The future is digital: Education after lockdown

The future is digital Education after lockdown | The future is digital: Education after lockdown
By Toby Lester | 24th June 2020 | 8 min read

On 18th March 2020, classrooms for up to eight million pupils closed across the UK as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Schools are now amid a phased return; while classrooms still look the same, school life does not. 

Closures have caused a great amount of upheaval for communities. However, not all change is bad. Software to facilitate remote learning has enabled teams to continue supporting students and families. So, what does the future look like for schools and MATs and how are the changes made during closures set to shape education moving forward? 

Flexible engagement 

Thousands of schools waved goodbye to the traditional paper and print newsletter long ago in favour of online communications. Now, schools are relying on digital solutions to do far more than circulating weekly updates.  

Remote teams have adapted their normal communications to deliver targeted messaging to families. For key workers, many schools have changed their processes to enable two-way communications, providing parents with a convenient way of registering their child’s attendance.  

“The government’s free school meals voucher system was announced last month. In this current climate, where more families are potentially struggling, some parents are not even aware that they could be entitled to this benefit. I created a new group on our engagement system and shared the information on how to apply with the Local Authority online application link – information that they may not have otherwise been aware of. As a result, a number of parents have successfully claimed vouchers to support them during this financially difficult period.” Lorraine Reeves, Administrator, Langstone Junior Academy 

Online platforms enable schools to monitor message performance, facilitating a proactive approach to parent engagement. With students working from home, a transparent overview of communications is key for enabling staff to action early interventions where required. 

“We shared staff email addresses and I include my email address on every communication sent to parents. Staying engaged has never been more important and we encourage parents to stay in touch with us, too.”  Lorraine Reeves, Administrator, Langstone Junior Academy 

Systems previously utilised to plan school trips or parents’ evenings are now used to book phone calls and video meetings. Social media platforms, often used for the occasional school update, have also proven helpful during closures, offering an additional platform for engagement and feedback. 

“We're using Parents’ Evening Manager to schedule Zoom calls to parents and we're setting up new parents with children starting in September so that we can communicate with them. We’re also sending using our ParentMail for key workers to book in their children.” - Elsa Williams, Administrator, Copythorne CE Infant School 

Following a return to ‘normal’ school life, the partnerships forged during lockdown will be vital in ensuring students settle back into education. The new habits adopted now see a naturally more proactive approach towards parent engagement long into the future. 

Digital offices 

For operational teams such as IT, facilities and finance, web-based systems have enabled business as usual during closures. Like paperless parent engagement, it is feasible that the same will now be said of operational and administrative processes; student, finance, staff and asset data is all now increasingly managed online, improving flexibility, hygiene and security. 

While some systems are already in place, in many instances, schools and MATS have had little choice but to introduce new platforms to enable business continuity. While unanticipated, dynamic new systems have evidenced the various opportunities of software for growth and flexibility. 

“The lockdown has certainly progressed our digital strategy, particularly around remote working and learning. I believe our reliance on digital resources will continue to grow, even when classroom learning is back to normal. 90% of our staff are working remotely four days a week, at the moment, meaning they’re accessing vital data online in order to do their jobs, be that student, administration or finance. And, as our MAT grows, it’s given us a great understanding as to how the digital strategy could work. Similarly to businesses and organisations in the private sector, I think in my team, at least, we’ve rapidly developed our practices to ensure we don’t need to be based at our desks. Looking forward, this is the level of flexibility we want.” Alex Robbins, Director of IT Services, Durrington MAT 

Throughout lockdown, digital processes have minimised impact to student learning and placed schools at the heart of their communities; software has enabled staff to work remotely, maintain vital operations and even progress plans for growth. 

It comes as no surprise that schools and MATs are realising the importance of flexible software in day-to-day operations. The future remains unclear; short-term closures and a second wave of Covid-19 is entirely possible. Fortunately, technology will enable schools to look forward with confidence, and continue to deliver the best opportunities for their students - and we’re on hand to help them do exactly that! 

To find out how IRIS Education can support your school operations, get in touch

Free insight guide - Keep calm and teach on: School life during a national pandemic

With schools reopening their doors for a phased return, we turn our attention to the real impact of closures: 

  • How did schools fare during closures? 
  • What are the practicalities around social distancing on school grounds? 
  • How has parent engagement changed during closures? 
  • What long-lasting effects have closures had on school communities? 
  • How, if at all, has the sector benefitted from lockdown? 

With insight from schools and families across the country, we investigate what school life looks like during a national pandemic. Download the insight guide.