How Schools Can Combat Waste

In 2018, the UK government published a waste management strategy for England. It set out various targets for waste reduction and sustainability. One of these targets was that 50 per cent of household waste should be recycled by 2020. The realisation of this target is yet to be demonstrated and published. However, the government remains optimistic.

 

However, while local authorities continue to combat household waste, another public sector is being neglected. Figures indicate that the education sector only recycles around 23 per cent of its waste.

 

Primary schools generate about 45kg of waste per pupil, while secondary schools produce 22kg per pupil. This totals 250,000 tonnes of waste every year.

 

While the figure is disappointing, it does not detract from the enthusiasm of students to utilise more sustainable practices in their schools. Many students have encouraged authorities to ensure that the environment is a priority. Recycling, composting, and litter picking are all aspects of waste management that children are helping to put into motion.

 

Here, we look at why waste is a problem for educational institutions, and how schools and local authorities can help combat this problem.

Wasteful spending

Education requires a lot of resources. It is unsurprising, therefore, that 70 per cent of all education waste is made up of food, paper, and card. However, while 80 per cent of this waste is recyclable, the reality is that only 20 per cent of it is actually recycled.

 

Food waste in the education sector is particularly expensive. The price of procurement, labour, utilities, and waste management means that food waste can cost £2,100 per tonne. Over the course of a year, local authorities will dish out £250 million to manage food waste.

 

Equally, Landfill Tax adds to an avoidable cost which schools could manage better. Estimates suggest that local authorities could save £6.4 million by utilising more sustainable methods of waste management.

 

The problem can be tackled by both local authorities and individually at education organisations.

 

Sustainable schools lead the way

The Eco-School campaign has registered 52,000 schools across 67 countries. These schools follow a seven-step framework to claim a coveted green flag. The steps include forming an eco-committee of students, making an action plan, and putting that plan into motion. Some schools can compost more or grow their own fruit and vegetables on school grounds.

 

Meanwhile, other schools are taking more proactive measures to reduce waste. Biomass digesters are used to transform food waste into biofuel. This can then be used for heating and energy. On school grounds, this device not only reduces waste. It can also cut emissions from transporting waste to disposal facilities.

 

Composting is also a common practice at many schools getting to grips with sustainability. Most unavoidable waste, such as eggshells and tea bags, can be composted. Meanwhile, cooked food is better suited to wormeries. Primarily, avoiding food waste is achieved by encouraging students to eat all of their lunch.

Local authorities tackling problems

The main focus for local authorities regarding waste management is to reduce overheads and operating costs. With increasing budget restraints, new solutions are needed to combat this problem.

 

Avoiding landfill is an obvious option for local authorities to save money. However, school waste going to landfill may be an unavoidable consequence. Public waste services are also struggling with stripped budgets. Instead, contracting waste management businesses may be the solution. They can implement waste strategy plans and organise waste effectively.

 

Single-stream waste recycling is becoming increasingly common across all sectors. And even local government offices are becoming more aware of their waste responsibilities. Most use waste procurement and waste removal companies. They can organise and dispose of their waste, with assurance that sustainability is ensured.

 

Education centres can also benefit from this approach if it’s implemented by local authorities. Commercial businesses must follow stringent guidelines when it comes to waste. They must ensure that everything is done to reuse, recycle, or recover waste—in this order. It’s therefore surprising that education isn’t currently achieving the same. With recycling targets for household waste at 50 per cent, it should be possible for the education sector to meet those targets too. Especially when education waste consists of predominantly recyclable materials.

 

One waste removal specialist company indicates that education is pivotal to ensuring waste is disposed of properly. Michael Taylor, General Manager at Skip Hire UK says: “Schools have a duty to lead by example and give the next generation the tools, ideas, and logic to make sound decisions with regards to environmental best practice.

 

“Education is key here — and while there is no perfect world, doing the right thing in the most cost-effective manner will always be a solid principle to adhere to. Companies like ours and others across the industry will always look to assist schools to promote and educate future generations.”

