Roy Broadfield ‘Parental Engagement, home learning and educating in an unprecedented landscape…’ This was a live webinar recorded on Wednesday 8 July 2020 for ACAMH West Midlands Branch as part of the ‘Return to school: the impact of COVID’.
Accompanying slides are available to download, and a transcript is below.
Other talks included
Professor Tamsin Ford CBE – ‘Supporting children’s mental health as schools re-open’
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About the Speaker
Roy Broadfield B.Ed. (Hons), Founder and National Consultant, Impact in Learning, has worked in education for 24 years as a teacher, senior leader, lecturer and consultant. He developed the Impact in Learning Programme, now run in over 400 schools in 14 authorities, which supports parents to help bring about attainment benefits for pupils through accelerated learning. Roy’s has worked with a number of government departments, including Communities and Local Government and the REACH programme, which aims to improve education for black boys and young black men.
Good morning. I’m Roy. Thank you for inviting me to speak. If I can just explain that I’ve been a teacher now for 27 years, a senior leader in schools, a national consultant. I’m currently working as a lecturer in education at University College, Birmingham. Been a schools advisor in several authorities, including several authorities in London. I’m a maths specialist teacher and also a specialist leader in education. So that’s my background in teaching.
Thinking about the situation for schools and educating children during lockdown. I’m a lecturer in education. We have PGCE students and teacher apprentice students at our university. I was working happily with those until this lockdown situation came. And obviously they were halfway through their course in learning to be teachers. I was also delivering my impact workshops to families and to parents to help them to understand children’s learning and the way in which the curriculum works now. So we do that in schools with groups of parents in the school, bringing them in. So obviously all those impact workshops during lockdown had to go on hold, and we had to find new ways of working to get our teacher trainees, who were only halfway through their course, to finish their course and to work in a different way.
As they were working in different ways, and our teacher apprentices are school-based, so they were continuing to work through the lockdown situation. And as they were working, it was interesting to me to find out what was happening, because I was hearing from parents and from teachers and from teacher trainees about the challenges that were had in order to deliver and continue to deliver learning during lockdown. So I requested some information from them. Now I did a little bit of non-academic research, and I have to point out that the views that come out of this are my own. So it wasn’t really a university-led project. It was just out of my own personal interest. And what I did was I used reputable social media education pages to ask for information about education during lockdown. And I put out some questionnaires to our students as well, made some phone calls to parents I knew. And got responses to these requests for information from 70 teachers, 24 teacher apprentices or trainee teachers and 60 parents, who gave me information about what they felt was happening during lockdown. It gave me some really interesting insights.
So in terms of teachers, they realised that there was this sudden expectation for teachers to deliver lessons online using various platforms. In one case, one teacher said to me that they were being asked in their school to use nine different platforms to deliver the different aspects of learning in phonics, maths and so on. So there’s a massive expectation there for teachers to very quickly learn to do that. They also had to ensure that all the children could access the work. There were children with no internet access, children with very limited resources at home, children with no resources, often in deprived areas, for using manipulatives for maths, for instance, and all that kind of stuff. So the schools were expected to ensure that that work could be accessed.
They had to support parents to deliver the learning. Parents kept saying to me, I’m not a teacher. I’m suddenly expected to be a teacher. And schools had to find ways of helping to deliver that learning with the parents. There were a number of parents and families who disengaged immediately. Some schools said that after lockdown they didn’t have any response from parents for two to three weeks. And so they had to chase them. They had to check that those children were okay, they had to check on vulnerable children, particularly, and make sure that those families were coping, and wondering why there was no communication being made with the school when homework was being set. And they had a duty of care to check on vulnerable families.
There were some communication issues. Some families were… They were unable to communicate with those families. And a lot of families found that the schools were difficult to communicate with as well, at the same time. And during all of this, the schools were continuing, obviously, to teach and be in school and teach the children of key workers in school.
And the parents’ point of view. There was a lot of talk about the quality of support and resources and how that varied from school to school. So there was no parity. A lot of parents were complaining that the school down the road are getting so much more help than we are and vice versa. Some felt that the level of support from school was amazing, others felt that they’d totally been left totally on their own to deal with how to teach, what to teach and given very little support from their schools.
