What’s your gold standard?

A recent TES article debating whether live teaching is actually ‘gold standard’ online teaching has got us on our soapbox (you can read the full article here https://www.tes.com/news/coronavirus-schools-online-learning-are-live-lessons-really-better-recorded-ones).

Think back to your pre-Covid teaching, the days when you had a classroom and you taught ‘traditional’ lessons.

Imagine if you taught a series of lessons, had just 2 or 3 children engaging and the progress of all learners, especially the outliers, was minimal at best.

You might feel you’d got something wrong with your planning or anxious that you’ve lost the art of engaging teaching. Either way, in a classroom environment, you’d know that there was something seriously wrong and make swift changes to address it.

So how is it, almost a year down the line, that low engagement and poor outcomes are acceptable on Teams or Zoom?

The fact that it is accepted is all the more confusing when you factor in how hard live lessons are to deliver. On Twitter recently, one teacher described the experience of live teaching as ‘soul destroying; like shouting into a vacuum’. Another added ‘Whatever you think you can deliver in a live lesson, halve it, then halve it again’.

This is the reality of live online teaching; difficult delivery, low engagement and poor outcomes.

So why are live lessons still seen by many as the gold standard in lockdown teaching?

As former school leaders we understand that Teams and Zoom lessons feel most familiar in terms of delivery methodology. Transferring much used pedagogies to new mediums feels safe; recognisable. But surely, this can’t be the only reason why ineffective live teaching continues in most schools?

Possibly it’s because it was the obvious, go-to solution at the beginning and the regular DfE guidance updates are preventing leaders from looking for solutions that actually work? Maybe it’s our natural human desire for contact; to see, hear and interact with others? Could it be because these tools are free? Perhaps it’s because it’s what everyone else is doing and that makes it feel safe?

I doubt it’s because Gavin says it’s best and therefore it’s more easily justifiable to Ofsted, but whatever the reason(s), it’s certainly not the best way to engage any child in learning.

We’re not decrying schools. We know how exceptionally hard staff are working, and that everyone is trying their very best with the tools they know are available. It’s just that we understand that online learning can be so much more than classroom delivery through a screen. Giving your students the ability to receive personalised teaching, view the lesson multiple times on any device and go at their own pace will embed learning.

Live teaching doesn’t facilitate this; you’re most capable are bored, your middle ability learn a little (if they are still listening) and those with the greatest needs are totally left behind.

I know that many wait for the EEF to announce what’s effective and what’s not. But too many learning opportunities are being lost, so I’m going to speak the obvious truth – pre-recorded teaching videos, targeted to specific learners and viewed in child-friendly, carefully structured ways, are the only way to ensure high engagement and outcomes for every learner.

I know this because I’ve spent the last 10 years working with leading Deaf, mainstream and special schools to develop a service that  improves educational outcomes for all using pre-recorded video.

If you are now seeing the limitations of live teaching and understand the benefits of pre-recorded video, you need to book a demo and see YouTeachMe.  It will revolutionise learning across your whole school community now, and post-Covid too.

Is free always the best option?

Today it was announced that the mobile phone companies are going to make thousands of government-funded lessons, produced by Oak National Academy, available free of charge until schools re-open.

You might think that we, as a company that sells our online learning service into schools, would be up in arms about this.

Not so! 

We can see that the £millions of public money spent creating resources that are then made available ENTIRELY free to consumers is great for our business going forwards.


Well, Oak National Academy now sets the standard for ‘free’ online education.

This pandemic will end (eventually!), and when it does, Ofsted will immediately start inspecting schools on their readiness to deal with another one.

They will judge each school’s readiness for high-quality online learning and in the cold light of day, these free resources will be found to lack impact on learning.

That’s when schools will look around for services that offer high-quality learning wherever learners are – in school or at home.

Companies like ours, who’ve spent years developing online teaching and learning services underpinned by powerful pedagogies will be able to answer the call. I look forward to those conversations.

In the meantime, if you’re a school leader who understands that free is not best (and has got a spare moment in the midst of this craziness) give us a call and ask how YouTeachMe is hands-down better for your learners, families, staff team, governors, MAT and for you.

School leadership with 2020 vision

If you are new to a senior leadership position in a school, either from an expected promotion or unexpectedly due to resignations, what is expected of you?

School improvement planning straight out of the window?

The first thing to do is be clear in your own mind that being a leader is not something you do in isolation. So before you think about reimagining the vision you set for the school gather your team.