 

Leading by example is the best form of education. Depriving students of the opportunity to work in an environment where sustainability is a priority is damaging. Students have a considerable enthusiasm for climate change. They understand the consequences of unsustainable practices. Schools must continue to use their platform to inspire the next generation to use waste responsibly and ensure they remain leaders in the green revolution.

 

 

Sources

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/resources-and-waste-strategy-for-england

https://www.wrap.org.uk/content/new-study-shows-great-potential-recycling-school-waste

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rates-and-allowances-landfill-tax/landfill-tax-rates-from-1-april-2013

https://www.eco-schools.org.uk/about/howitworks/

CIFAS WARNS SCHOOLS OF HIGH COURT WRIT SCAM

New scam targeting schools demanding the immediate payment of thousands of pounds

Cifas advising schools to ensure staff are trained to handle such requests

 

Cifas is warning schools to be wary of requests for payments received from unknown callers following reports of fraudsters contacting head teachers claiming a High Court Writ has been issued against them.  

Targets of this scam claim that after requests for a payment of up to £3,000 were refused, the fraudsters then apply additional pressure by claiming enforcement officers would be sent to the school.

Cifas is reminding schools to ensure that staff are appropriately trained to handle such situations, and that any schools approached with this scam should ask for the information to be emailed as well as a phone number to contact them back on. Staff should not engage in further conversation.  

Criminals will often look to take advantage of complex situations and will use pressure tactics to encourage victims to part with either their information or their money. Cifas research shows that fraud is increasing on a yearly basis, with 2019 seeing the highest number of cases of fraudulent conduct ever filed to the National Fraud Database. More recently, 9 in 10 fraud professionals at the Cifas Annual Conference said they believed that cases of fraudulent activity would rise even further in 2020 and 2021.

Cifas is reminding anyone who is approached out of the blue by someone asking for financial or personal information to:

Stop – take a minute and think about parting with your money or information;

Challenge – could it be fake? You can reject, refuse or ignore any requests you receive and only criminals would try to rush or panic you;

Protect – if you think you’ve fallen for a scam, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

New Suffolk school opens in Grade II listed Wetheringsett Manor to boost outcomes for vulnerable pupils from Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridge

A new specialist school with state-of-the-art facilities has opened in Stowmarket, Suffolk in Grade II listed former rectory Wetheringsett Manor, in response to the growing demand for personalised learning to meet the needs of pupils with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) difficulties. An architectural gem set in beautiful grounds, Wetheringsett Manor School has been extensively refurbished and extended to provide an inspiring and therapeutic learning environment for vulnerable pupils aged 11-18 – and its specialist approach is already attracting pupils from the surrounding counties of Essex, Norfolk and Cambridge as well as Suffolk.

At Wetheringsett Manor School, part of Acorn Education & Care and Outcomes First Group, education is adapted to meet each individual’s learning needs while ensuring they also feel safe, secure and nurtured. Catering to pupils who have a wide range of social, emotional and mental health needs – for whom a mainstream environment is often too overwhelming – the school provides a variety of learning spaces suitable for one-to-one and small group teaching to optimise outcomes. Classes have a maximum of six children with one teacher and a teaching assistant, with additional support from a team of specialist staff – including speech and language therapists, educational psychologists and occupational therapists.

A brand new extension adjoining the main building, which dates back to 1843, houses spacious modern classrooms, each equipped with the latest education technology including interactive whiteboards and laptops. Calming sensory areas provide essential spaces for pupils to regulate their senses, which in turn helps to support their emotional wellbeing. While literacy and numeracy skills underpin the school’s curriculum, great emphasis is placed on ensuring that the education delivered is relevant to pupils’ experiences of the real world so that they can apply what they learn in everyday situations.

Set in extensive grounds in the picturesque village of Wetheringsett, the school provides plenty of opportunities for outdoor learning. Forest school is an integral part of the school week and takes place every Wednesday, giving pupils the chance to develop self-confidence and life skills through teamwork activities such as building fires and shelters. Each child has their own section of an allotment, with home-grown produce used in lessons to prepare lunchtime food. Resident muntjac deer, pheasants and guinea fowl add to the enriched learning environment, and the school is also looking to welcome a therapy dog and chickens.