A lack of devices in the home was particularly problematic. If you imagine two parents both working from home, as was the case in a lot of households, with the only two devices that they had, and then school saying, with your three children we’re delivering live lessons this week. So every morning at ten o’clock we need every one of your children to be online and your class teacher will deliver maths and English for a couple of hours. That led to real problems with that lack of devices. I know the government stepped in and tried to promote schools to purchase devices for those families, but that in itself was delayed and led to some issues as well. A lot of parents said this to me that they were at a loss of how to deliver learning. Again, this thing, I’m not a teacher, kept coming up. Everything has changed since we were at school and we just don’t know how you deliver the curriculum now, which is an ongoing issue for parents.
So the overall emerging patterns that came out of this were that live lessons are impractical and unpopular for the reasons that I mentioned before, particularly the access to those live lessons. People having to be in the same place at the same time as the teacher delivering those live lessons made it incredibly difficult. However, the most popular thing was class teachings that were informal, where teachers came online in a Zoom meeting or similar. The children of one class all got together, they talked about, with their teacher, so show-and-tell about what they’d been doing. And that was really popular with parents and teachers alike.
A really interesting observation that was made by parents, teachers and some of the children that I spoke to, my nieces and nephews, for instance, on the telephone, was that seeing and hearing the teacher on-screen was the most positive boost for children’s well-being. Lots of parents saying to me that their children didn’t engage in homework when it was sent by e-mail or didn’t engage in homework when it was just online, accessed via the school website. But the minute they saw and heard their teacher on-screen, it re motivated them and much more homework was done as a result of that.
And the other thing that really came out was parents need to be shown how to support learning at home. We can’t expect them to just teach the kids things that we send to them because, as they keep telling me, we’re not teachers.
So what has worked well? So I contacted my teacher apprentices and said to them what’s worked well with you? And Chris is one of our teacher apprentices at a Birmingham school, and he said that he’d been sending homework out two or three weeks and getting very little response so had to take a new approach. And one thing that worked really well for him was this idea of asking children to teach your parents something that we’ve already learned. So he would give them the stimulus and just say, teach your parents something that we’ve learned in science. Teach your parents something that we’ve learned in English. And this particular homework that was set was teach your parents what we know about the parts of a plant. And teach your parents what we know about the reproductive system in flowering plants. And this was one child’s response. Actually took her parent outside, found a flowering plant, broke it up and had this artistic approach to demonstrating what she knew. And the parent learnt alongside. And the feedback came from homework being photographed and sent back into school. And that was shared with all the other children as an example of what you can do. We all know that when you teach somebody else something that you know, it reinforces the teaching for yourself as well. So that was really a popular way of delivering homework to children.
Another one of our teacher apprentices, Jodie, works in Victoria Special School in Birmingham. And she realised that the complex curriculum that they teach in special schools was going to be really challenging for parents to deliver at home. So what Jodie did, as a trainee teacher, let’s not forget, she’s not an experienced teacher of many years. Well, she created her own web pages on the school’s website for her children and parents to access at home, where she described the prime areas of learning and development, and then gave examples of the sort of things that she would be teaching on their topic of ‘The Great Outdoors’ this term.
What was lovely about this was that a lot of those little examples around the edges had links to short videos, videos of her, YouTube videos, stories and so on, and activities that the parents could take part in at home with their child. And then the parents would take part in these activities. And the way in which they fed that homework back was that they would upload photographs on a page, again that Jodi created, for home learning photos, where the children would take photographs, their parents would take photographs of the children being engaged in those activities, and they’d be uploaded. And it gave them a talking point as well when they met together with their class teacher to talk about the photographs and the things that they’d been doing, which was a really successful way of delivering that.
So as an SLE, I’ve been working with supporting St. Patrick’s Catholic Primary School in Coventry. And this is the teacher that I’m working with there, Elise*. And Elise* and I were working on home learning ideas for the children that were inspiring and motivating and accessible to them. Now, we had to bear in mind the things that had come out of that little bit of informal research that I’d done. Parents need instruction. It’s no good just sending them a worksheet and saying get your child to do this. The parents need instruction, they need some support, they need to see how it’s done. We know that what motivates children most is seeing the teacher on-screen. And we realised that no live events could really be accessed by all children.
So videoing short videos with the teacher on-screen and instructing the parents was going to be really popular. So Elise* contacted her IT team, she found out there was some Apple Mac software where we could merge her image with some instructional video that we could share with the children and the parents. And the plan is to send these home for every year group. Now, I have to tell you that this little video that I’m about to show… it’s a short video… is a little bit jumpy when we’ve got a large Zoom audience, but I just hope you get the gist of that merging some instructions for parents with the teacher being on-screen, which is so very important. And I’ll just play that short video now.
