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Research into how English secondary schools are managing online learning during the pandemic

Teacher and online class

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. The project team has been awarded £295,867.24 by the Economic and Social Research Council, as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to COVID-19 for this 18-month project which begins on Monday 14 December

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.

Dr Baxter said: “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 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (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.

“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.”

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

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