Learning gaps have long been a core obstacle to learning and retention across primary schools, secondary schools, and academies – but the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly made them more evident than ever.
According to the Children’s Commissioner for the UK, Rachel de Souza, an estimated 22% of state school pupils (over 1.7 million children) were persistently absent during the 2021 autumn term. With absences higher than ever, it is a pressing concern that the educational needs of these children are not being met.
Government research revealed that the pandemic led to KS1 pupils displaying learning gaps across topics such as place value, number and symbol recognition, and number bonds. Moving up to secondary schools, TES reported that improvements seen in maths GCSE performances have been reversed by at least three years due to the pandemic.
In short, student absences and a lack of resources have stretched learning gaps even further and the impact is heavy on teachers as well as students, with reported stress levels soaring over the course of national lockdowns and the remote learning that accompanied it.
So, how can governing bodies and school environments empower both their teaching staff and students to fill the gaps widened to chasms by the pandemic?
Part of the solution lies with technology that can be used to support rather than dominate teachers; software platforms that can alleviate the academic burden rather than add to manual processes.
Remote learning has shown how technology can be incorporated into education, but EdTech gives teachers the opportunity to merge the benefits of technology with the face-to-face learning offered by a classroom setting.
Technology gives teachers back their time
As a former teacher from a family of teachers, I know all too well the simultaneous joys and stresses of guiding a class’s education, and one of those stresses is a simple lack of time.
One in four teachers, over the last year, has worked a 60-hour week – almost double the average working week in the UK. A large part of this time is spent creating and updating lesson plans in accordance with rapid and hard to track curriculum changes, as well as manual data-capture processes to assess student progress. In automating these time-consuming administrative processes by introducing online data capture and content generation, now, in as little as two weeks, teachers are empowered to enjoy their vocation – teaching – without excessive administrative duties adding to their clocked hours.
Technology can help to ensure that no child, nor class, is left behind
A concerning trend that emerged during the pandemic were reports of an increase in students progressing to new key stages at lower starting points than in previous years. With Rachel de Souza’s reflection on the absences of children during the first term of the pandemic, it is worrying to think about how many children are being ‘missed’ in the system. Technology enables teachers to track what fallible manual systems can miss, offering individual analyses of students as well as comprehensive insights into a class.
Technology can help ‘level up’ learning
With the government launching their National Mission and National Tutoring Plan as part of its ‘Levelling Up’ narrative, one of the UK government’s ‘Levelling Up Missions’ is to significantly increase the number of primary school children reaching the expected standard in reading, writing and maths by 2030.
Broken down into statistics, this means that 90% of school children in England will achieve the expected standard, and the percentage of children meeting these educational milestones will have increased by over a third in areas with low academic performance. This means a 25% increase from 2019 measurements, in which just 65% of school children achieved this standard.
To hit these ambitious targets, it is essential that teachers gain a full and precise picture of the learning gaps faced by their classes. Digital tools can aid teachers in quickly and accurately mapping progress, allowing them to create learning plans that can prioritise knowledge retention and development whilst also moving towards government targets.
As the UK shifts to a post-pandemic landscape, it is important to reflect on what has changed for teachers and students, and how their new needs can be met. To level up effectively, schools need tools to help them know the current level. Technology lets teachers see exactly where each student is facing difficulties, which prevents children from struggling and provides teachers with the tools to bridge those specific gaps.
Embracing technology as a supplement to, rather than a replacement for, in-person teaching acts to alleviate the stress caused by learning gaps and recovery targets, allowing teachers and students alike to enjoy a well-rounded approach to education that sets children up not simply to meet targets, but to learn for life.
Elastik launched in the UK in January 2022. Since January 2021, the platform has been used in Australia, where it now works with over 400 schools, 103,000 students and 13,971 teachers across the country to empower teaching staff to address unidentified gaps in their students’ curriculum-driven learning across Maths, English and Science.
Elastik delivers cutting-edge technology, but was designed with the premise that technology cannot replace a teacher. Instead, it uses AI (smart algorithms and machine learning) to free teachers from administrative burdens, give them insights on student development, and let them focus on what they do best – helping students grow.
Elastik recognises the challenges facing schools today and provides support and expertise to the school and the teachers. Rapid implementation delivers benefits immediately and ongoing guidance ensures that the value grows as Elastik becomes embedded. Teachers in Australia describe their approach as game-changing.