EEF Blog: New year, new lockdown - a renewed challenge

EEF learning behaviours specialist and current secondary school SENCo, Kirsten Mould, looks at how schools can support their pupils to develop effective routines and learning habits during partial school closures...

We’ve been here before. Schools are open, but most pupils are starting their term with home learning. Conversations with pupils and their families have already begun about how remote learning was conducted and accessed last year. 

We may have had a chance to share challenges and celebrate positives, though we know that forming effective habits for independent learning takes time. 

First of all, we want to know our pupils are well and safe. Beyond that, our priority is that pupils turn up and check in to their learning. If we call home or email, we want them to answer. If an online lesson (live or recorded) is timetabled, we want them to log on. When work is set, we want them to have a go and try their best so that purposeful feedback can be given. 

This may seem simple. However, we are aware of varied health concerns, we are conscious of the differences in our children’s home learning spaces and routines, and we are sensitive to the needs of parents and carers juggling their work and childcare responsibilities.

The challenge from 2020 has been renewed. Perhaps one of the saving graces of the latest lockdown is that we now have ample muscle memory for dealing with such upheaval. As with the last lockdown, teachers will be working hard to ensure that plans are swiftly put in place to re-establish pupils’ routines around independent learning.

How can we support our pupils to form new, positive habits?

How difficult did it feel as teachers to set the alarm and get up on the first day of term?

I suspect re-acclimatising to remote learning feels no different for our pupils. To support them in forming good habits, we want to help our pupils and their families to plan and protect regular times for home learning. It might be there is one place in the house, where there is space and basic equipment to learn. Distractions (such as phones) should be encouraged to be put aside.

How can we help pupils create a study routine?

We know that identifying a specific and regular time to start work – for example, straight after breakfast – is helpful. Agreeing a way to show/share work when it is done – with a parent or uploaded to their teacher – is also a good routine.

Of course, some pupils will need more support with this than others. Sharing checklists, setting up scripted conversations, modelling with short videos, and email buddy systems between tutors, teaching assistants and other teachers, can help to scaffold and model these routines.

Supporting daily routines

The EEF has produced a range of Covid-19 resources for schools, including checklists for home learning, tips to maximise the benefit of shared reading (translated in Bengali, Lithuanian, Polish, Punjabi and Urdu), and many other supportive tools.

In addition, we have updated our Guide to Supporting School Planning, which synthesises an array of accessible and actionable evidence for schools. Already downloaded over 50,000 times, it can be used by schools to reflect upon their practice at this most challenging time.

EEF Guide to Supporting School Planning, 2021

EEF Guide to Supporting School Planning, 2021

Practical, evidence-based guidance to support schools in this busy and unpredictable academic year

In the coming weeks, we will be sharing more school case studies and ‘Voices from the Classroom’ videos, charting the resilient and resourceful efforts of teachers in schools across the country. In these challenging times, we can truly gain from such collaboration.