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updated on 7 October 2020
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School types: All · School phases: All

Whether you have individual pupils self-isolating, or groups of pupils learning from home, find out what steps you can take to help them and their parents/carers overcome barriers to engagement.

You'll need to offer immediate remote education if:

  • Individual pupils or groups of pupils need to self-isolate, but the rest of the school is still open; or
  • There are local or national restrictions that mean most pupils need to stay at home, like during the initial school closures in March

You're expected to have a contingency plan for providing remote education in place by the end of September, which may include strategies to tackle low engagement.

Consider how you can provide support to overcome barriers

How you tackle low engagement with remote learning will depend on the context of your school and what 'good engagement' looks like for you. 

However, many schools have told us the best first step is to speak to parents/carers to find out what barriers they're facing, and then see what steps you can take to overcome them. 

Speak to them over the phone or via video conferencing, as these are the safest options. 

Here are some common challenges you may come across in your discussions, and what steps you can take to try and overcome them.

"My child isn't motivated to work"

Because of the change in structure, feeling of uncertainty, and in some cases the struggle of balancing learning at school and home, pupils may be struggling with motivation and concentration. 

Keep pupils connected with school life 

Staying close to school life in general may have a knock-on effect of keeping pupils engaged in learning too. You could do this by: 

  • Running video assemblies
  • Doing activities that focus on celebrating times shared together

North Liverpool Academy sets pupils weekly challenges on Twitter to keep everyone engaged with the school community. The winners are mentioned online and in the weekly newsletter for parents. They also receive takeaway vouchers as a reward.

Get inspiration from other schools about how they're engaging their school community using methods such as Twitter, YouTube and regular newsletters. 

Keep learning in short bursts or set mini-targets

If pupils are getting distracted easily, encourage them to do short bursts (10-15 minutes) of learning. 

You can also set mini-targets. For instance, doing a couple of spelling words at a time.

Share these tips with parents so that they can support their children too.

"I can't give my child the level of support you're asking for"  

Parents will be doing their best, but because of work or caring responsibilities there may be a limit to how much support they can realistically give.

First, review the type of work you're setting – choose activities that require little parental input so children can work independently.  

If you're a secondary school whose pupils are on a 'tier 2' rota system, consider whether: 

  • In school – you can do activities that require more support from teachers 
  • At home – you can assign activities that pupils can do with minimal adult support 

Get an idea of how to approach choosing your activities from this DfE case study

"My child can't keep up with the amount of work" 

If pupils are feeling overwhelmed, look at how much work you're setting and decide whether you need to adapt your approach or provide more support to help pupils manage the amount of work.

Remember, when pupils are learning at home they might not be able to complete the same amount of work they'd be doing while in school.

"My child has SEND and I'm struggling to support them" 

Make sure SENCOs are still keeping in touch with families to provide support. 

Find out what works for your SENCO and each family – every 2 weeks may be enough contact, or every week may be better if pupils are at home on a full-time basis. 

When speaking to families, SENCOs should: 

  • Update risk assessments to reflect any changes in circumstances
  • Share remote learning resources that are specifically for pupils with SEN
  • Reassure parents about the expectations on them – they're not trained to cater for their child's specific learning needs in the way school staff are

Share our guidance with your SENCOs to help them carry out these tasks. 

"We're struggling to get set up on the tech" 

Write instructions for parents to help them get set up and using the technology platform you've chosen. 

Share our factsheets with parents and pupils if you're using Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams. Or, if you're using another platform, read the factsheets to get an idea of what to include in your own instructions. 

If you want to get set up on G Suite or Office 365, you can apply for funded support here


Thanks to the following for their advice and suggestions:

  • Gemma Slack, principal educational psychologist at Lincolnshire Psychology Services  
  • Anita Devi, an education consultant and trainer who specialises in special educational needs (SEN) and the use of technology to support learning. She is a member of nasen's national advisory board, and one of the founder members of the British Assistive Technology Association (BATA)
  • Louise Michelle Bombèr, clinical lead and director of TouchBase
  • Patrick Ottley-O'Connor, executive headteacher at North Liverpool Academy

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