Video presentation: Hello. Good morning, everybody. It’s Miss Biggins here and I welcome you to our addition presentation for Year Four. And we have our addition column here and our calculation on the left-hand-side. And our calculation today is 3232 add 1053. Now, it’s really important that we use our place value today. So that’s why we’ve got the grid next to us so we can see where they need to go. So, we have got 3000 which is represented by three ten-pound notes, 200, which is represented by two-pound coins. Three tens, which is three ten-pence pieces, and two ones which are represented by our one pennies there. Now, working in coins today. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t got coins at home. We’re going to use whatever you have. So you might have counters like we have at school or you could just have little pieces of paper, as long as they’re all the same size or you’ve coloured them the same. So remember…
Roy: Okay. Can I just ask someone to just come onto mike and let me know was the sound okay on that video? Did that..?
Participant: Yes, that was fine, Roy. It was a bit jumpy but the sound is absolutely fine.
Roy: Thank you very much. Thank you. Great. So that was one version of instructing with parents with the teacher on-screen. And so then, when we have this blended learning situation, which is likely to occur in September, this is what we’re working on delivering to every single year group from that school. Sorry, I’ll jump back.
So despite all the hard work and efforts by parents and teachers, and despite everyone working really hard to ensure that children were continuing to learn at home, there have been lots of news reports from health professionals and the national press about this mental health crisis that’s likely to come as a result of the lockdown situation. We all know that mental health, childhood mental health issues, were already a concern way before this came into play. Young Minds, for instance, talking about the number of five to 15 year olds experiencing anxiety and depression increasing by 48 per cent between 2004 and ’17. And Action for Children discussing how one in eight five to nineteen year olds had at least one mental disorder when they were assessed in 2017. And The Children’s Society, going right back to 2008, pointing out that 70 per cent of children and adolescents with mental health issues not receiving appropriate interventions sufficiently early enough. So we know that mental health issues were already a concern. If we see this mental health.org.uk, going back to 2018, this organisation was very concerned that the test-driven, narrow curriculum was having an impact on the well-being of some children and were campaigning for a more broad and balanced curriculum to be had. And then lockdown came, when we know that that would have impacted upon many of those children.
So what does that mean in the present circumstances? Well, the best piece of evidence that I could find of a bit of research done, one study was from the University of Oxford where they followed more than 10,000 parents for one month during lockdown in their co-space survey. And what they did was they questioned the parents of children and adolescents, and they questioned the adolescents themselves, and they were particularly interested in finding out about the emotional difficulties, behavioural difficulties and restless and attention difficulties that children may have experienced during lockdown.
Particularly concerning here is, if we look at the first row, these are parents reporting on children at primary age. Their emotional behaviour and restlessness all increased when they were locked down at home over that one-month period. If we look at adolescents, when parents reported about them, they said that their emotional difficulties decreased, there was no change in their behavioural difficulties, but their restlessness and attention difficulties increased. However, the adolescents, when they self-reported, felt that there was no change. So it’s really interesting to see the perspective there between parents and what the adolescents thought themselves.
Something that came as a little bit of a surprise for me was that children with special educational needs and disabilities and those who’d already been recognised as having mental health difficulties, because they were locked down with families at home, their emotional difficulties on the whole actually decreased and there was no change in their behavioural difficulties and in their restlessness and attention difficulties.
And as Liz pointed out, I think the real concern here, looking at this, is being prepared for when these children go back to school and what that means for schools. We hear a lot now about schools talking about a recovery curriculum. And what is it that we need to prepare and what is it that we need to get ready when these children return to school in those situations?
I noticed online, again, a reputable Twitter site, which asked the question about children who had started to return to school. And the overwhelming consensus by teachers and head teachers was that children have come back in displaying no real problems on the whole. A head teacher in Birmingham pointed out to me that a lot of the children have come back well into her school, they’ve been fine. But it would really be context-driven depending upon the experiences that children have had. But she pointed out that children in Handsworth in Birmingham are amazingly resilient and she feels that they’ve come back in incredibly well, and that looks very promising for the future.
So my heart sank, when we consider everything that we heard from Les and some of the things that I’ve just mentioned to you, when I saw this news headline on the 29th of June which said that, in order for children to catch up on all that learning that they’ve lost in the last few months of being locked down, that schools may need to cut the curriculum and focus only on maths and English for a year in order for them to catch up. And it was really disappointing and quite depressing to see that information being put out there by the Secretary of State for Education. However, my heart was raised again three days later when this headline came out. Where Gavin Williamson said we understand it will put additional pressures on teachers, but the curriculum must be full, broad and balanced, which echoes the new Ofsted framework, which says that inspections will be there to ensure that children receive a full, broad and balanced curriculum when inspections take place from September onwards.
