Remote schooling: new EEF evidence review highlights core features that can unlock its potential

PLUS new package of EEF resources for schools and parents to help them make the most of remote learning during Covid-19 closures

Pupils can learn through remote teaching, but there are some key steps to take to make sure it is as effective as possible. This is according to a new review of the evidence on remote learning published by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) today as part of a package of resources to help schools to support their pupils, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, during this period of closures.

The report finds that the quality of remote teaching is more important than how lessons are delivered. For example, teachers might explain a new idea live or in a pre-recorded video. But what matters most is whether the explanation builds clearly on pupils’ prior learning.

The review also highlights the importance of access to technology and finds that getting pupils to interact with each other in online learning environments – for example, through peer marking – can boost the impact of remote learning. Monitoring the progress pupils are making during remote learning is also key and the report suggests that it can be helpful for teachers to provide support and strategies to enable pupils to work independently.

School closures are likely to have a significant impact of the learning of disadvantaged pupils. Over the past decade, figures from the Education Policy Institute show the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their classmates at the end of primary school has narrowed in the last decade, reducing from 11.5 months in 2009 to 9.2 months in 2019. The EEF is concerned that this progress could be reversed as a direct result of Covid-19 school closures.

However, steps can be taken to mitigate the impact of school closures. This weekend, the government announced new measures to widen access to learning at home, including laptops and 4G routers for disadvantaged year 10 students and the launch of Oak National Academy, an online classroom and resource hub.

To support these efforts, the EEF is today publishing a package of evidence-based resources, alongside the evidence review. These aim to help schools to support their pupils, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and make the most of remote learning opportunities to mitigate the potential impact of school closures on the attainment gap.

The resources include advice for schools on how to support parental engagement and tips for parents on promoting effective home learning. This includes advice on creating a routine through a ‘checklist’ that breaks down the day into manageable tasks, like reading in a quiet space, practising a maths skill, and spending time on a creative hobby.

The EEF has also launched a fundraising campaign in partnership with the Sunday Times, to provide practical support for disadvantaged pupils in these challenging times.

Professor Becky Francis, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:

Schools closures could have a potentially devastating impact on learning for the poorest children and young people in our society. However, we can take steps to mitigate against this. Of particular importance is making sure that all pupils have access to learning online, by providing them with access to devices and a good internet connection.

While nothing can replace the individual relationships between a teacher and their pupils in the classroom, our evidence review shows that are some key steps that schools can make to make the most of the opportunity for online learning and the support the government is providing. One effective strategy is to encourage peer interaction between pupils. Another focuses on getting pupils to reflect on their learning and the progress they’re making.

Our new resources are part of a huge collective effort across the sector, which we hope will go some way to alleviate the impact of school closures on the most disadvantaged pupils. But in the long-term, we need to focus on how best to help pupils bounce back when schools open again. Catch-up teaching targeted especially at those who have fallen furthest behind during this period will be essential.