Continued education amidst a global pandemic
Author: James Madine, Progress Schools CEO
Since the beginning of the pandemic young people have been subject to the social and economic repercussions of the virus. The traditional avenues in which students accessed their educations have been turned upside down. Schools have been faced with challenges and obstacles that have altered the delivery of their curriculums, and educational institutes have been forced to become more flexible and adapt their approaches to teaching with virtual learning being at the forefront of education in 2021.
While institutes are putting all the necessary processes in place to deliver an effective online curriculum, research suggests that on average, less than 50% of pupils are engaging with their virtual learning. The lowest levels of pupil engagement have been reported in schools with higher levels of deprivation. Limited access to IT equipment has also been linked to decreased student engagement as teachers reported 27% of their students have little or no access to IT at home . It is evident that the most vulnerable children in society have fell victim to the impacts of the pandemic with detrimental effects on their ability to access their education. As educators it is our job to ensure we do everything in our power to support all our students and provide them with an education that prepares them for their futures.
A recent announcement from Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson outlined the additional technological support for young people with no access to IT. He said;
‘’ The government has committed to providing over one million devices to help schools and colleges throughout the pandemic – with over 560,000 of these delivered through 2020. The scale of deliveries has now been increased, with a further 50,000 devices sent to schools across the country on Monday alone. The government will deliver well over 100,000 devices over the course of this week.’’ 
The announcement is welcomed and provides a light in the tunnel during these uncertain times. The promise of additional tech support will provide students with equal opportunities to access their education.
Through a comprehensive virtual learning package schools can continue to provide high quality education and with the additional support promised by the Government no child needs to be left behind as we move into a world without COVID-19. Whilst a curriculum remains at the core of virtual learning, there is a wealth of additional support that can be offered to young people to ensure progression and development, from health and wellbeing sessions to careers advice.
It remains our duty as educators to ensure the development and safety of our students. It is important now more than ever that young people are well prepared for the world after COVID. Although it may not seem like we will return to ‘normal’ any time soon, the time will come, and we must ensure our young people are equipped with the skills and knowledge to succeed.
As a CEO of an Independent Alternative Education Provider, with 11 schools across England, we have remained open throughout to provide a safe learning environment to our students, many of which have Special Education Needs or are classed as vulnerable. Through our virtual learning package, we are enabling students who are learning from home to receive the same level of support as those who remain in school.
It is my hope that educational institutes will emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever, and that the challenges we now face will help place a greater importance on the education of young people for years to come.