Schooling: Teachers from top UK Private Schools say period of online learning helped to close the ‘Achievement Gap’ for children who need more time to learn

Today we meet the teachers who explain why they have switched jobs from traditional schools to join future-led online schools amidst the pandemic. Online independent senior school, Minerva’s Virtual Academy, has made several more, new appointments of teachers this term who have each chosen to move away from roles at traditional schools, in favour of teaching pupils remotely.  The rising number of teachers embracing new learning technologies, suggests that the recent period of online learning is impacting the future of education on many different levels.  As well as coming from several state schools across the country, a number of teachers have joined the Academy from top UK private schools including Wycombe Abbey in Buckinghamshire and Bethany Independent Boarding School in Kent, to name a few.  For many teachers, the pandemic has also uncovered gaps in educational success for those children who simply need more time to learn.

Katy Williams previously taught Geography at Bethany Independent School in Kent for eight years and has recently joined the Academy, she spoke about why she chose to move to teaching online, “Aside from the greater flexibility that teaching remotely affords, the pandemic and prolonged period of school closures really forced me to re-evaluate just how important teachers are and how creative they have been to adapt to all of the technological and educational change and still deliver engaging learning.  I love teaching and remote learning has opened up a whole new world for me both from a career and lifestyle perspective.  I began to feel that digital learning would play a much wider role in education in the future and, I could also see that we had only scratched the surface in terms of its potential to deliver more personalised learning to children.  I could see that the role of the teacher was changing, and I knew that online education was something I wanted to be part of.  During lockdown, I could also see first-hand, how many pupils were benefiting from having more time and space to learn, without the time-driven constraints of the traditional classroom setting.”

 

Lawrence Tubb has spent 16 years in top UK boarding schools, he is Deputy Headmaster at Minerva’s Virtual Academy and was previously ex-Head of Music and Pastoral at Wycombe Abbey, he said “The flexibility and accessibility I have witnessed through online learning is hugely inspiring.  Continuity of education is crucial right now and pupils should be encouraged to flourish emotionally and academically in a way that supports and nurtures achievement. While some will absolutely thrive within the realms of the traditional classroom, my journey into online learning has highlighted many different perspectives around how learning is delivered and how it can be used effectively across both traditional and online schooling in the future.  We are seeing greater self-reliance in terms of pupils taking ownership of their learning and the greater confidence that comes from children who are learning successfully at their own pace. There is still much for us to uncover, but few would disagree that virtual learning in education is here to stay.”

 

Lana Carroll, who previously taught at The Leigh Academy in Dartford for five years and has worked in schools across London for the last 21 years, has also joined the Academy, she said “Teaching online is an exciting new challenge.  You actually have to improve your teaching skills beyond the traditional classroom, to ensure you connect with your pupils because you can’t simply rely on body language or physical presence to generate engagement during a lesson.  I’ve also found that teaching remotely in smaller groups, as opposed to a class of 30 children, allows for more personalised learning, which means I get to spend more time with each and every pupil.” 

 

 

 

Emily Hawkins is also a teacher and mentor at Minerva’s Virtual Academy.  Speaking from experience, she said: “There is a great deal of flexibility for pupils learning online. I have noticed that the classroom becomes much bigger in a sense, because you have the internet so readily to hand.  Probably one of the biggest areas of change I’m seeing while teaching online, is that pupils are able to follow a lesson at their own pace, the benefits of which have been emphasised during the recent period of remote schooling.  The truth is children don’t all learn at the same speed regardless of ability.  For some pupils, the 55-minute lesson format simply doesn’t give them enough time to really absorb the information they are given. Online schooling gives them the chance to re-read, re-watch and re-write any material as many times as they need to, to ensure they properly understand the lesson; if they don’t, they can ask their teacher for more support.”

 

Hugh Viney, Headmaster at Minerva’s Virtual Academy agreed, “We are definitely hearing a lot more traditional schoolteachers talking up the benefits of online learning. Learning has never been a ‘one size fits all’ approach, it just doesn’t work that way.  During lockdown every child was exposed to learning online and had the flexibility to find their own path to achievement. In the classroom everything happens at once, for every child in that moment, regardless of ability, even though we are all different and work at varying speeds, so the potential to feel ‘not quite so bright as the person sat next to you’ is far greater and can be counterproductive to achievement. Every child should have the opportunity to be their ‘exceptional self’ regardless of how learning is delivered.  If a child needs more time to achieve the same results, give them more time.”

 

Minerva’s Virtual Academy is an affordable, online independent school, for pupils aged 12 to 18 years.  With its outstanding virtual learning platform, specialist teaching community and commitment to pastoral care, the Academy combines the best of private education with 21st Century home schooling. With a spirit of community at its core, pupils attend live, interactive lessons with specialist subject teachers, in a virtual classroom environment where they are encouraged to apply their learning and work collaboratively with peers. The school also delivers weekly assemblies online, a range of extra-curricular activities, wellbeing sessions and one to one mentoring, as well as optional in-person meet ups and whole school events.  Fostering the development of self-study skills, pupils are empowered to work at their own pace and schedule, nurturing a culture of resilience and self-reliance, while equipping them to succeed and flourish in an increasingly global and technologically driven world.

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