With COVID-19 slowly plaguing the UK, PM Boris Johnson, announced on the 18th of March that all schools would be closed by the end of Friday 20th. This would hopefully ‘apply further downward pressure' on the upward curve. Aside from those whose parents are keyworkers, students were soon bound home. The emergency announcement on the 24th March meant that the UK went into pseudo-lockdown, with only the essential shops being allowed to stay open and the citizens of the UK were permitted to leave their home for four reasons: shopping for basic necessities, a form of exercise, to care for a vulnerable person and to travel to and from work if necessary. With all these restrictions in place, most schools have turned to ‘remote learning’ or online classes, but are these a good temporary replacement for school lessons?

Currently at the Lady Eleanor Holles (LEH), Hampton School and many other schools, the medium which is being used to educate students is via Firefly, ‘an educational technology company… that provides virtual learning platforms to hundreds of schools around the world’. It is thought that normal school timetables are being used across schools. The idea would be that a teacher would set a task on Firefly, with a task description that tells you what you would be doing during your lesson. Whilst on paper, it seems like an effective method of teaching, many questions have been asked if it really is good for the education of students, especially for those in Year 10 and 12.

For subjects that are conceptually difficult to understand such as chemistry or biology, many of students have complained that by just filling out the sheets and reading however number of pages in the textbook is not enough to actually understand for example organic chemistry due to the sheer complexity of it. Additionally, some students work far better in the classroom than at home. Whether it is because they prefer the working environment in school or it is easier to learn and absorb facts with a qualified teacher to help you, the home environment is not always suitable for everyone, especially if you do not have a dedicated workspace.

The more pressing issue is, for those who are not as well off will have to face the challenge of trying to learn their GCSE or A-Level course without many or any resources. They may completely rely on the school computers, the wide array of book in the library or just maybe that all their subject textbooks are stored in school and are no longer accessible to them. Due to the ‘strict new curbs on life’, many students will be unable to learn new content. And for those who are kinetic learners, it will be especially difficult for them as there would be fewer practical activities to do since home does not have the appropriate resources.

On an informal poll done on Instagram, asking ‘Is remote learning is effective?’, 51 out of 63 voters replied with ‘no’, since you ‘don’t get as much done because there are stuff you can’t do with remote learning’. Auriel Beveridge, a student of LEH made a point that ‘discussion is non existent and when [you] send the teachers questions [via email] they take hours to reply’. Firefly had faced technical issues on the first two days of the working week when schools were shut, making it impossible for those schools who were using Firefly to learn or set any work. The 12 students who votes that remote learning was indeed effective argued back that ‘it’s only effective if people have enough motivation to learn’, hinting that students are the problem here, not the remote learning.

Student wellbeing may be worse at home when school are some students safe zone where they can interact with their friends, away from the clutches of an abusive household. Or, they find that staying at home for long periods of time slowly deteriorates their self-worth without the constant reassurance from their friends. Furthermore, students who attend school counselling session may struggle significantly without their scheduled session with the counsellor. With some students’ wellbeing gradually crumbling, it is near certain that their academic performance at home, with little contact to teachers, will not be at the best that it could be. It is also inevitable for all who are under this lockdown to have their mental health worsen, even if they were before free from any mental health conditions. Due to students being confined in our homes with little sense of community, little human contact and limited physical contact, this could result in the nation coming out of the lockdown with an array of mental health issues that will need to be helped with, potentially leading to another massive strain on the NHS but rather on ventilators and beds, it will be on counsellors, psychiatrists and therapists.

There are ways to mitigate the issues from remote learning. As a Year 12 student, whilst I am personally not keen on the idea of having video conferences with my teachers as a substitute for lessons, it seems to be the only other option which is better than the current system where you are blindly set work, either ‘way too much or way too little’. The video conferences could possibly create, however poor it is, a sense of community online, seeing your friends faces daily like a normal school.There still complications, mainly on the safeguarding of the students, as it is up in the air whether teachers being able to see the home environment of their students is appropriate or not.

Albeit the negative response from the students about the remote learning experience, we should be thankful that there is effort being put in for us to at least be given the opportunity to learn at home, even if it is a little difficult.

Written by Jane Lee