Key messages
Introduction
Marking, feedback and planning
Workload and manageability
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
Position statement on remote and blended learning
 

Key messages

  • Teachers should 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

Although governments and administrations across the UK intend to see all pupils return to school from the autumn of this year, it is clear that there remains an expectation that schools will be expected to retain a capacity to deliver remote and blended learning approaches where necessary. Such provision will be important where a school needs to restrict access to some or all pupils in response to public health advice following an outbreak or in the event of a local lockdown.

In planning and, if necessary, implementing such arrangements, 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 the challenging circumstances associated with the COVID-19 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.

Workload and manageability

The provision and implementation of remote and blended learning offers is a significant undertaking for schools and their staff. In order for schools to establish sustainable approaches to this form of provision, it is vital that they avoid adding to the workload burdens that teachers and school leaders already face. This requires schools as part of their planning for remote learning to:

  • recognise that remote learning will need to be provided instead of, rather than as well as, other tasks that teachers and school leaders have been asked to undertake;
  • identify and eliminate existing sources of excessive and unnecessary workload, including those related to schools’ marking, planning and assessment policies;
  • defer significant workload-intensive activities that do not require immediate implementation to a later date;
  • ensure that teachers and school leaders are not being directed to undertake tasks and activities that are not directly related to their core responsibilities for teaching and leading teaching learning, including administrative and clerical tasks that do not require the skills, talents and expertise of qualified teachers; and
  • audit regularly to ensure that the school’s remote learning provision does not increase teacher and school leader workload and working time.

Further advice on how schools can prioritise teacher and school leader wellbeing and manage workload is available on our Workload, Wellbeing and Covid-19 page.

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 in circumstances where blended or remote learning is being used.

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.

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, monitoring 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. For this reason, lesson observations, ‘virtual drop-ins’ or similar practices are not appropriate for this form of educational provision.

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 remote and blended learning provision may continue to involve teachers supporting on-site provision for pupils who may still be permitted and expected to attend school. 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 in their homes 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 to pupils in their homes 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 to pupils in their homes. It is also not acceptable for these sessions, where they are used, to be recorded for use by pupils at another time.

In cases where teachers are working from home, including circumstances where they are self-isolating, it has been suggested that teachers can stream lessons from home to pupils in classrooms.
This practice is a potential means by which the continuity of education can be secured but, where it is used, it must be undertaken in ways that protect the legitimate interests of those teachers providing lessons in this way, their colleagues and pupils. In particular, the use of this practice must:

  • ensure that pupils in the classroom are appropriately supervised;
  • not involve the recording of sessions given that their purpose is to replicate live lessons;
  • be undertaken in a way that recognises the particular pressures teachers can face when working from home and must not add to their overall workload burdens;
  • be undertaken using school equipment;
  • be undertaken in a way that recognises that it represents a very different and challenging form of teaching and that, therefore, normal expectations in respect of teaching and learning must be adjusted accordingly; and
  • not be subject to lesson observations or other forms of monitoring that might be used in classroom teaching contexts.

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.

Before schools seek to develop in-house remote learning solutions, consideration should be given to making use of existing resources. For example, free-to-access educational resources, such as those provided by the BBC, or the Oak Academy Trust in England, may be particularly helpful in this regard. These resources are often designed to address the educational issues that schools can encounter and can ensure that provision is made available in ways that are manageable for staff, avoid data protection issues and protect the privacy and security of the teachers, staff and pupils involved.

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 is 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 personal and professional pressures faced by teachers and school leaders as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak must also be recognised.

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 teachers working from home will be dealing with competing priorities such as caring for someone in their household who is ill or possibly looking after children who would normally be in school. It should always be recognised that there will be limits to what can be effectively or usefully done from home.

Teachers and school leaders 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.

NASUWT position statement on remote and blended learning

The use of remote and blended learning raises many important professional issues for teachers and school leaders. The NASUWT has produced a position statement that considers these issues in depth and explores the ways in which remote and blended learning can be approached in ways that are consistent with Union policy. The statement also identifies actions that the NASUWT believes that governments, administrations and others should take to ensure that remote and blended learning can be implemented effectively.