Statutory Remote Learning – A PEN Response

A mother and her son decorate cakes

Statutory Remote Learning – A PEN Response

Yesterday it became a legal requirement to provide remote learning to any student who cannot attend school due to COVID-19.  It is clear that it is more important than ever for schools and families to work together.

We’ve been talking to the schools we work with about what this means for teachers and parents. There’s no doubt that we all agree that education is a priority, but in the current circumstances we must be careful about the cost to teachers and families. It’s all about balance.

With this in mind, we’ve been talking about what ‘Home Learning’ really is. All our work at PEN champions the opportunities for learning at home and within the community. There are so many opportunities for learning as children go through their daily lives but much of it isn’t measured or even acknowledged. In fact, some of it might be missed, rushed or ignored when formal learning provided by schools is prioritised. We’ve heard much about blended learning, but what does that actually mean?

Covid 19 has had an impact on us all, but families with school age children have experienced some of the most upheaval in terms of their daily lives. Families have experienced high levels of uncertainty and challenge, with many families now experiencing greater uncertainty and stress than at the outset of the pandemic. Parents have returned to work if they can, but are reporting high levels of anxiety about their children being sent home from school. Not least is the confusion about the isolation and testing rules, and of the possibility of their children or themselves becoming ill. How, in this already very stressful situation, are parents supported to deliver learning at home?

Looking at the guidance there is an expectation that work to be completed at home should be in electronic form, or where this isn’t possible, a paper pack sent home. What has become increasingly evident is the digital divide, children being unable to access the learning sent home as they do not have access to a device or the internet.

Schools are putting a herculean effort into making this happen, but many of our members are telling us that engagement is at an all time low. This isn’t surprising, aside from the many barriers that may exist, there is also isolation burn out, parents’ initial enthusiasm for home schooling hasn’t been sustainable.

Homework, completed independently or with parental support, is of course, a legitimate activity designed to embed learning done in school. Ever a controversial subject, homework for homework’s sake is never a good thing, but research does suggest, that used to reinforce and revise skills learned in the classroom, homework with parental support increases educational achievement. But this is not a tool for learning new concepts. Parents are not teachers and school cannot be replicated at home.

The schools we have been talking to have been making fantastic teaching materials available online but are seeing little interaction. What they’re seeing is that families just can’t deliver classroom style teaching at home. We asked them some questions:
  • How are you communicating with parents and care givers; when did you last have a telephone or face to face conversation?
  • How well do you know your parents and care givers; are you working to their strengths?
  • What are children learning OTHER than completing the school work they’ve been set?
  • And most importantly, are you building learning into what can easily happen at home? Are you taking advantage of naturally occurring and family-led learning?
Our understanding of blended learning is a mix of self-led learning online and classroom based teaching. But is that all it is? Is there another element that we’re leaving out? Sitting at a computer completing an online maths task might be an impossible ask for some families. But involving their child in planning, preparing and cooking a meal may already be happening in that same home. As a teacher, can you support that parent in recognising the teaching moments of the task? Can you support the child to reflect on what they have learned? Are you measuring the outcome?

This is the first in a series of blogs that will look at ways to support schools in their provision of home learning materials and in their engagement with parents and care givers. We’d love you to join in the conversation (you can do so here) and share your experiences of teaching  and parental engagement during lockdown. Get in touch with us at or on social media @PENetworkUK.

COVID-19: Continued PEN support

In this challenging time, when schools are working hard to put together home learning resources, we’d like to reassure you that PEN is working as hard as ever to help you support your families. We are developing a range of Family Home Learning Activity Sheets based around the curriculum.

The resources will be suitable for all primary age children, the first of which will be available at the end of this week, with more available throughout the crisis period.

Whilst we understand that schools and parents will be keen for learning to continue at home, we feel it is important to acknowledge the huge amount of change happening. Families need time to adjust to living, working and playing together, so they can establish new routines that keep all members of the family safe and well.

PEN has a history of working closely with schools to respond to need, so please get in touch with us if there’s something we can do for you. In this unprecedented situation, good parental engagement is more important than ever and we’re here to support you in any way we can.

If you haven’t already, consider signing up for our mailing list or becoming a member.

We’ll be trialling resources via membership in advance of sharing them with schools and community organisations. Our membership is reduced to £150 for the duration of the crisis and gives access to lots of other resources you might also find useful in this difficult time.

Latest activity figures on children and young people published

Children’s activity levels are on the rise, according to Sport England’s second annual Active Lives Children and Young People Survey.

The report, covering the academic year 2018/19, was published in December, with figures showing an increase of 3.6% in the number of children in England doing an average of 60 minutes or more of physical activity a day.

That means that 46.8% of the nation’s children and young people are meeting the recommended level, with the increase driven by more out of school activity – including increases in active play, team sports and walking.

Find out more and read the report here.

We are recruiting again for Active Families schools!

New schools needed for our successful Sport England Lottery Funded project!

Following a successful trial by 9 schools across Manchester, Parental Engagement Network is looking for 30 more Manchester schools to benefit from this fantastic funded project for start dates in September 2019, January 2020 and May 2020. To apply, please fill in and return the application form to by 10th May. Any queries please ring 0161 860 5039 Active Families Project application form Recruitment Info  

This project is for your school if you want to:

  • Improve the health and wellbeing of families at your school
  • Improve children’s fitness levels and their readiness to learn
  • Develop the skills of parent volunteers to support other families and the school
  • Increase parental engagement and support the school’s community cohesion
  • Develop a longer term sustainable model to enable families to get more active together in a fun and accessible way
  • Enable families to develop positive networks and reduce isolation.
This project is aimed primarily at families from low socio-economic groups (parents whose highest qualification is GCSE, low paid workers or those on benefits). If these families are a minority at your school, we may still able to work with you but we would have to ensure that mainly the target families would access the project.

What does the project involve?

We will train a member of staff and three parent volunteers from each school as Family Activity Champions and enable them to facilitate groups of families to commit to becoming more active together, through:
  • A series of fun after-school activity sessions for families of all abilities
  • A free equipment pack for families to take home and use together
  • A series of home activity sheets, where families are given activities or challenges to do together at home to try and increase their regular daily activity levels
  • Prizes and certificates.

PEN will provide:

  • A briefing for a senior leader and training for the staff supporting the project
  • A complete pack of resources, support materials and tip sheets for unlimited use throughout the school
  • Ongoing support and visits to the school
  • Opportunities to recognise, celebrate and publicise nationally the successful outcomes at your school
  • NVQ accreditation for Champions (optional)
  • Network opportunities for Active Families Schools
  • A reduced membership offer

If your application is successful we will need you to:

  • Allocate a member of SLT to have an overview of the project and support its development including enabling recruitment, publicity, monitoring, evaluation and celebration of successful families
  • Allocate one or two members of staff to be involved with the project including helping to facilitate the after school sessions at the school, supporting the Family Activity Champions and encouraging families to do the home and community activities
  • Recruit appropriate parents to be Champions and support them in attending the training
  • Identify and encourage targeted families to attend the sessions
  • Provide a hall, gym or suitable venue for approx. 10 families to do activities immediately after school one day a week for at least 18 weeks of the year
  • Ensure staff attend the briefings, training and review sessions
  • Make some equipment available for sessions. e.g. balls, beanbags and bibs
  • In the second year, pay a small contribution towards resources (approx. £300) out of the school’s Sports Premium funding
  To apply, please fill in and return the application form to by 10th May. Any queries please ring 0161 860 5039 Active Families Project application form Recruitment Info