Leadership and Management are different but rely on each other.

Perhaps as an NQT you remember those dictator style headteachers?

Leadership is about setting a direction, a vision of the future (maybe only as far as next week in the current COVID climate) along with strategies for change to produce that vision.

Management involves planning and budgeting, organising staff, solving problems and providing control to deliver the vision. This is where the support of a great school business manager helps.

Management produces the capacity to achieve and leadership the context in which to work. At the moment, with teachers at the highest risk of burnout and breakdowns, giving them this context is like giving them a gift of Gold.

So, do not try to act on your own.  Both the leadership and management of the school needs to be connected, as do all of the staff, governors and other stakeholders in your setting who are trying to deliver the vision and the day to day solutions.  If you are not all in agreement about where you are going and why the delivery will be difficult and ineffective.

Who do heads outrank is the question of the moment in 2021.

Leaders are not born.  They learn the skills, hone and practice them to be more effective.  Managers are similarly skilled in some areas, less so in others.  No one person does everything better than the team together. It’s critical you are the glue to this team today.

One final gift you as a leader need to consider today, how to make the job of your school staff safer, easier, less work heavy. Listening is a key leadership skill so tune in to what your staff are telling you today.

Peter Buglass

What’s the risk?

EduTwitter seems to be awash at the moment with talk of school leaders writing risk assessments for remote learning. With so many schools opting for live teaching using free online services, t’s easy to see why risk assessing is so important:


And this report was in May 2020; we’ve seen tweets galore just this week not just for zoom but for other platforms too. And also teachers commenting on how exhausting it is live teaching plus questions about children being 4hours plus on screen for lessons and a lot more screen time on social media and other platforms too.

Is there another way?

Paul Rose, our founder, left headship 7 years ago to build a completely safe yet incredibly powerful online teaching service that could teach anything, to anyone, anywhere and at any time.

Deaf, mainstream and special schools have used YouTeachMe before, during and since Lockdown 1. Once headteacher described it as ‘a Godsend’.

Here’s why:

  • Pre-recorded teaching videos, shared with learners at home and yet available to every member of staff in school at all times.
  • Personalised but not personal – videos can be targeted to just one learner, delivering an excellent learning experience without putting staff and learner in potentially dangerous position
  • No live sessions – so no hacking, zoombombing, sharing of invites, accidental mishaps with microphones, inappropriate chat, webcams, family members wandering into the background and so on
  • No data protection issues – everything is encrypted and all personal data is controlled by the school.
  • No intensive training courses required and no struggling to learn how things work, primarily because it’s straight forward but also because we’re available to help
  • Resources available from other schools that you can utilise for your lessons to help reduce your workload
  • No specialist equipment needed to video your lessons just use your camera phone or tablet cameras, but go ahead if you have pro equipment!
  • Ensure the best progress possible for each child without adding to your workload
  • Learners can revisit the video as many times as they need to so that the lesson is embedded and learning reinforced
  • Parents can access the videos quickly and easily, they will be able to pick up the platform quickly and without too many user questions coming into school staff
  • Track which children have watched the les video lessons you set each day
  • When it comes to a risk assessment for deploying there’s really not much that needs documenting

Beginning the process (again)

Today (5th January 2021) every UK school has sent home letters to parents moving the majority of children to remote learning.

For many school leaders there’s nothing that new in this pandemic driven crisis.

Leaders of failing schools are all too familiar with extreme anxiety, dramatic changes dropped suddenly and from a great height, staff absence, parental disquiet and so forth.

Having been the leader of a failing school I’m pleased to tell you, dear reader, that good news is around the corner.

No, it’s nothing to do with a vaccine, or that there is a strategy being developed from above. It’s that school improvement in a crisis is a process.

And of course, processes can be worked through.

Lockdown 1 followed a process: panic stations, formulate a plan, deliver and review, improve until stable.

This lockdown is slightly different because pressures and expectations are higher, but the process is identical.

This then is where the visionary leaders start to stand out. They are the ones who face a crisis, work through the process and go beyond to improve until ‘stable’.

They are the ones who push until improvement until ‘excellent’.

So today as you’ve begun this process again most will resettle on the stability of packs of worksheets, Zoom or Microsoft Teams sessions and phone calls home.

Those visionaries that are seeking more than stable take a look at YouTeachMe.

You’ll immediately see where it can help you deliver excellence once again.

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