We’re expecting 3 hours work a day from our secondary students. I, as a subject teacher, set 3 hours a week for each class.
Of the work I can check, the engaged students with supportive parents who do well in my subject and normally always do their homework are generally doing the work and talking to me about it, although some are struggling because of technology issues or home/life issues. A few of them are claiming to get it done very quickly, but then I see they haven’t actually done everything. I have always set some ‘stretch’ tasks for them. I do a lot of reassuring with them, but many are doing extra work with their parents.
The students who would normally ask me if they can do their homework in my classroom, or on my computer, while I chat to them about it, are generally checking in every few weeks a bit stressed, I reassure them and say just to try the work for this week, and they maybe do a tiny bit and then vanish again.
The students who rarely do homework, do not generally excel in my subject, and have parents who are difficult to get to parents evening, are generally doing little to nothing. A few of them have picked one thing out of the variety of tasks I set each week, and do that one thing: I am glad, and praise them. Some of them have done nothing that I can see, although they may be doing some of the work where they don’t sign in to an online platform, and not emailing me any of their other work.
It’s not clear to me what I can reasonably be doing to teach them more effectively. I’m spending the rest of my time sorting out pastoral issues for my form, sorting out grades for exam classes, and planning curriculum stuff that I don’t usually have time for. It is definitely less time than I usually spend, but then I usually work 7am to 6pm with a lot of student contact time, including students at breaks, lunches and after school.
In a private school, or with private lessons, I would expect most students to have a decent laptop with good internet connection, access to it whenever they needed during the school day, a quiet place to use it with surrounding space and equipment for them to work, and parents who expected them to get on with it. I was handing out extra exercise books before lockdown because I knew a lot of my students wouldn’t have paper at home. I have had students contact me stressed out because they aren’t able to concentrate in their house because “home just isn’t the sort of place you can work”, and they keep getting interrupted to provide childcare for you ger siblings and suchlike.
Yes, my students need to be in school. We cannot provide most of them with a proper education through distance learning. But we need to be able to do this safely, safely for them and us, and safely for their families. And in all of this, we need to deal with the realities of their lives: that goes for setting work, and that goes for how to avoid spread in the community.
We’re interviewing Year 10s individually after half term, to see how we can support them. A big focus is going to be on checking on their mental health, and assessing any bereavement. I have students who have suffered multiple bereavements since this started.