Reflecting on the Academic Year

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With the academic year nearing its conclusion and airline bookings on the rise, it’s time to reflect on this school year’s challenges and learning outcomes. 

There are so many sides to this equation. Firstly, pupils perpetually operate in a fast-moving cultural environment and are under more pressure to deliver results. Secondly, schools are juggling teacher shortages, engagement levels and absenteeism. Parents are overwhelmed with financial pressures, stretched thin between work and parenting duties, and too often detached from their children’s school reality. All that whilst Labour is advancing onto Downing Street with unprecedented confidence, whilst Rishi actively campaigns on Instagram. 

Let’s reflect! 

Case studies – challenges encountered and solutions applied. 

Earlier this year, absenteeism rose to over 25% on Fridays, with many pupils staying home due to their parents working remotely. Although arguably beneficial for parents, such practice shouldn’t be used as an excuse for ‘skipping Fridays’. Many schools have noticed parent’s leniency on the subject of absenteeism. Schools and teachers must maintain direct communication with parents, making them aware of the gaps in the programme that a missing pupil experiences. Schools are looking into digital teaching courses that are accessible from home, ensuring the pupil still studies whilst enjoying his home days. 

The overwhelming use of digital social media and AI – many teachers are weary of students facilitating their academic studies with AI tools such as chat GTP, especially for written assignments. It is of utmost importance that teachers discourage this practice and lead an open discussion with students on the topic. It is worth making pupils aware that teachers are ‘clued up’ about chat GPT and will be able to discern work not done independently. On that note, it is also significant to ban personal social media use within classroom time to avoid distractions. 

Entering a digital age – new technology adopted in the classroom. 

Benefits and downsides – how can you get the best of it? Debunking the myth surrounding technology and teachers. 

The new age of technology is upon us, and the ‘genie’ is out of the bottle. Resisting the use of technology in the teaching process could make learning more tedious, outdated and – worst of all – ‘boring’. Traditional teaching methods, such as textbooks, worksheets and blackboard exercises, will always be of high regard – but schools cannot lag as the world goes ahead. Integrating technology into teaching can only benefit us, and there are way too many teachers who are resistant or, worse, scared of the idea. First, technology is not here to replace the teacher but to aid the teacher. Moreover, it drives engagement, fills in for personnel shortages, eases revision and homework assignment processes, and saves us all hustle and money. 

Some early technology adoption in teaching is centralised online systems for submission and revision. Pupils have their accounts and can log in, learn, check progress, play games, solve quizzes, and submit their assignments for review. Such tools also track students’ progress and offer helpful analytical summaries. This is not to say that we should forsake the teacher for a screen – but there is certainly room for both. Pupils will appreciate the digitalised programme as it is close to their’ TikTok’ hearts. Do not be scared of technology, gamification and AI – instead, adopt it and be educated about it, which will help the teacher to stay tuned with the times and speak in their student’s language. 

How do we make learning science fun? 

We need to change the stereotypical approach to STEAM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Maths) as ‘difficult’ and ‘boring’. 

Countless studies indicate that focus increases where the attention is naturally drawn. When you like something, it should be easier for you to learn it. Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise that studying is considered, to put it simply, ‘effort-intensive’. It takes focus, attention, repetition and brain bandwidth. So, with many subjects bearing the stigma of ‘boring’, can a more interactive teaching format be the solution?

They say a picture is worth a hundred words. Truly, it is. Some time ago, we ran a gamified competition where students solved games and quizzes in mathematics, English and geography. The games had a pleasant interface; they were entertaining and interactive. Not only did we get many pupils involved and learning, but there was also a healthy spirit of competition! The point is to assess the forms used for learning with a bit of a critical eye and ask questions: Is this textbook visually appealing; is this fun to use? Is it easy or difficult to focus on this material? Could this be laid out in a simpler or more user-friendly way? Can this interest a student who is used to fun and entertaining content? And how can we, as teachers, make it more ‘fun’? 

Political changes ahead in the context of how it can affect education. 

A shift in political power may be around the corner. Brits have not granted grace to Labour from the times of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, but things might change soon. Will that affect the teachers’ supply in any way? It is abundantly clear that the government, whether conservative or liberal, is aware of the shortages of teachers, particularly maths teachers, and continues to do absolutely nothing about it. The inertia spreading across the dimly lit lobbies and dinner parties is so widespread, and there is rather little voting power to be gained from fixing the educational system that nobody does anything about. 

When will this end? Will a new prime minister find common sense in funding schools to increase teacher supply and technological solutions? 

It remains to be seen as the wind of July brings summer and, hopefully – change. 

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