Schools

DfE advice on when schools should use remote education: 8 key findings

Remote learning can be used to 'reintegrate' some absent pupils and also for those who are off with infections, guidance says

Remote learning can be used to 'reintegrate' some absent pupils and also for those who are off with infections, guidance says

23 Jan 2023, 17:36

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New remote learning guidance to schools comes as strike action is likely to lead to partial school closures

New government guidance says schools can use remote education for pupils off with infectious illnesses and to ‘reintegrate’ some absent children back into school.

Non-statutory guidance on remote education has been updated today by the Department for Education (DfE). The guidance was first published during Covid, when schools were closed for most pupils.

It comes ahead of planned strikes by teacher members of the National Education Union in February and March with schools likely to use remote learning in the face of partial closures.

1. Children off with infectious illnesses can get remote education …

The guidance says remote education should only be considered as a last resort “where a decision has already been made that attendance at school is not possible, but pupils are able to continue learning”.

This includes school closures, or where school access for pupils is restricted.

On individual cases, the guidance says there should only be “limited circumstances where a pupil is unable to attend school but is able and well enough to continue their education remotely”.

This “should only involve a short-term absence” and could include pupils recovering from “short-term” infectious illnesses, operations or injuries.

However remote education should not be “viewed as an equal alternative to attendance in school”. It also does not “reduce the importance of bringing that absence to an end as soon as possible”.

Pupils receiving remote education should still be marked as absent.

2. … and it can be used to reintegrate absent pupils

In “exceptional cases”, the guidance states such circumstances may include pupils whose attendance has been affected by SEND or a mental health issue.

In such cases, schools should consider providing pupils with remote education on a “case-by-case basis”.

“This should be part of a plan to reintegrate back to school, and only when it is judged that providing remote education would not adversely affect the pupil’s return to school,” the guidance adds.

But the DfE adds that such a provision should be a “short-term solution” allowing pupils to “keep on track with their education and stay connected to their teachers and peers.”

3. Keep remote education plans up to date

The government notes that schools are likely to have remote education plans in place already, but these should be kept up to date to “remain relevant to the school’s current context”.

They should also be kept under review in consultation with staff and demonstrate a “consideration” of additional burdens that remote education could place of staff and families.

4. Oak National Academy can be used

Where pupils have access to digital devices, the DfE suggests online learning could include recorded or live teaching, as well as time for pupils to complete tasks independently.

But it adds that online content does not necessarily need to be recorded by school staff. It recommends its curriculum quango, Oak National Academy, as an alternate provider of “high quality lessons”.

5. Checks on home internet connection and devices

Leaders are also warned to be “mindful” of the individual needs and circumstances of pupils and their families when setting remote education provision.

These could include a child’s home environment, including if they have a suitable place and opportunity to study, or any “significant” demands this may place on parents or carers where “high levels of adult involvement” might be needed. Time limits on screen time should also be considered.

Schools should work to “overcome barriers” for pupils, including “auditing access” to devices and “supporting families to find appropriate internet connectivity solutions”.

6. Consider sharing remote plans with parents

Schools are told to consider sharing their remote education plans with parents and pupils to “provide ongoing clarity and transparency about what to expect”.

This could be via website pages. The guidance adds: “This is not a requirement but it can be helpful for parents or carers and pupils to access if required.”

7. Provide lunch parcels or vouchers

Pupils taking part in remote education who are eligible for free school meals should be provided with “good quality lunch parcels or to issue a food voucher if available”.

“This will ensure that eligible pupils continue to be supported for the period they are unable to attend school.”

8. Remote learning can be used during suspensions

Suspension and permanent exclusion rules state schools must take steps to ensure work is set and marked for pupils during their first five days.

The guidance says remote education “should not be used as a justification for sending pupils home due to their misbehaviour”. Suspension laws must be followed “even if they have been asked to log on or access online education while suspended”.

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