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A team led by Dr. Jacqueline Baxter of The Open University Business School, in collaboration with Professor Alan Floyd from the University of Reading, has been awarded nearly £300,000 by the UKRI to investigate online learning and strategic planning through and post lockdown in English secondary schools.

The project investigates challenges and opportunities within the strategic management of online provision of learning in English secondary schools through COVID-19 and beyond. The project team are working with three key partners, Schools North East, The Key and Derby Teaching Schools Alliance. The research will look at how school leaders strategically manage and plan for online provision of learning through the pandemic and beyond. It will address how they've coped with and continue to manage particular challenges such as the lack of equipment, absence of learners from school, and to provision for special education needs and disability students.

During the lockdown, schools developed online learning strategies, but to date, there is little or no knowledge how these strategies have been led and managed or how they have or will address the needs of disadvantaged pupils who are recognised to be disproportionately impacted by school closures. The projects deliverables or outputs include:

  • a website, which forms a central point for project news and outputs
  • regular magazines published throughout 2021 sharing findings
  • a series of webinars throughout 2021 on strategic innovations in online learning
  • a policy briefing
  • a free 10 hour online short course launching in spring 2022
  • ‘Strategic planning for online learning - a whole school approach’ on The Open University OpenLearn channel

Education has been one of the worst affected services as a result of COVID-19. And it is vital that schools learn from their experiences and are able to strategically plan for the continuation of restrictions and social distancing. Because of this and future pandemics, preparing leaders at all levels to take a more strategic view of online teaching is key to ongoing school development and will benefit staff, learners, and society not only in relation to pandemic situations, it's equally in order to complement existing provision at secondary level.

The findings of the project will be of key significance to practitioners, policy makers, and school leaders both UK wide and internationally and will specifically employ various dissemination methods in order to benefit the social and environmental impacts of COVID 19 both in the UK and beyond. If you're a headteacher or a CEO of a multi-year Academy trust and would like to complete a survey or take part in a short online anonymised interview, please contact Dr. Jacqueline Baxter at jacqueline.baxter@open.ac.uk.

A team led by Dr Jacqueline Baxter of The Open University Business School has been awarded nearly £300,000 to investigate online learning and strategic planning through, and post, lockdown in English secondary schools.

‘Leading school learning through Covid-19 and beyond’, in collaboration with Professor Alan Floyd from the University of Reading, is believed to be the first project of its kind in the UK, and potentially worldwide. This is an 18-month project, which began in December 2020

The project will look at how school leaders strategically manage and plan for online provision of learning, through the pandemic and beyond. It will address how they have coped with, and continue to manage, particular challenges such as a lack of equipment, absence of learners from school, and provision for Special Educational Needs (SEN) students.

Meet the team

This is quite an exceptional project involving interviews with leaders from 50 state secondary schools in England, along with questionnaires to a further 4,000. The OU is very well placed to carry out this work given our long history of supported online learning. I believe this is the first time this particular issue has been investigated in the UK – key data from the OECD (2020) reports school provision of online learning among OECD countries to be very patchy. This project will offer valuable insights into the short, medium and long-term planning for online learning in secondary education internationally.

The pandemic has presented an unprecedented challenge to school leaders in England, something which has only intensified as pupils have returned to full-time schooling. The UK Government warned that schools will close if two or more cases of the virus appeared within a fortnight and that schools must offer ‘a high standard of remote/blended learning’.

During the first national lockdown, schools developed online learning strategies. There is little or no knowledge of how these strategies have been led and managed or how they have, or will, address the needs of disadvantaged pupils who are recognised to be disproportionately impacted by school closures.

Dr Jacqueline Baxter
The Open University Business School

The project team will be working with three key partners – Schools North East, The Key, and Derby Teaching Schools Alliance.

Get involved

If you are a Headteacher or a CEO of a Multi Academy Trust and would like to take part in a short online, anonymised interview, please contact us.


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Blog and articles

illustration of a teenager learning online

Leading school learning through Covid-19 and beyond – initial results from our online survey

This post outlines initial findings from the survey section of our mixed methods study exploring how school leaders strategically manage and plan for the online provision of learning through the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.

11th June 2021
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