The Department for Education recently published a new framework to help schools and further education providers review their remote education provision during the pandemic. 

The initial guidance on how to use the framework has been somewhat vague, but the DfE emphasise that it is not a compliance tool. Rather, its intended use is to support internal discussions within schools and Trusts on how things are going for their pupils and staff, what their organisations are doing well, and what would be appropriate next steps.

By now, there is no shortage of documents advising schools on ways to organise their remote learning provisions. Ofsted’s recently-published What’s Working Well in Remote Education, as well as Remote Education: Expectations, Evidence and Experience by the CST and Making remote education work by Edurio are just a few examples. The new DfE framework does not attempt to be another resource of this type; instead, you could view it as a proposed template for SLT discussions on remote education based on previously published DfE guidelines and known evidence.

Next, let’s briefly look at the six main themes of the framework.

Leadership - having a clear vision and plan for remote education provision as well as systems to monitor its quality and impact on staff and pupils. The framework highlights the importance of clear communication among adults - staff, governors, parents - regarding the school’s arrangements for remote education.

Remote education context and pupil engagement - access and engagement are two prerequisites for enabling learning. The framework invites schools to understand what resources and skills their pupils and families need in order to be able to connect to learning from their homes, and how schools can help provide those.

Curriculum planning and delivery - this theme looks at everything related to the actual learning process: the curriculum, minimum provision, resources, and assessment. It seems that the framework spells out a fairly demanding vision for schools. At the same time, it reminds that in many ways the quality of remote education depends on the same principles as in-school provision.

Capacity and capability - this theme focuses on the support available to staff to enable them to fulfil their roles. The three main types of support the framework emphasises are clear guidance on effective practice, availability of material and professional development resources, and engagement in broader professional networks with other schools and organisations.

Communication - although an element in other themes as well, communication is also included as a separate theme. Here, the framework reiterates the importance of clear expectations, particularly for pupils and parents, and of the need to maintain the school community despite the circumstances.

Safeguarding and wellbeing - the final theme covers pupil safety and wellbeing, and lists aspects of remote education provision for which schools really should strive to develop a clear strategy. These include clear reporting routes, online safety, data safety, monitoring pupil wellbeing, and expectations for behaviour.

Overall, this list of themes aligns well with our research at Edurio before the pandemic as well as now. Throughout this past year, we have been supporting Trusts across England in their work to better understand each of these themes with the help of our surveys. 

We are now providing a free bundle of remote learning surveys to any school or trust who wants to identify areas of improvement for its remote learning provision, support pupil and staff well-being, and stay connected to the school community through these times.

Our research has highlighted leadership and communication as two particularly impactful factors. The data from the Edurio Covid-19 Impact Review that was conducted in 277 schools across England at the end of summer term 2020 shows that good leadership and clear communication were the top criteria which affected staff and parent confidence in their school’s response to Covid-19. Staff and parents who found leadership communication clear were more likely to feel positive about their school’s response to the disruption than those who felt the communication had been unclear.

Clarity of learning tasks affected pupil self-assessment of their academic progress to a similar extent.

Any framework is only as helpful as the actions it supports. The new DfE framework offers a good structure for internal discussions with a focus on possible next steps for each school, and we welcome its emphasis on the key elements of leadership and clear communication. It is important, though, that this stays as a supporting document and does not in fact become a tool for external accountability during a time of crisis.

If your trust or school needs support monitoring your remote learning provision and the wellbeing of your whole-school community, our free bundle of pupil, parent, and staff long and pulse surveys and can be accessed here.