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Why being back in the classroom matters

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The big ‘return to school’ is fast approaching. While many schools have remained partially open, and a number of teachers have been present in classrooms, the majority of pupils have been learning remotely since March. 

As of August 2020, the Department for Education has said that in England all pupils, in all year groups, will return to class full-time at the start of the autumn term. And following such a disrupted year so far, a partial return to ‘normality’ will be welcome for many.

But why, all things considered, is being back in the classroom so important for pupils? Here are three reasons: 

1. Engagement and attainment

Educators and pupils have become increasingly reliant on remote tools to stay connected to each other. And while technology has been pivotal to home learning, that doesn’t mean pupils are getting a better education because of it. 

In fact, according to TES, the attainment gap has widened during the coronavirus lockdown, with larger gaps emerging among primary school age pupils.

Last year, our State of Technology in Education report showed that 89.6% believe using tech is a great way to engage students in the classroom — up from 31.8% in 2017/18.

But the same tech’s benefits are diminished when the teacher is not conducting face to face learning, or using tools to deliver engaging learning experiences. A Department for Education spokesperson agrees by saying, “nothing can replace being in the classroom, which is why we have published guidance to ensure all children can return to school in September.”

2. Pupil wellbeing

Two national surveys have revealed there is support from parents and the general public for the full reopening of schools in September. This is, in part, to do with pupil wellbeing and mental health in a positive learning environment.

One survey revealed that, of parents whose children had returned to school before the summer holidays, 77% said their child was happy to be back, including 94% of parents of children in Reception. Only 7% were worried that COVID measures at school were upsetting for children. 

Indeed, our State of Technology in Education report last year revealed that 80% of teachers already believed their workload was contributing to high levels of stress. Combined with pupils feeling anxious about missing friends and their education, the return to school removes this melting pot of stress.

Schools help children remain grounded, driven and to feel part of a wider community. “Our whole society is stressed,” agrees Dr. Sarah Vinson, an associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Morehouse School of Medicine. For some children, she explains, “school was their refuge.” 

3. Access to technology

Many families in the UK have access to a computer and a reliable internet connection. Many others don’t. 

In the classroom, any pupil can access their school’s technology and has the opportunity to develop their digital literacy. At home, with platforms facilitating or blocking basic learning, the gap in technology skills could severely widen.

What’s more, without pupils returning en masse to classrooms, this limited access to technology, broadband and online learning tools could reveal a widening gap in educational outcomes this year. The problem is also exacerbated by the amount of remote learning different educational settings are able to provide. 

Looking at data from Teacher Tapp, for example, the gap is stark: between 62 and 76% of private secondary school teachers hosted online lessons between April and June. In state-funded secondary schools, the numbers were between 6 and 17%. 

At Promethean, the ActivPanel Elements Series of front-of-class displays support the wider return to school. In the classroom it boosts engagement which supports better results, facilitates collaboration to build confidence and improve well being, and gives all pupils fair and equal access to the latest tech. To request a remote or onsite demo, please get in touch.

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