Attitudes to education changed
The economic and social cost of school closures in 2020-21 reversed a 50-year trend towards bigger institutions.
Money initially targeted at helping students make up lost ground got consolidated into the core school funding model in the early-mid 2020s. The enlarged education budget provided for more, smaller-sized, community-based schools, teacher training and recruitment, improved teacher pay, and improved IT and digital capability.
The result: an upswing in the numbers of people applying to be teachers. As well as there being a greater number of opportunities in more attractive schools, teachers’ social status benefited from the pandemic, which demonstrated the importance of schools as social institutions as well as places of learning. And teaching was shown to be a pandemic resilient career, making it more attractive to people looking for security.
COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of digitally assisted remote working and learning. The legacy has been an appreciation among teachers, parents and educationists of the benefits of digitally-enabled remote and flexible learning. All students have a laptop computer as part of their essential school equipment –broadband connection is provided as a ‘social service’ to poorer households, ensuring no child is excluded. Online resources are interwoven with classroom teaching. Schools are connected and video conferencing between classrooms in different schools is common: lessons and student-teacher interactions have comfortably adapted.
More teachers and digital connectivity mean that no school suffers from gaps in teaching expertise. Video conferencing linking students in, sometimes from many schools, creates the class sizes required to sustain curriculum diversity. Students gain the benefits that smaller schools provide – including better individuated teaching, pastoral care and bonds with the local community – but continue to receive the advantages formerly provided only by the biggest schools: broad subject choices and learning opportunities right across the curriculum. For teachers, digitalisation unlocks new ways of doing the job, providing new paths to career progression.