Further plans in the pipeline include a new sports centre, as well as developing the existing on-site factory to provide vocational training opportunities for pupils in sectors such as mechanics, health and beauty, decorating, plumbing and joinery. The school is also looking to develop further learning links with local colleges.

Drawing referrals from local authorities in Suffolk and the surrounding counties of Norfolk, Essex and Cambridge, Wetheringsett Manor is growing its intake to support more pupils with SEMH and other complex needs. Some of these vulnerable young people have been out of the education system for up to two years due to a lack of suitable placements within reasonable travelling distance.

Commenting on the opening of Wetheringsett Manor School, Headteacher David Bishop said, “We are delighted to be welcoming our first students and supporting them on their education journey, helping to unlock both their personal and academic potential. Our traditional manor house has expanded to include a modern classroom block with everything teachers and students could need. We believe in delivering an exceptional education and to do this we’ve invested in creating an environment to inspire learning, which, coupled with our professional teaching team, gives our students a first class start in life.”

Parents and carers interested in finding out about Wetheringsett Manor School and its suitability for their child are welcome to get in touch directly with the school at office@wetheringsettmanor.co.uk or call 01449 703935.

What Asbestos Taught Us About Managing Risk

The UK’s asbestos industry ended on 24th August 1999 after being used heavily from the 1950s to 80s. Over 20 years on, we’re starting to see the delayed latency period taking effect as asbestos deaths have peaked over the last year or so.

 

Asbestos was unknowingly dangerous to public health. Fibres that are too hard to be broken down by the body are breathed in and lodged in our lungs, causing many adverse health effects. Inhaling asbestos is directly linked to multiple diseases, including:

  • Mesothelioma
  • Lung cancer
  • Asbestosis

These diseases can have high fatality rates. Furthermore, these asbestos-related illnesses have a delayed latency period. This means they don’t usually develop until many years after exposure. This material was used heavily industrially and residentially.

 

Asbestos Audit, asbestos removal professionals, commented: “Asbestos is still a significant risk on sites and buildings throughout the UK. Even with some of the most stringent regulations and legislation in the world, people are still being exposed to asbestos on a daily basis.

 

“The majority of exposures occur due to either negligence or simply not knowing the legal requirements for surveying and removing asbestos products. If asbestos management is undertaken correctly, with the correct training in place, the danger and associated risks are reduced significantly.”

 

Here, we’ll explore the biggest asbestos failings and what we’ve learnt from them.

 

Is asbestos still a risk?

Although asbestos was banned in the UK two decades ago, the dangerous carcinogen lingers. It is the leading cause of occupational death, with 5,500 deaths caused last year. A new report revealed that although there have been significant efforts across the board to have the material removed to avoid risking life, there are an estimated six million tons of asbestos remaining inside around 1.5 million buildings. Some of these buildings include schools and hospitals built before 24th August 1999.

Failure to plan, manage, and monitor

Several construction companies have been heavily fined due to failing to recognise the risk of asbestos on school sites, putting subcontractors, staff, young children, and their families at risk. It is not only the direct inhalers of the fibre that are exposed to harm—secondary asbestos exposure occurs when those working with the material bring it home, for example, on their clothes, and affect their families.

 

The construction companies at hand failed to:

 

  • Effectively plan, manage, and monitor the work to prevent the accidental disruption of the asbestos
  • Communicate information about the asbestos
  • Secure the site with barriers or signs warning of asbestos, putting lives at risk

 

Speaking on the case, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Inspector Andrew Bowker commented: “The exposure to asbestos could so easily have been avoided if the two companies involved had put sufficient effort into planning, managing, and monitoring the ceiling tile removal work.

 

“HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

 

Hundreds of teachers have sadly lost their lives due to asbestos exposure at work over 15 years. Teachers have since been campaigning to have asbestos removed from 32,770 schools across the UK.

 

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “On average, a teacher has died of asbestos-related disease every fortnight over the past 15 years.

