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Remote Education – Portsmouth Education Settings’ Pandemic Response

A Blog by Debbie Anderson, Head of School Improvement and Early Years


As a result of the Coronavirus global pandemic there has been a pivotal need for schools, colleges and education settings to operate ‘remote education’ (teaching and learning where the instructor and learner are separated by time and distance, and therefore does not occur in the usual classroom setting together).


Initially in March 2020, when schools were forced to close their doors to most pupils, except those of critical workers and the most vulnerable, the response was highly reactive.  It was felt important, at short notice, to provide learners with some educational materials and curriculum provision, but not necessarily a continuation of what had been being taught at that time in the classroom.  This changed after a few weeks following the Easter holidays, when generally it was acknowledged that absence from school would be a longer term issue, so schools tended to at that point deliver lessons and material that would have been in line with their planned curriculum for the Summer term 2020.  This certainly supported all learners (both in school and at home), when some year groups returned to school from 1st June 2020.  From September 2020 and the full re-opening to all pupils, the teaching and learning offer appeared to be much more bespoke for each school, college or setting with a real focused imperative on moving the education agenda forward for each and every local context and community.


In summary, remote education has evolved immensely since March 2020, with new thinking and ways of working, not only because of the government Continuity Direction from 22nd October 2020 making it a legal obligation for schools to move to remote education when pupils have to self-isolate, but because morally, it is the right thing to do.

Remote education expectations can be found in Guidance for full opening: special schools and other specialist settings DfE Section 5: Contingency planning for remote education.

One key aspect that should not be ignored is that Remote Education does not necessarily always equal Digital Learning.  Although, the distance between instructor and learner needs to be bridged and there are undoubtedly many benefits to using the technology that is available, the situation is more complex than that.




 For families


         For education settings


  • Parents are not generally trained education professionals like teachers and support staff
  • Responding to constantly changing situations – guidelines, staff and pupils in/out of school
  • Family life, siblings, parents working from home too
  • Adapting the curriculum (the substance of what is taught)
  • Access to technology – devices, connectivity, competing demands
  • Technology – upskilling staff, staff access to devices, internet stability
  • Resources to support lessons & learning that would normally be in the classroom
  • Safeguarding – protocols to keep everyone safe, social media gossip and comparisons
  • Education methods different to when parents were at school themselves
  • New terminology (e.g. blended, hybrid, flipped) and methodologies
  • Cultural and/or language barriers


  • Making learning age and stage appropriate e.g. early years need practical and play experiences
  • Some children may need additional support to access technology or for the learning itself
  • Providing hard copies of learning materials that some children/families want or need
  • Anxieties – about family, friends, the virus itself, financial, the future
  • Providing assessment and feedback to avoid misconceptions and to praise successes




Clearly as remote education has evolved over the last nine months, much has been learned on all sides.  Now that everyone is more familiar and accustomed to the digital aspect of education that has become very much a part of our Covid lives, refinements are being made, particularly in the area of meeting the individual needs of each and every learner.  The requirement to ensure pupils and students with SEND can access remote education is exactly the same as it is for all other pupils and students in all types of school, college or setting, although naturally teaching and learning needs to be tailored for individuals through differentiation (e.g. content, process, amount, support, timing).  Senco’s, teachers, specialists and support staff are all mindful of responding to targets from individual support plans or education, health and care plans for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities, plus children who may experience other barriers to learning.


Many educational platforms that are commonly used include a wide range of free accessibility features.  For example, voice-to-text and text-to-speech conversion, or different viewing formats to support pupils with dyslexia and other special educational needs.  Advice for pupils who may be deaf or hard of hearing is available from the National Deaf Children’s Society through a ‘Deaf friendly remote learning: a checklist for teachers’.  Portsmouth Ethnic Minority Achievement Service (EMAS) has also provided education professionals with advice, tips & guidance for English as an Additional Language (EAL) pupils & families.


It is clear that both mainstream and specialist settings will need to work with parents, families and carers to agree an ambitious yet pragmatic approach to supporting children and young people with a range of needs to access appropriate remote learning and support where they are not able to be in their setting, school or college.  On-going communication is vital and never has the partnership between home and education been more necessary or more reciprocal.

Remote education this year has opened our eyes and driven education to new possibilities with the online technological teaching and learning that will become part of our embedded day to day educational practice but also the future, for our children and young people of the 21st century.  However, there is no-one size fits all approach to remote education and we should always always take into account the circumstances of the setting and its pupils/families, students and staff.


Debbie Anderson (Head of School Improvement and Early Years)                                                  14.12.2020

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