ strategic approach across our schools. This was ratified by senior members of staff and our board of trustees and shared with all stakeholders. This process ensured that everyone was aware of the policies and procedures in the event of a local or national lockdown. Following this, questionnaires were disseminated to stakeholders to establish their knowledge, understanding and any training needs to ensure we could deliver our offer to all children. Changes were made to the way teachers taught lessons with a combination of live remote and blended learning.

Feedback from this aspect was considered, and comprehensive continuous professional development (CPD) was implemented to address the knowledge and skill set of staff. A group of ‘digital leaders’ were put in place (who had delivered remote learning previously and had a good understanding of the platform we were using). These leaders developed workshops and support networks for staff to enable them to increase their knowledge, understanding and subsequent skill set in order to enhance teaching and learning delivery. In addition to this, we participated in an Education Endowment Foundation research project – ‘Exploring the Evidence Around Supporting Pupils’ Remote Learning and the Implementation of Remote Learning’. This enabled us to follow evidenced-based research to implement a strategic plan and provide the appropriate CPD to support teachers, pupils and parents, ensuring that the teaching and learning taking place was fulfilling their education requirements.

Further support for teachers was made available via drop-in sessions where senior leaders would talk through lessons, coach staff to achieve better outcomes and to be critical friends, so that teaching moved learning forward and engagement remained high. The response from all staff was fantastic. Staff were able to confidently engage with effective live remote learning or blended learning, migrating classroom-based best practice online.

Furthermore, they embraced the change and developed different ways of working, allowing for greater collaboration across the trust as they shared these ideas with colleagues. The pupil and parent responses were hugely positive, with 90 per cent of pupils engaging with remote learning during the January 2021 National Lockdown. 

Ninety-five per cent of parental responses identified that they and their children were happy with the remote learning offer. This was achieved through regular pupil, parent and staff voice feedback through our online learning communication channels. Constructive feedback was received, actioned and subsequently informed our professional development opportunities, resulting in a sustaining and self-improving remote learning offer.

Going forward

Moving forward, we have a strategic plan across the trust that we can implement to support live, remote and blending learning. We have also learnt, as a trust, that remote staff collaboration can be achieved and has positive results, not only on teaching and learning but on reducing staff workload. As a trust, improving effective collaboration is an area we are keen to continue to focus on, so that we can:

  • reduce staff workload and improve working practices
  • improve the effectiveness of our teaching and learning offer; increasing consistency across the trust.

Recommendations

  • Set up designated development teams to advance various aspects of CPD for a wider professional audience
  • Use technology to disseminate training (create a library of resources for all staff to access) so that it can be accessed at any time, by anyone
  • Integrate new and existing technologies and methodologies within the classroom to improve teaching and learning outcomes.
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