Since schools re-opened in September, there have already been multiple reports of whole year groups being sent home after students tested positive for COVID-19. Just as businesses have had to adopt a hybrid working model with some staff working from the office and others working remotely, schools will have to do the same to ensure there are no further gaps in students’ learning.
Having already worked through four months of remote schooling, at very short notice, senior management would have had the summer to evaluate the tools they were using to deliver remote teaching and communications while planning for schools to re-open this month.
With students back on site in year bubbles and trying to adhere to social distancing measures, school leaders will need to re-evaluate again and respond appropriately. Schools may be making more use of mobile devices and PCs in the classrooms. For example, in my children’s school, they have been broadcasting assemblies to screens in classrooms rather than holding them in a hall while home-based teachers who are shielding or self-isolating are delivering lessons via a video app to on-site classrooms.
The reliance on connectivity is clear. Schools need adequate internet bandwidth and a modern Wi-Fi and/or local area network to support the use of multiple devices accessing real-time applications, such as video, otherwise online assemblies and classes simply will not work.
This will be a headache largely borne by IT managers while other staff have been occupied with arranging year group bubble accommodation, forward-facing desks, Perspex divides where forward-facing desks cannot be achieved and cleaning rotas, plus staggered arrival, departure and lunch times and much more. In short, schools have our sympathy!
And as mentioned before, they need to be prepared to be fluid enough to quickly switch to remote learning if needed while continuing both incoming and outgoing communication with parents.
Our blogs in the last two months have largely focussed on the flexibility needed by businesses to stay productive during these times. Schools are no different and may need to replace ageing hardware with updated IT and communications technology to maintain their own productivity measured on delivering the curriculum in the specified timescales.
This is why my colleagues in our business development team will continue to call schools even though they know IT managers and senior management team members are up against it, as we just may have the advice or solutions that they need right now to be more flexible.
In the past few months, we have installed Wi-Fi solutions, improved internet connections and delivered effective on-site and cloud-hosted phone systems that offer school-wide paging facilities, flexible welcome greetings, twinning of mobiles with desk handsets, and unified communications applications that include instant messaging and video meetings. We have also utilised existing education Microsoft 365 subscriptions to deliver Teams phone systems and unified communications tools to again suit the flexible needs of schools, including online teaching.
swcomms has the experience to assist schools as they grapple their way through these ever-changing times. Please do not hesitate to get in contact with us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need help with your IT and communications solutions.
In the meantime, here are some helpful videos and reading material that may assist you further: