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Learning remotely

This is not education as usual: learning at home is not like being in school.

A new national lockdown means a shift to remote education for the majority of children and young people.

This shift brings a range of challenges for families. We know that parents and carers will be juggling work with other caring responsibilities and this makes it difficult to support remote education.  We also know that not all learning environments are equal, and some children and young people will need much more supervision and support than others to learn from home. This is not, and cannot be, education as normal.

During these unprecedented times, schools will be working hard to set meaningful and manageable work for their pupils. The below information aims to answer some questions you may have about what remote education should like for your child and how you can support them with their learning at home.

Watch video tips from teachers for parents and carers supporting children’s learning at home

What remote education should schools be providing?

The Government has set a requirement that schools and colleges should provide 3-5 hours of remote learning for pupils each day, depending on the age and Key Stage of your child. However, 3-5 hours of remote learning each day should not equate to 3-5 hours in front of a screen! It also does not mean that teachers should be streaming live lessons in line with a usual school timetable.  

Teachers know that a range of formats – including live and asynchronous (not live) sessions, along with the chance for pupils to do independent work – are the best ways for children and young people to learn remotely. This is supported by the advice given by both the Department for Education and Ofsted.  

For further information on what the NEU and our members think remote education should look like, check out our Remote Education Hub.

How do I find out more about the remote education planned at my child’s school?

Your school should have let you know about the remote learning offer and who will contact you about your child’s learning and wellbeing (please see our advice on ‘Communication with school’).  Further information about remote education should also be available on your school’s website.

Your school will have a remote education policy and other relevant policies, including how they expect staff, pupils’ and parent/carers to behave in relation to remote education. Parents/carers should respect the school’s policies and expectations around remote education.  For example, parents/carers should not attend or record lessons if this is not in line with school policy and procedure. Parents/carers should follow procedures outlined by the school to follow up with their child’s learning and lessons being delivered.

What if my child can’t access online remote learning?

The NEU recognises that many families will find it difficult to access remote learning for a range of reasons, including lack of access to the internet or devices, or children having to share laptops with siblings, parents/carers who are working from home.

If your child isn’t able to access remote education, for whatever reason, we recommend getting in touch with your school or college in the first instance. Your school or college may be able to provide you with a laptop or help you to get online by providing access to free mobile data increases or a 4G wireless router.   

The NEU is encouraging all schools and colleges to provide home learning or creative learning packs, and schools can send home paper copies of worksheets, textbooks and work packs to ensure your child can continue to learn remotely off-line.

We know that unfortunately many schools and colleges have been kept waiting for equipment to give to pupils that was promised to them by the Government, and have experienced last minute delays, changes and retractions of the kit they need for students to learn remotely. The NEU is campaigning to ensure the Government provides all children with access to the equipment they need to learn safely from home.

If you feel that your child needs to be in school because they cannot access online learning they may be able to attend, as long as this would be safe for school staff and other pupils.  Schools are working hard to ensure that those pupils who need to can attend school sites, but it cannot be ‘education as normal’. The school day may have been changed to keep everyone safe and some schools will be operating rota systems or will have changed the times of the school day.

More information about coronavirus and school safety can be found here.


How can I support my child’s remote learning?

Parents/carers are not expected to become teachers and recreate the classroom at home.  Many parents will be juggling caring responsibilities alongside work, which means supporting remote learning is extremely difficult. Some children, particularly younger ones, may need more supervision and support to learn at home.

We think it is best if parents and schools work together to agree the best way to provide remote education and support pupils in different circumstances.

As a starting point, we know that children, young people, and adults are used to routine and having structure can be useful for learning. This is not normal school, so a rigid timetable is not necessary, but a rough outline of a day can help to focus on tasks your child wants or needs to do.  Many schools are running virtual assemblies or form times in secondary schools and these points in the school day can be a useful anchor to set new routines and help your child feel connected to the school.

As the terms goes on, if tasks prove impossible or unmanageable for your child, we encourage you to speak to the appropriate teacher, who might be able to suggest alternative activities. Similarly, if teachers have set completion deadlines that are unrealistic for your child and circumstances, contact your school to discuss adjustments. We believe that timeframes to complete schoolwork should be flexible to take into account different home environments and the fact that many parents/carers will be working and unable to support their child’s learning during normal school hours.

What activities can I encourage my child to do at home to help them stay engaged with learning?

There are lots of ways that parents/carers can help their child stay engaged with learning through enjoyable activities at home.

For younger children, activities like colouring, puzzles, jigsaws, Lego, imaginative play and so on, are highly educational and beneficial to mental health and wellbeing. For older children, encouraging creative learning through drawing, singing and creating music is just as important.

Involving children in household activities, such as cooking, baking, sorting clean washing or tidying, can be an enjoyable way to cover a bit of maths, English and science, for example by weighing ingredients, adding up money, or writing out a recipe.

Watching TV programmes such as documentaries, drama, reading, playing together, and talking, are all educational too. There are many online sites offering material to support remote learning, including the resources page on this website.

Helping your child keep their mind active and happy is also vital for learning. Spending some time each day outdoors for fresh air and exercise will continue to be as important as it was during the last lockdown (further information on supporting your child’s wellbeing is here)

How do I deal with too much on-screen time?

We recognise that you and your child may not be able to cope, physically or emotionally, with too much time on a screen. That is why the NEU recommends that remote education provided by school should include pre-recorded lessons that can be accessed when it is best for the child. Work should also be set that can be completed off-line to help manage screen time, for instance through the use of printed resources or textbooks.

We also recognise that many children, particularly older children, love to use computers and other devices, and, while this can encourage them to do educational activities, too much screen time can lead to headaches, poor sleep, low concentration levels and distractions from internet browsing, for example YouTube, gaming, and social media. 

If this is the case for your child, a limit on screen time may be sensible. The UK’s chief medical officers gives advice to parents/carers on how to manage children’s screen time and social media use.

How do I keep my child safe online?

We ask that parents and students follow the school’s safeguarding policy for lessons provided online, including live streaming lessons. Your school should have communicated with you about what agreed platforms they have put in place to shareinformation and resources for remote learning, since pupils will understand and be familiar with systems used by their school. Parents should use the agreed platforms and we advise that any contact between pupils and teachers should be through a platform provided by the school.

For online use that is outside of the remote education set by the school, Childnet has advice on how to keep your child safe online.

What about assessment?

Formal exams have been cancelled for this summer and grades will be awarded based on teacher assessment. If your child was due to sit exams, their teacher will be supporting them to complete work from their courses. It’s likely young people will be anxious and confused amid the lack of clarity from Government about how they will be assessed and graded this year. The NEU is pressing ministers to publish further clarification for students and schools as soon as possible.

In primary, Government tests have been cancelled, but it is likely teachers will be carrying out their own assessments to gauge pupils progress, using this to inform next steps and to update parents on how they are doing

Further information on exams and assessment is available here.

How will school monitor my child’s progress?

Schools should agree with teachers how they will check pupils’ progress over the lessons, weeks and topics. This will be appropriate and proportionate for your child’s age and education stage. Teachers will exercise their professional judgment on how to provide feedback about your child’s work, as they do in school, in order to help their progress. Feedback will be given within timescales that are manageable for both teacher and pupil.

Video tips for parents and carers

Steph Hancock

Early years teacher Steph Hancock, from Gateshead, offers reassurance to parents and carers supporting children’s learning at home.

Jill Borcherds

Jill Borcherds, a secondary maths teacher from Stevenage talks about how parents and carers can inspire their child’s love of maths and problem solving in everyday life

John Hayes

“Make sure you stay active, don’t try to do too much and try to enjoy yourselves”: John, a primary head teacher from Camden gives his advice to parents supporting children learning at home

John Bryant

“Have fun, laugh and make sure your children enjoy themselves: you’ll never get this time again”: Essex head teacher John Bryant gives his top tips to families on the importance of supporting children’s wellbeing during lockdown.

Chris Dyson

Avoid strict timetables and steer clear of screen time: Chris, a head teacher from Leeds with his practical tips for parents/carers on how to make learning fun.

Louise Moores

Primary teacher Louise Moores shares her tips for families to successfully get through a day of home learning

Abena Akuffo-Kelly

“My profession will work tirelessly to minimise the academic, social and mental effect of this pandemic on all of our children”: teacher and mum Abena offers her reassurance to parents/carers.

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