 

“This death toll will continue until the ­Government develops a planned and costed programme for its removal from ­educational buildings.”

 

The importance of a duty holder

In 2014, Marks and Spencer admitted negligently exposing an employee to asbestos, who now has mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer. In this case, employees suffering from asbestos-related diseases was caused by owners of premises failing to comply with legal safety procedures.

 

The duty to manage asbestos is enshrined in law—the Control of Asbestos Regulation 2012 places a legal responsibility on a person assigned as the duty holder so that suitable asbestos management action is planned and taken so that buildings are safe. Duty holders who fail their responsibilities can be faced with legal action.

 

If you’re a duty holder and are unsure of the risk in your building, find out more about asbestos survey types.

 

The fatal impact of cutting corners

Kate Richmond, who worked as a medical student and junior doctor at the NHS, was given a few months left to live in early 2020. She was negligently exposed to asbestos at the old Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry. Around the same time, many compensation claims were placed by NHS staff for asbestos-related diseases since 2013, which has cost the health service over £26m.

 

Similarly, in 2011, major multinational retailer Marks and Spencer was faced with a £1m fine for exposing customers and employees to asbestos in Reading and Bournemouth stores during refurbishments. The judge accused the retailer of choosing profit over health and safety and effectively neglecting to ensure a safe working and shopping environment.

 

Negligence like this can certainly be more costly than simply conducting an asbestos audit or providing the correct preventative measures. It can tarnish an organisation’s reputation by failing to provide a duty of care.

 

 

 

Make sure you take the appropriate safety measures—the effects of asbestos cannot be undone, but it can easily be prevented.

 

 

Sources

https://www.asbestos.com/news/2019/11/27/report-million-uk-buildings-contain-asbestos-infographic/

 

https://www.shponline.co.uk/in-court/asbestos-failures-lead-to-fines/

 

 

Adobe Education UK responds to the news from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson that extra measures will be put into place to ensure fair exams next summer. Claire Darley, Adobe Vice President for Digital Media in EMEA, comments;

“Whilst Adobe welcomes the move from the Government to support both educators and the students they teach in what are unprecedented times, claims made by the Education Secretary that exams are the best way of measuring performance fall wide of the mark. Exams should not be a proxy for school performance. The disproportionately high emphasis on exam results to inform rankings in league tables belongs to a long gone era and is hugely misaligned with the needs of industry and employers.

 

A statement made during a Select Committee hearing in September of this year that exam grades are “reliable to one grade either way” raises some stark concerns. Digging deeper into the statistics behind the statement reveals that on average, one exam grade in every four is wrong. With a very real possibility that two examiners may give different but appropriate marks to the same answer, which at times may fall on different sides of a grade boundary. It begs the question, why is the Government so intent on resisting increasing calls for reform of assessment in schools?

 

If memorising information and performing under pressure are the skills employers are looking for, then the current system makes sense. However they are not. Our own research reveals that employers place a high value on soft skills such as collaboration, creative problem solving and communication, but they are in desperate short supply of prospective job candidates that have these skills.

 

There are plenty of examples of alternative approaches to assessment around the world, none more so than Wales. The fresh approach the Welsh Government has chosen to take to measure student performance next summer is a positive move that will better support the development of relevant skills that students will need when entering the future workforce. The decision is part of the country’s efforts to re-focus its entire education system in favour of digital literacy. The top down, bottom up approach the Welsh Government has taken in refocussing the curriculum on the needs of industry, whilst simultaneously providing digital learning tools, training and resources to support teachers, means that schools are empowered to deliver on the Government’s ambitions without being overly reliant on exams.

 

Other governments, policymakers, stakeholders and education bodies need to pay close attention and look at how they can follow the lead of Wales. The long-term economic benefits of a generation of young people leaving education with the skills required by industry are potentially enormous and well-studied. As are the costs of inaction.”

