by Heather Abela It’s all too easy to see the negative aspects of school shutdowns. But often negativity comes from a place of fear and the bedrock of fear is a lack of knowledge. When we know what we are facing, we can begin to turn fear into a challenge and rise to that challenge by mapping out a solution. Schools are using all the information they have to plan ahead – but in most cases that information is very scant. They will have to wait until September, and perhaps spend the first half term welcoming their pupils back, checking their well being and assessing their learning. These assessments will eat into the valuable learning time, which will create an even greater deficit. _“I hope we don’t get bogged down as leaders in thinking that it’s all got to be about ‘catch-up’ and that there’s got to be intervention left, right and centre for every child because every child experience has been different and there will be some who have thrived as well as children who need very individual and bespoke support "_** – Victoria Morris, headteacher, Elm Park Primary** ![alt text](/filestore/BlogImage/066cf6d5-2744-4e46-a038-248e4f0c9e13/fada76b9-9569-4d91-b7cf-bfd64854b058LbQ6.jpg "") So what can LbQ offer to help? ------------------------------ During the lockdown, our online resources were used by teachers and learners throughout the UK. Our Question Sets are written by teachers and aligned to the National Curriculum objectives. More than 25,000 children benefited from using LbQ and, to date, they have given more than 32 million answers. For those children whose schools did not offer LbQ, we created LbQ@Home with free access for carers and parents. This sister site has also had 120,000 uses to date. Of course, not every child has had access to, or incentive to use LbQ. But from this vast amount of data we can in some part see into those missing months and gain valuable insights that may make interesting reading to school leaders. We can begin to map out the UK’s learning landscape during the Covid-19 crisis, so that you might better navigate the steps you’d like to take next. 1\. The landscape shifted from revision to mastery. --------------------------------------------------- In the first few weeks of school shutdowns, teachers stuck doggedly to their schemes of learning. Understandably, these were abandoned quickly. The consensus was not to try to move children’s learning on from afar and in a highly anxious climate, but to consolidate previous learning and practice. The data reflects that given the time and space to go deeper, teachers were able to cover more than ‘surface’ content. They could develop those deeper cognitive skills that are the cornerstones of mastery. Shifting focus from revision and preparation for exams, including SATs before lockdown, to a more even balance between practice and mastery may raise questions about what learning is achievable in the current timeline – and how much of it ends up being superficial? Certainly the ability to use Learning by Questions, with its formative assessment pedagogy, has meant that LbQ teachers have been able to assess gaps in learning whilst the learning is still taking place, which saves valuable time that can be used to embed cognitive skills. It is also interesting to note that teachers feel that they can still develop mastery skills from a distance using online resources. The top 3 Question Sets for English pre-lockdown were: 'Revision of Yr5/6 Grammar and Terminology'; 'Revision of Yr 1 – 6 Grammar & Terminology'. 'Year 6 National Curriculum Test Practice (SATs): Set 1 English Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling'. After lockdown, the Question Sets selected by teachers were less assessment based: 'Revision of compound and complex sentences'. 'The difference between plural and possessive s'. 'Use relative clauses'. In mathematics, the scene was similar. Only one Question Set stayed in the top 3: ‘Multiply and Divide numbers including decimals by 10, 100 and 1000.’ This has become the most popular Question Set in the country. ‘Add numbers up to 2 decimal places (column method)’ and ‘Multiply a four digit number by a 2 digit number (long multiplication)’ rose through the ranks to become close runners up. _“Mastery is the ultimate aim of any learning goal. We learn to develop skills and a depth in our ability to make knowledge in order to move from functional to creative and to be able to apply this understanding to make new knowledge, be it our own or new to all.”_ **– Myths and Legends of Mastery in the Mathematics Curriculum, Pinky Jain & Rossalyn Hyde** Perhaps this data suggests that in an alternative scenario where SATs did not exist, teachers would prefer to ensure mastery, consolidating a deeper understanding rather than crashing forward into revision for the sake of accountability. In Science, the most popular Question Sets stayed the same: ‘Earth, Moon & Sun’ and ‘Electrical Circuits’ both remained in the top 3. **What we learn from this information is that remote learning does not preclude mastery learning and can, in fact, allow time and space perhaps for deeper investigation and understanding than the current academic structure and accountability assessments allow.** ![alt text](/filestore/BlogImage/066cf6d5-2744-4e46-a038-248e4f0c9e13/8d3e2910-d0b5-41b8-b645-3e10eef406e0LbQ4.jpg "") 2\. The landscape is less mathematics orientated and English is on the rise. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Perhaps the most seismic shift we have seen has been in subject area. Before lockdown, mathematics dominated the learning landscape. 62% of our Question Set usage for KS2 was in mathematics and only 31% English, 7% science – a fairly new addition to our resource library. But this changed. Mathematics and English are now much closer in popularity with teachers setting work. In fact, English (47%) now beats mathematics (41%). The number of times an English Question Set was chosen has skyrocketed from 7,757 (1st Jan – 22nd Mar 2020) to 19,064 (23rd Mar – 12th Jun 2020). Within the subject area, focus has also moved. Pre-lockdown, over half of the top ten English Question Sets were grammar objectives. This has now changed, and punctuation leads the charge. **Reasons for this may be a paucity in trusted and proven resources for English, that more teachers are discovering LbQ English resources or that KS2 teachers believe their learners need greater support in this area.** _“For the four subject areas focused on, the only shifts in the last century have been upward: the steady entrenchment of Mathematics, the increasing acceptance of English and Social Studies and the remarkable ascension of Science.”