What is the project about?

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, schools had to rapidly react to changing learning strategies brought about by worldwide governments introducing a variety of restrictions to try to control the spread of the virus. In the UK, this has meant extended periods of school closures (or ‘lockdowns’) where the majority of children were forced to stay away from school and learning was moved ‘online’. Emerging work around the globe has identified the huge negative impact these educational policies have had, particularly in the developing countries of the Global South and on students from disadvantaged schools or disadvantaged backgrounds more generally, with calls for more work to be done to explore the impact on children with special educational needs. While research into this area is growing from both student and parents’ perspectives, there remains a need to explore how school leaders strategically dealt with these challenging circumstances, and crucially, what can be learned for the future to ensure some of the opportunities that emerged can be harnessed and developed.

The purpose of this project  was to explore how school leaders strategically manage and plan for online provision of learning through the pandemic restrictions and beyond. It addressed how they have coped with, and continue to manage, particular challenges such as a lack of equipment, absence of learners from school, and provision for Special Educational Needs (SEN) students as well as highlighting opportunities for the future development of online learning in schools.

The study used a two stage, sequential explanatory mixed methods approach involving an initial online survey followed by semi structured interviews with school headteachers and CEOs of multi academy trusts. Web based policy documentation were also analysed.

Who is running the project?

The project was run by Professor Jacqueline Baxter at the Open University in collaboration with Professor Alan Floyd at the University of Reading.

Who is funding the project?

The project was funded by UK Research and Innovation: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Find out more

Visit the project website

A key outcome of this study was the development of an online resource aimed at helping school leaders to develop their future online learning strategy and support staff to develop successful learning models within their schools. The course was developed from findings and insights from the project and is based on the core foundations of equity and inclusion, developing digital capabilities, pedagogical innovation, and collaboration and partnerships. The course can be accessed here: Strategic planning for online learning: A whole school approach.