 

MarvellousMe collaborates with TT Rock Stars to bring school rewards schemes into the 21st century

 

2nd December 2020: MarvellousMe has today announced a collaboration with Maths Circle Ltd, providers of award-winning maths learning programmes Times Table Rock Stars and NumBots, to provide schools with a cutting-edge pupil rewards scheme, which puts the power in the hands of teachers to recognise and communicate progress achievements to parents quickly.

 

The MarvellousMe app helps teachers to immediately highlight to parents any positive rewards their child has received in school and delivers that information straight into the hands of parents to their smartphones.

 

MarvellousMe is an app which allows teachers to communicate with parents or carers positively.  Primarily aimed at early years and primary settings, MarvellousMe was created by a disgruntled dad who wanted to create positive conversations with his children about what was happening at school.

 

The collaboration brings MarvellousMe, currently used to communicate to more than 200,000 parents across the UK, together with, Queen’s Award-Winning company, Maths Circle Ltd, creators of Times Tables Rock Stars, a fun-filled interactive maths programme used in over 14,000 schools worldwide, that helps pupils learn and recall their times tables.

Adrian Burt, Founder of MarvellousMe, said: “Many teachers are naturally worried about pupil’s self- esteem and how to manage remote learning.  With MarvellousMe, teachers can easily send work home and provide pupil rewards for good work remotely, helping to keep pupil morale and outcomes high.  This relationship is perfect for schools using Times Table Rock Stars and/or NumBots as the personalised badges are a real motivator, helping children to get back on track as quickly as possible.”

 

“Our collaboration with MarvellousMe gives an easy way for teachers to reward pupils for their achievements on Times Tables Rock Stars and NumBots.  Delivering reward badges electronically and instantly is a great motivator for pupils to give that little bit of extra effort.” Bruno Reddy, CEO of Maths Circle Ltd.

 

The MarvellousMe app provides teachers with a safe, GDPR compliant, way to contact parents and share positive news on their child’s progress, as well as giving bright, colourful reward badges which are sent home to the parents.

 

“Engaging with parents today isn’t about me sending a letter home anymore; it’s about contacting parents in a familiar format.  In the age of one-touch tech, should we be giving out paper stickers?  Technology, like MarvellousMe, means that we can have quicker and easier ways to deliver rewards and messages to parents and carers instantly. Users can invite parents, carers and grandparents to sign up so that they can share in the good news, a brilliant addition to help prevent loneliness in the current climate.” Mrs Pierpoint, Heronswood Primary School

 

MarvellousMe is used in over 700 schools across the UK.  You can find out  more about improving parental engagement and supercharging your in-class and online rewards programme at https://bit.ly/CollabPR

 

Schools & Academies Show and the EdTech Summit Take Place Online!

The Schools & Academies Show and EdTech Summit took place last week (17th -20th November), for the first time ever as fully interactive virtual experiences.

The new event format allowed attendees to peruse an online exhibition, visit the virtual Government Education Village; hosted by the Department for Education, tune-in to live panels discussions, take part in live roundtables, workshops and networking sessions, whilst also having access to over 50 hours of CPD-certified best-practice case studies and presentations.

Visitor numbers soared to over 4,500 across the four days of the show, with viewing figures of content doubling the usual maximum capacities at the physical version of the show.

There were an amazing 30,000 messages exchanged throughout the show between visitors, speakers, exhibitors and sponsors. With thousands of connections made, both the Schools & Academies Show and the EdTech Summit has become the UK’s largest online gathering in the education sector!

Plus, due to demand, the event platform will remain open for another three weeks with all the content available on demand. Therefore, you can register via the website to gain access before it is too late!

Throughout the shows, there were keynotes and interviews with the UK’s most influential education decision makers, including:

  • Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP, Secretary of State for Education, Department for Education
  • Amanda Spielman, HMCI, Ofsted
  • Wes Streeting MP, Shadow Minister for Schools, Labour Party
  • Dr Daniel Susskind, Fellow in Economics – Balliol College, University of Oxford
  • Rt Hon Gillian Keegan MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Apprenticeships & Skills, Department for Education

Chris Callaghan, Event Director, Schools & Academies Show and EdTech Summit stated;

“Due to the ongoing pandemic we have struggled to host our usual shows this year, and with the mammoth task that schools have faced in the past 8 months, it felt like we were well overdue a chance for schools to connect, share experiences and find solutions.