So what do we need to do to ensure that we have that broad and balanced curriculum? I think there’s a great opportunity here. Eckhart Tolle the philosopher talks about out of adversity comes opportunity, and I think we need to take that opportunity. Never before have we been in such a situation where we can take what we know and have such an opening for change. Sir Ken Robinson has said for a long time that there’s a need to teach differently, that the task of education is not to teach subjects but to teach students, to teach children. And this was echoed recently in a Times Educational Supplement article by Liz Robinson who said that school leaders need to be aware of the three H’s and make sure that we’re teaching to the three H’s when children arrive in this new world that awaits education. That we need to be teaching children for their head, which is all the academic subjects, but we also must be teaching equally to their hearts, which is social and emotional subjects. And we also need to be teaching to their hands, which is the creative, creativity and problem-solving.
One way that I… Another example that I saw of this was the Excelsior Academy Trust in Birmingham who are promoting a programme called Agents of Hope, where they’ve taken 14 children’s storybooks and written lesson plans for each of those storybooks. And the lesson plans that they are hoping to teach, obviously as a PS [inaudible – 0:18:41[
we’re getting children to talk about those things that have concerned and worried them. The books explore ideas such as sadness, worry, loss, bereavement and loneliness. And those lesson plans are available to all schools free of charge if you e-mail Andrew Moffat at the school, and his e-mails are displayed there on the screen. And they’re hoping that a PSHE approach will help children to talk about those experiences that they’ve had.
So the DFE very recently said that there will be [inaudible – 0:19:15] to teach for mental well-being and released a document in June 2020, part of the Health Education Lessons in School for both primary and secondary. And this sign-posted schools to the NHS Five Steps to Mental Wellness page and encouraged teachers to deliver education that includes these things. So connecting with other people, being physically active, learning new skills, giving to others and paying attention to the present moment through mindfulness.
So why mindfulness? Well, mindfulness is growing in popularity in schools. There are several programmes available. Mindfulness in Schools project, the Headspace for Kids project, Mind Up was created by Goldie Hawn, the actress, and is working in a lot of schools internationally. And the reason for this coming out into schools now, being more and more popular, is that there’s now lots of scientific evidence that breathing exercises and sense awareness exercises are known now to reduce anxiety, to increase children’s resilience and to give children and adults clearer, more productive thinking.
And the photograph of the person that’s there is Chris Ludlow, who is one of our ITE lead at University College, Birmingham, is a published author in the field of children’s mindfulness and has created the Thought Bubbles website, which you can see an image of there. And just to give us a taster of what the sort of thing that we’re suggesting children are experiencing in part of their recovery from all of this, I asked Chris if he would lead us, just to finish off with, in a very short mindfulness exercise. And I’m going to hand over to Chris in order for us to experience that now.
Video presentation: Good afternoon, everyone. And welcome to just a really short mindful breathing exercise. Okay. So first of all, it’s just really important that we’re nice and comfortable, whether we’re sitting down, sitting down on a chair or the floor. Just nice and comfortable. So just take a moment just to get yourself really comfortable. Okay, so when we are comfortable, okay, sitting up nice and straight with lots of air in the lungs. Really, really important. Okay. And then just really slowly taking a few deep breaths. So it’s in through the nose and out through the mouth. In through the nose. And out through the mouth. And as you’re doing this, you can count slowly up to five as you breathe in and then as you breathe out down from five back to one.
Okay, now just gently and slowly, on your next out-breath just close the eyes. And just take a moment. Let your breath return to normal. And just listen carefully to everything that you can hear around you. And then just focus on the breath. The in-breath. And then the out-breath. Just thinking about the in-breath as our stomach goes a little bit harder and the out-breath, as we gently relax. Just take a moment to focus on your breath. And then gently open the eyes.
I hope you enjoyed that. And it’s just something that you can do at any point in the day when you’ve got a spare moment just to re-energise yourself and refocus yourself. Thank you.
Roy: And just in summary, I feel inspired. I feel we have a unique opportunity to work together to create this educational approach that will effectively prepare children to lead valuable, productive lives, where all their talents and interests are nurtured. Thank you very much.