_ **– Realms of Knowledge: Academic Departments in Secondary Schools, Leslie Santee Siskin.** ![alt text](/filestore/BlogImage/066cf6d5-2744-4e46-a038-248e4f0c9e13/fc5d2259-d9e7-4db4-847b-bdb783a67b93bb18b185-f8eb-4cbb-842f-0e034126ba1dnationalwritingday1.png "") 3\. The landscape has shifted from distinct subject areas to a more cross-curricular approach. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Whilst grammar, spelling and punctuation retained its dominance as the most practised area of the English syllabus (58%), reading has undergone a change. Fiction has always been popular and perhaps it is no surprise than during lockdown the country has leaned into comedy and fables for brevity. On the LbQ platform, “Daft Dog'' and “Larry and Dribbles” have been firm favourites amongst the KS2 audience, and stories that deal specifically with the Covid-19 crisis have been introduced to help children process some of what is happening around them. _“Education should be about learning now. Our experience of the world is cross-curricular. Good cross-curricular or pedagogy should be relevant. Relevance involves the teachers increasing interaction with the world of their children.”_ **– Cross Curricular Learning 3 – 14, Jonathan Barnes**. Another strong case for cross-curricular success during lockdown has been in the genre of historical non-fiction. Selected 9% of the time by teachers before the lockdown, this has now shot up to 23%. The genre has now been selected over 2,000 times and titles such as ‘Britain in the Blitz’ have been popular reads. Offering non-fiction reading broadens learners' exposure and interests into other areas of the curriculum, and the introduction of texts for wellbeing may also signpost a move towards increased blurring subject areas, e.g: English and PSHE, science and geography. **Distinct subject areas are possibly even more outdated and inefficient ways of sharing learning than they were before lockdown. ** ![alt text](/filestore/BlogImage/066cf6d5-2744-4e46-a038-248e4f0c9e13/728a89b7-8cd6-46e2-a426-7bc2fac137ebLbQcrosscurricular.jpg "") 4\. Parents support a cross-curricular dynamic at home but push for more science. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The same cross-curricular approach could be seen on the LbQ@Home site built for parents, home users and teachers who perhaps did not have access to LbQ itself. Fiction remained popular at 14% and comedy was high in the rankings. Non-fiction history matched that at 14% and, interestingly, non-fiction science also reached parity at 13%. Whereas teachers had not increased their interest in science (relegated to 10 or 11% of the usage), the subject took on great popularity within the home. Not only within English non-fiction Question Sets such as the one about Tim Peake, but also pure science Question Sets. Science was accessed twice as much by parents than by teachers. Maths was used 39%, English 40% and science 21%. **KS2 14,975** **KS3 10,114** **KS4 1,870** **This could indicate that science was a more engaging subject for children at home who were reluctant to do other schoolwork. It may be that parents saw science as more accessible or aspirational. ** Both teachers and parents selected similar Question Sets: ‘Earth, Moon and Sun’ being the number one science Question Set before and during lockdown on both sites. Clearly, we are a nation with a passion for space. But with perhaps greater pressure on SATs catch up than ever before, will this popular lockdown subject take an even firmer back seat at school? _“Sadly, I think there may be some areas that get 'less-focused' on at first. This is because children need to be able to read and write to be able to access a lot of the curriculum and lower down the school some of these skills will be weak. I would expect that by Christmas it will be more balanced and coherent. I think every cohort and context will be different here.”_ **– Andy Done, Masefield Primary** ![alt text](/filestore/BlogImage/066cf6d5-2744-4e46-a038-248e4f0c9e13/da8d6e86-9d87-4368-92a3-2752f59055beLbQ.jpg "") Conclusion ---------- Did children learn whilst on lockdown? Certainly within the LbQ family, schools were able to produce huge amounts of learning with some classes answering 50,000 questions in a single week. But the disparity will be great and there will be children who have not had the structure, support or facilities to countenance any learning over these last few months. Each school will have to work out where their children are, where they need to be and chart the best course to get there. But there are indications in this lockdown data that suggest education is moving into a new modernity – a new normal. The success of remote learning through technology. The breakdown of the traditional subject hierarchy and topic barriers into a more fluid and engaging curriculum. The stronger partnership with parents. These are all findings that schools can harness to build a positive legacy. _“I feel quite excited in a funny kind of way because I think there’s many things we can move forward with, I feel we can really get some good gains here – what I describe as ‘accelerators’. We can get hold of home learning and we can empower parents to join us on that journey.”_ **– James Greenwood, headteacher, Manor Leas Junior** These lessons from lockdown show us that: * Remote learning does not preclude mastery. * Trusted online English resources are rare – seize the ones you find. * Reading is the best cross-curricular vehicle. * Edtech can give science back its place in the curriculum. It is ironic to think that perhaps one of the educational landscape shifts during school shutdowns is that the classroom has actually got bigger. The self direction element of learning has been realised through a growth in curiosity. The spectrum of resources accessed on LbQ has never been so wide. Perhaps the real fear we should have isn’t what has happened during these missing months, but that we should return to how things were before. _“I have felt reassured talking to some senior leaders – how secure and confident they are. The pragmatic, practical nature of primary education will see us through. This confidence about getting on with it, and doing it in an interesting and different way is brilliant!”_ **– Sir Kevan Collins, executive vice chairman of Learning by Questions, former chair of the EEF.** ### If you would like to see LbQ in action, [book a demo](https://www.lbq.org/Contact-Us/) and one our team will be in touch!