The general engagement, interaction and sheer number of people visiting online has been overwhelming and we are absolutely delighted to be able to offer the platform for so much information sharing, learning and collaboration within the sector.

Thanks has to go to the exhibitors, sponsors and speakers who continued to support the event and without which, the show could not have happened. Collectively we think it is important to continue to provide schools with a chance to meet, reflect and look to the future, especially given the hectic schedules of any school year, let alone in 2020!”

Stephen Morales, Chair, GovNet Education Advisory Board & CEO, ISBL stated:

Organising, presenting, and participating in virtual events of this magnitude is new to us all. However, the levels of engagement and delegate participation were quite extraordinary. Practitioners were clearly ready to listen, discuss and share.

The challenge for the future will be combining the face to face experience with the interactive functionality of a virtual platform.” 

To find out more about the Schools & Academies Show and the EdTech Summit please visit the website here – https://schoolsandacademiesshow.co.uk/.

Celebrate Christmas Like Never Before with KidZania’s Secret Christmas Experience!

KidZania needs you to help keep the Christmas Spirit Alive!
London, December 2020: The UK’s largest indoor edutainment centre, KidZania
London, is preparing to re-open on the 5th December and celebrate Christmas like
never before, with their exclusive Secret Christmas experience!
Where is the singing? The decorations? The seasonal spirit? This year, the
Grown-Up board of the KidZania city has cancelled Christmas, but nothing will stop
the citiZens of KidZania from celebrating the festive fun!
This Christmas, explore KidZania’s best kept secret with their hidden winter
wonderland experience from the 5th December to 3rd January 2021. Once kids
have cracked the code for the secret password and found the hidden door, an
exclusive winter wonderland with six new activities awaits!
Upon entering KidZania’s Secret Christmas, kids can start by popping into Elf
School. Here they’ll learn the role of Santa’s Elves and the secrets of how to make
toys and gifts for children across the world!
Once they’ve built up their elf-confidence, they can get really creative and write their
own Christmas cards and letters or create baubles to take home. For those with a
sweet tooth, there are Christmas cookie decoration masterclasses over at
Bekha’s Bakery.
The magically transformed KidZania stadium will play host to special Christmas
dance and music classes. Those taking part will get the chance to showcase their
funky festive moves in the City Christmas Parade!
Perhaps most excitingly, the KidZania Theatre will play host to the very first
KidZania Pantomime! Pre-recorded in the KidZania city, and with an incredible
professional cast and creative director direct from London’s West End, the 40 minute
pantomime ‘Cinderella’ is the Fairy Godmother of all pantomimes and offers the
perfect dose of family-fun this Winter!
Those who can’t visit KidZania in person this Christmas can still join in the festivities
with KidZania’s advent calendar giveaway. Behind each door of the advent calendar,
guests will have the chance to win exclusive prizes every day from the 1st – 24th
December!
KidZania’s Secret Christmas will run from the 5th December to 3rd January 2021.
Spaces are limited to ensure social distancing and KidZania expect the event to sell
out fast, so head to www.kidzania.co.uk to purchase a Christmas package for you
and your little elves. Early bird packages will be priced from £36 per child and £24.80
per adult if booked before 30th November 2020, with prices then at £45 per child and
£31 per adult. To use the Early Bird Offer, simply enter the discount code
XMASEARLYBIRD2020 when booking online.
All Christmas Packages include:
● 3 hours to explore the KidZania City
● Entrance to the Secret Christmas area with six additional activities for both
children and adults to explore (approx. 1 hour)
● Viewing of the exclusive pre-recorded Pantomime Cinderella in the KidZania
Theatre (45 minutes)
● A hot drink and sweet Christmas Treat for each ticket holder
For more information, head to:
https://kidzania.co.uk/whats-on/secret-christmas-at-kidzania
Keeping in line with the latest government guidelines, KidZania will continue to
implement health and safety measures in order to keep the city the most safe, fun
and enjoyable place it can be. Social distancing measures will continue to be in
place which will mean a smaller & safer capacity for visitors, face masks for
everyone will be mandatory (unless exempt for medical reasons) and hand sanitiser
will be available throughout the city. KidZania won’t be able to welcome under 4s at
this time. For full details and FAQ’s, please visit
https://kidzania.co.uk/contact-us/faqs/christmas-faqs

