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2020-2021 in education has been like no other. Education has seen a huge step change forced upon it over the past year through COVID-19. The education world, by nature, is dynamic however it has been required to flex, adapt, and refine delivery and activities. Here in the UK, alongside our international colleagues, we approach the anniversary of COVID-19 restrictions. Resilience and determination are phrases persistent throughout our daily interactions and the most robust individuals are having to find the positivity to persevere with conviction. Talking to our schools’ community here are some of the emerging trends for 2021: Flexibility in school models and online delivery The education system has seen a significant shift over the past year with glimpses of permanent advancement within our educational community practice. Although there are challenges, digital learning in education has leapt forward at least a decade and it looks as if “learning anytime, anywhere” has staying power. Terms such as blended learning and flipped classroom have been shared across the education community for some time, with varying successful attempts to formally embed them within the school working day. In reality, we witnessed transformational change of our schools to a flexible virtual model overnight requiring investment in both human resource alongside hardware and software. Given the significant time and investment spent, it is difficult to imagine the modules, systems and success stories that have worked well are not here to stay. We have seen a massive shift in teaching delivery models requiring flexibility in the structure of daily school activities. Despite a focus on schools shifting to a virtual environment and the challenges recognised, we are now identifying a large proportion of students who have thrived in these virtual environments. Microlearning There has been frequent debate regarding the need to prepare our learners for future roles that may not exist yet. A growing trend may be the answer to prepare our work force of the future - microlearning. A recent article published by Pearson shared evidence of a decline in our attention spans and reduced ability to process large amounts of information. Microlearning is a series of engaging lessons of a few minutes, with follow up activities to embed the “nugget”. Providing our learners with short bursts of learning has proven to increase retention of information. According to the Journal of Applied Psychology, microlearning makes the transfer of learning 17% more efficient. There is a growing investment in this approach to modern learning and this trend has filtered through to the education environment. Wellbeing of staff and students The pressures of remote teaching, grappling with arrangements to keep learners safe whilst looking after our community’s wellbeing has never been more of a priority. With growing reports of screen fatigue, schools are adapting to give their schools, teachers and pupils a break, flexing their daily school structures and recognising the importance of screen away time. Schools have shared strategies they have implemented to support their community. These include: · Pairing up, buddying and virtual coffee catch ups are encouraged, mutual support networks both with learners and teachers can influence positivity, · Ensuring that dedicated time for educators’ professional development and mental wellness awareness are prioritised. These restorative practices can contribute to wellbeing and resilience, · One school in Hertfordshire, The Knights Templar School recognises the concern for teacher and learner “burnout” and have intentionally built in “a press pause” weekly within their timetabling, one afternoon a week, encouraging parents, learners and teachers to step away from the screen and do something different. Reports of significant learner trauma are on the rise due to being separated from school friends. The repercussions of the pandemic, such as job losses, illnesses and even deaths, will require additional support within the school ecosystems. The importance of wellbeing within the education community with continue to remain a priority for the long term. Bridging the Gap How far our learners have been impacted by the continued COVID-19 academically continues to be assessed. The disruption and support requirement of essential skills recovery for “lost learning” of our children provides a huge challenge. Here in the UK, catch up funding has been identified to support bridging the gap of our disadvantaged learners. Tuition Partners have been allocated funding to provide a robust online individualised home tuition programme alongside state school education. Funded through the UK Governments National Tutoring Programme, it will enable individuals and small group catch up tuition support. It is targeted for pupils who are disadvantaged or struggling through personal circumstances, or lack of academic input during lockdown. You can find out more about one of the Tuition Partners’ support here. Evidence indicates personalised learning support alongside and in collaboration with the traditional school teaching is providing impact to improve student outcomes, indications are bolt on targeted tuition support is here to stay. Twilight Insets Professional Development Flexibility around offering virtual development has filtered into professional development for teachers and leaders. Many traditional whole day staff training on inset days have been disaggregated and replaced by short 90-minute training sessions and are available online and recorded for on demand access. Staff are given flexibility to choose which sessions they need and attend with a commitment to participate in at least four sessions a term. Some schools have also kept the traditional inset days timetabled, building on the “Press Pause” concept to encourage further time to step away from the screen. Engaging staff with an impactful session, with more variety, which can also be implemented in the following weeks, is proving to be a popular solution, and also allows for opportunities for small teams to collaborate. As schools start to emerge from the pandemic and consider what trends are here to stay, we are witnessing an educational ecosystem evolution. Have schools, inadvertently, taken a step away from the structures of yesterday and made a giant leap forward for our future education? As schools embed these trends within their historical structures and systems, has the pandemic given them the capacity to make an impact to future proof their students? Has this been the International Education Communities “Press Pause” to improve student outcomes and school operations for the long term?