As anxieties grow at the prospect of continued home schooling into the autumn, some Scottish parents are calling for a Scotland-wide virtual school.
Scottish schools are due to reopen in early August, but without a vaccine and with coronavirus being suppressed and contained rather than eliminated, it is difficult to imagine a full return. The Guardian article reports that Glasgow Council is considering using a mixture of school attendance and home-based education.
Neither is it clear how the situation will be different in September when the next English and Welsh academic year starts. Indeed, with attention focused on the controversial decision to open schools from this month, what happens in September has been given little consideration.
Without a coordinated approach by government and LEAs, with parents struggling to educate and now more likely to be going back to work, there will continue to be an increase in the use of the commercial on-line packages backed by big tech companies, but it will open the way for a growth in ‘platform schools’. where parents register their children as ‘home learners’ and then buy online education from ‘schools’ that may be hundreds of miles from where they live.
In the current circumstances home based learning organised through a local authority (some LEAs have long run a variety of out of school provisions for looked after children) along with part-time attendance at school is essential to preserve learning as a social, rather than becoming an atomised activity. To take pressure of overcrowded schools, other buildings could also be used as smaller and more personalised ‘learning centres’ for those not able to work at home, or for younger children needing adult support and supervision.
Needless to say, all of this is going to cost money and will also change the job of the teacher – but in the long run it could benefit students, particularly older ones – proving the flexibility and variety that the current school system doesn’t allow. It might even increase pressure for a more diverse curriculum and different types of assessment. Ask anybody who has been working at home during the pandemic and they might tell you that they miss the office, but they don’t want to go back there all of the time.