How Technology is Helping Tackle the Widening Maths Attainment Gap

With recent findings predicting maths to be the subject most affected by school closures, it’s time to harness the power of tech to address the maths attainment gap once and for all, argues Joy Deep Nath, co-founder of SplashLearn – a game-based maths programme for primary aged children that is free for all UK schools.

The impact of Covid-19 on a generation of school children and their families has been well documented, as school closures around the world triggered an almost overnight shift to home learning. Despite the tireless efforts of both teachers and parents to facilitate remote lessons, many children struggled to focus during this time of high stress, whilst others lacked essential digital devices and internet connections to effectively complete their work. Without the support of a traditional school environment, each pupil faced their own individual challenges and unfortunately, the obstacles of 2020 are now evident in recent estimates – with the Education Endowment Foundation recently warning that maths skills in children will be disproportionately affected by the lockdown.

Covid-19 has highlighted existing structural inequalities across society, from healthcare to employment stability, and education is no exception. School closures have exacerbated existing weaknesses in the curriculum, like maths, which require high levels of engagement, confidence and personal attention to succeed. Technological solutions like tracing apps, mathematical models to chart future outbreaks and assembling ventilators and PPE, have played a key role in our response to Covid-19. So how can technology be similarly applied to education to help solve one of the teachers’ most pressing concerns during the pandemic?

 

Educational equity

If educational technology is to play even a minor role in closing the attainment gap, it is vital that we first begin to bridge the ‘digital divide’. Edtech enabled many schools to create a virtual classroom and support pupils remotely during the lockdown, with recent figures estimating a 400 per cent global increase in the implementation of edtech solutions since March 2020. Yet with a high proportion of children from low-income families lacking hardware or a high-speed broadband connection, schools and edtech providers must ensure that no child misses out on an education due to their socio-economic background. It is vital that now, more than ever, edtech companies design their products with all kinds of different devices and systems in mind to provide as equitable access as possible. 

One example is something we built into SplashLearn which is an offline synchronisation functionality that allows the program to work seamlessly without the internet, and syncs with its cloud server when the connection is re-established enabling cross-platform usage. This means the programme is not dependent on an internet connection at all, let alone a high-speed one.

Organisations can also help children from disadvantaged backgrounds sustain their learning by offering printable worksheets. Encyclopaedia Britannica, for instance, has recently partnered with HP to provide content for print resources which are distributed to students without reliable internet access at home. 

Many edtech providers have also temporarily offered their services free of charge to teachers and schools, in order to help pupils catch up on lost learning during the lockdown and ensure school budgets are spent on procuring digital devices to enable continued learning in the event of pupils shielding or local lockdowns.

Game-based learning and engagement

Another consideration is the importance of engaging students in their learning at a time when they may not be getting the 1:1 focus they need. Although research into the outcomes of game-based learning continues to progress, studies have consistently found that video games can improve problem-solving skills, knowledge acquisition, motivation and engagement. Furthermore, gamified learning can be easily integrated into the classroom or home to provide a balance of fun and learning. For Generation Z, who grew up with the Internet, screen time and digital devices, game-based programmes allow students to interact and engage with educational material in a way more commonly associated with video gaming. 

The most compelling game-based learning resources offer a wide range of pictures and graphics to represent problems and demonstrate concepts. This visual provision helps children master mathematical concepts and skills through visual representations. The learning experience itself is the reward as pupils can blend fun with learning through creating profiles, choosing customised avatars and exploring the new digital environment. 

