Key messages
Introduction
Marking, feedback and planning
Assessment of pupils’ work
Pastoral support, contacting pupils and safeguarding
Data protection and the recording of learning sessions
Teachers supporting on-site provision
Learning experiences and the use of technology
Managing pressures on teachers who are working from home
 

Key messages

  • Where schools have established online remote learning systems, teachers must not be required to attempt to reproduce in written form the verbal feedback that pupils would be given during typical classroom teaching.
  • There should be no requirement for teachers to record their plans for evaluation by others.
  • The use of summative assessment tracking systems, 'data drops' of assessment outcomes and the setting of assessment targets should be discontinued.
  • Teachers’ professional judgements should guide the approaches to assessment adopted in respect of remote learning.
  • No internal school assessment activities related to qualifications or, where applicable, statutory assessments are necessary except when teachers judge that it would be helpful for activities that pupils have already commenced to be completed.
  • Under no circumstances is it appropriate for schools to insist that teachers or school leaders make telephone calls or hold one-to-one videoconferences with children.
  • No safeguarding or child protection arrangements in place anywhere in the UK require teachers to make direct contact with pupils.
  • There are no valid educational or personnel management justifications for recording online learning activities.
  • Arrangements must recognise the distinctive and considerable pressures experienced by teachers who are working from home.

Introduction

Governments and administrations across the UK are clear that the education system is operating in 'extraordinary times'. It is evident that in these circumstances, learning and support for children and young people will need to be organised very differently. Schools have, in effect, been repurposed to enable the provision of supervision and childcare for children of key workers and vulnerable pupils. For pupils who are not in school, the formal curriculum has effectively been disapplied during this period and formal education as understood in ordinary times has ceased.

Teachers and school leaders have always had high expectations of themselves and of the pupils for whom they are normally responsible. The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak will not undermine this core professional principle. However, the circumstances that the outbreak has created mean that these high standards must, for the time being, be pursued in the face of entirely unprecedented challenges, both for those who are served by the education system and those who work within it.

A consequence of the current crisis is that most pupils will not be at school for an extended period. It is entirely reasonable for teachers and school leaders to be concerned about the implications of lengthy absences on pupils' learning. Many schools are, therefore, putting in place arrangements for some form of remote learning provision for those pupils who will remain at home until the threat posed by COVID-19 has receded.

Where such arrangements are established, schools and the employers of teachers and school leaders will need to ensure that they are fair and manageable for staff and, as far as possible, meaningful and equitable for pupils. Every setting will need to organise its provision in a way that takes account of its particular context. However, the following factors must be reflected in all remote learning arrangements if they are to be regarded as acceptable to the NASUWT.

Marking, feedback and planning

In normal circumstances, the core purposes of marking, feedback and planning are to help teachers secure high-quality educational experiences for pupils and to provide useful information that supports effective teaching. Practices should always be manageable for teachers and not distract them from other learning-related activities. Marking and planning should never be used as a proxy for evaluating whether a teacher is teaching well.

These principles apply with even greater force when pupils are accessing learning opportunities remotely and in challenging circumstances associated with the coronavirus crisis. Where schools have established online remote learning systems, teachers must not be required to attempt to reproduce in written form the verbal feedback that pupils would be given during typical classroom teaching.

If online systems allow, feedback on pupils' work may be possible, but this should rely on the teacher’s professional judgement to determine how any feedback, including marking, is given. Practice should be guided by the teacher’s evaluation of the learning needs of pupils and the nature of the activity being undertaken.

Teachers will want to ensure that they are planning activities that are worthwhile. However, there should be no requirement for teachers to record their plans for evaluation by others. Such practices are not only of limited educational value, but also create further workload pressures for teachers and school leaders. Schools should have put in place arrangements during normal school hours for catch-up discussions between teachers and their line managers. Such discussions should allow sufficient opportunity for professional reflection on the range of activities being provided for pupils.

Assessment of pupils’ work

Schools' assessment policies have been developed in circumstances when pupils are on site regularly. Attempts should not, therefore, be made to apply these policies unamended to learning that takes place remotely. In particular, the use of summative assessment tracking systems, 'data drops' of assessment outcomes and the setting of assessment targets should be discontinued.

The main focus of assessment activity when online systems are used should be on formative assessment and providing feedback to pupils. The purpose of this assessment should be to inform the development of future learning resources rather than to provide material for schools' tracking systems. The key principle should be that only assessment that is useful to pupils and their teachers should be undertaken.

Each UK government and administration has confirmed that all external assessments and examinations that were scheduled between now and the end of the summer term will now not take place. All statutory assessments set to be carried out during this period have also been withdrawn. Therefore, no internal school assessment activity related to these assessments and examinations is necessary except when teachers judge that it would be helpful for activities that pupils have already commenced to be completed.

Pastoral support, contacting pupils and safeguarding

It is particularly important that schools continue to contribute to the welfare and emotional wellbeing of pupils who are not attending on-site provision. However, under no circumstances is it appropriate for schools to insist that teachers or school leaders make telephone calls or hold one-to-one videoconferences with pupils. No personal contact details of any member of staff, such as telephone numbers or email addresses, should be shared with children.