Changing perceptions and boosting confidence levels

Despite being a core curriculum subject, a combination of poor parental experiences, societal attitudes and anxiety has left many people with a negative perception of maths. It is hard to fathom a world where children proudly declare they are bad at reading or “not a reading person” – so why have these attitudes been allowed to set in with maths?

Many edtech programmes offer high levels of autonomy for children to set their own pace, with inbuilt AI tracking their progress to gradually suggest more challenging exercises. This allows pupils space to safely make mistakes without the fear of embarrassing themselves in front of their peers or stressing about answering a question in time. Moreover, the information collected on a child’s progress provides parents with a valuable opportunity to engage with their child’s progression and learning journey. This can all take place in a safe, risk-free environment – ideal for children whose schools are in local lockdowns or are self-isolating/shielding.

Ultimately, maths is a crucial tool rather than just an academic subject we need in order to fully understand the world around us. Although 2020 has been a year of upset and uncertainty, it has also offered us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rip up the rule book and reshape education for the better. As children around the world continue to return to reopened schools, educational technology is playing a core role in shaping educators’ response to the widened attainment gap.

 

Schools across England and Wales encouraged to get involved in Census 2021

The Office for National Statistics is launching brand new educational resources to teach pupils all about the census and its importance in our national life.

The ONS set up a census secondary school programme back in September to support Census 2021. The programme, developed by EVERFI EdComs, aims to teach pupils about the importance of the census and how data can benefit their local areas through engaging, cross-curricular activities.

More than 500 secondary schools across England and Wales have already registered for the free programme and registration is still open for this unique opportunity.

Iain Bell, ONS deputy national statistician, said: “We want to engage pupils in schools across England Wales in the census and by doing so make Census 2021 a huge success. Our school programmes offer a great opportunity for students to learn about the importance of the census. They help students learn more about maths and their own local area, and they will also raise awareness of the census, which informs many important issues like the number of school places or hospital beds. If your school hasn’t yet signed up, I’d urge you to get involved.”

Michelle Gigi, KS3-KS5 Maths teacher at Queens’ School in Bushey, Hertfordshire, added: “I think it’s a brilliant idea to get students more involved in these types of activities, relating school-based lessons to real life scenarios.”
A brand-new set of resources have now been launched for the programme, including in-depth lessons specific to curriculum topics like maths, geography and history.

Students will have the opportunity to explore patterns of change in their communities and identify geographical and historical themes that may have caused this. Students will be asked to interview a family or community member to find a story they want to tell and create a group display or installation to discover how their individual story is part of a bigger picture.

The new interactive maths lesson available will also give students the chance to solve a range of graphical data problems and reflect on the importance of data in real-world decision-making. The maths lesson will use the fictional island ‘Statistopia’ to bring the census to life and support students’ problem-solving skills.

The secondary school programme has been co-created with teachers and students alike across England and Wales. The programme aims to engage young people, empowering them to use their voices to encourage their families and community to complete the census. They will explore what matters to their communities and the importance of census data in making national and local decisions.

Darren Sayer, Business studies teacher at Hanson Schools in Bradford, West Yorkshire, said: “I think this is a very worthwhile topic and the resources would form a very valuable insight into why [census] information is so important.”

Nick Fuller, President of EVERFI EdComs, added: “It’s great to see such a positive response from schools at such an early stage in this programme and EVERFI EdComs are delighted to bring our expertise in engaging secondary school audiences to the campaign team. We want to ensure young people and their families understand what Census 2021 means for them and complete the first predominantly online census across England and Wales.”

The ONS has also launched a primary school programme, Let’s Count!, that aims to excite pupils and families about the census. With more than 3,000 secondary schools already registered, the free programme offers engaging activities and flexible resources, including 14 lesson plans.

The Let’s Count! programme will also include a special live steam lesson on equality and representation, delivered by British historian, Professor David Olusoga OBE.

It is hoped the school campaigns will help raise awareness of the digital-first census, happening in England and Wales on 21 March 2021. The census occurs once every ten years and provides a snapshot of households, helping to plan and fund public services.

Schools can sign up for the programme by visiting census.gov.uk/education