All governments and administrations across the UK are clear that arrangements must be in place to protect those children and young people about whom there are child protection or safeguarding concerns. None of these arrangements requires teachers to contact individual pupils directly.

Information about the Childline service can be made available to pupils so that they can contact experienced specialist advisors if they have any concerns about their own safety and wellbeing or that of another child in their household.

As during tutor group periods or class time in ordinary circumstances, general pastoral and welfare issues may be integrated appropriately into online lessons.

Staff who become aware of any child protection concerns should continue to follow their setting's established safeguarding procedures.

Data protection and the recording of learning sessions

Some schools have insisted that online sessions are recorded to help monitor the quality of provision or for 'training purposes'. The NASUWT is clear that there are no valid educational or personnel management justifications for this practice. Such sessions are highly atypical and no meaningful information about the quality of educational provision generally or teacher effectiveness in ordinary circumstances can be gained from recordings of them.

It should also be noted that there has been no suspension or relaxation of requirements on schools in respect of the protection of personal data. Schools should, therefore, ensure that they apply their existing policies and protocols.

Recordings of online sessions are defined as protected data under current legislation and cannot be collected, stored or retrieved without parental permission or in any other way that does not comply fully with the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The consequences for schools of any GDPR breach are potentially significant. In light of the pressures to which schools are currently subject, it would be deeply irresponsible for them to impose additional and wholly avoidable GDPR compliance burdens on themselves through the recording of online sessions.

Teachers supporting on-site provision

Full account should be taken of the fact that many teachers will be supporting on-site provision for the care of pupils during the COVID-19 emergency. When engaged in this work, teachers must not be distracted from it or burdened by other activities related to schools' remote learning provision.

Learning experiences and the use of technology

There is no objection in principle to the use of online resources to support children’s learning if they are used in a way that is consistent with this advice.

However, schools should be mindful of the fact that many children and young people live in households with no or limited access to the internet or to the technology required to make use of online resources. Even in households with full internet access, the number of suitable online capable devices may be insufficient at any one time to meet the demands of home-working adults and children attempting to access educational materials or live learning sessions (livestreaming). Livestreaming involves sessions that take place online, in real time and involve direct interaction between teachers and pupils.

The NASUWT is aware that the livestreaming of lessons directly to pupils raises particular issues and concerns. Because of the particular issues in respect of data protection, safeguarding and ensuring that teachers are adequately protected, the Union advises caution in the use of such an approach. Consideration should always be given first to using an alternative remote learning approach before livestreaming is contemplated. It should be recognised that there is no expectation from any UK government or administration that livestreaming lessons will be used.

In all circumstances, it is unacceptable for schools to insist that teachers organise and deliver livestreamed sessions.

Teachers should consult the NASUWT checklist on the right/below if they are considering choosing to use livestreaming lessons as an approach or if issues in this respect arise in their school or college.

Schools may choose to augment their online provision by providing children with work in physical formats, such as worksheets or activities in textbooks. While this form of remote learning may be worthwhile, it is clear that teachers cannot be expected to review children’s work undertaken in this way, or to provide feedback on it, until those children have returned to school.

For these reasons, the nature of the activities set for children during this period is of critical importance. As access to online facilities may be limited for many children, it would be highly inequitable for online learning sessions to attempt to cover essential new curricular content. Instead, where such sessions are used, they should focus more on deepening and enriching pupils' existing knowledge and understanding. Free-to-access educational resources, such as those provided by the BBC, may be particularly helpful in this regard.

In their provision, schools should recognise that many children and others in their households will be experiencing significant stress and uncertainty at this time. Therefore, placing excessive burdens on pupils in terms of the amount of work they are expected to complete would be profoundly unhelpful. Remote learning expectations of children should also recognise that the demands on parents and other adult members of children’s families at present may make it difficult for them to provide an environment conducive to extensive periods of home learning.

Managing pressures on teachers who are working from home

The pressures faced by teachers must also be recognised. Across the UK, they have been designated as key workers with a specific role to fulfil with regard to care for vulnerable children and the children of other key workers. They are also facing the same stress and anxiety about their own wellbeing and that of their families and need to be treated reasonably and fairly.

It is unacceptable for schools to set up systems which require teachers to keep written records of the activities in which they are engaged during the working day while working at home. It is equally unacceptable for them to be asked to regularly log in or send a communication to schools to indicate that they are working.

Schools should set out the expectations that they have for those teachers working from home bearing in mind that:

  • many teachers are working as part of the rota of care in schools;
  • it is not possible or desirable to seek to replicate the expectations of normal working in these extraordinary circumstances;
  • teachers working from home will be dealing with competing priorities such as caring for someone in the household who is ill or looking after children who would normally be in school; and
  • there will be limits to what can be effectively or usefully done from home.

Teachers need to determine whether the expectations being placed on them are fair and reasonable and contact the NASUWT if they have any concerns.

Employers have a responsibility to consider the physical and mental health and wellbeing of their staff and to recognise that in these circumstances, particular attention needs to be paid to such concerns.