Diversity, drive and new ways to thrive: 5 uplifting things we learned from schools this academic year
As this extraordinary academic year draws to a close, here are five uplifting things we’ve learned from our conversations and work with schools.
At Pearson, we’ve been committed to supporting schools with whatever comes their way, and so we have sought to take the temperature of the sector through surveys, events and in our conversations with teachers, leaders and experts across the country since the pandemic began.
The challenges that have faced schools have been significant, but we’ve also been inspired by the tenacity and resilience of teachers and pupils alike as they’ve responded to whatever fell before them and seized new opportunities.
So, to see in the holidays with some positivity, here are five uplifting things we’ve learned from schools this academic year, and here’s to a 2021/22 filled with possibilities.
1. Educators are passionate about diversity and inclusion – and paving the way for change
The Black Lives Matter movement has really made me realise how black history is not taught.
Released this year, our Diversity and inclusion in schools report showed a profession ready for change and passionate about building an education system that includes all of its pupils. Based on the views of more than 2,000 UK teachers and leaders, the report showed how:
many teachers had paused and really reflected on the diversity of their curriculum, with two-thirds (66%) stating they were prompted to think about the diversity of what they teach due to the Black Lives Matter movement
four in five (80%) believe more can be done in UK education to celebrate diverse cultures, people and experiences.
The drive towards digital learning has continued apace, too. In our #DigitalClassroomSurvey of almost 7,000 educators:
81% said that digital skills amongst staff had improved due to the pandemic
more than three in five educators (64%) reported that students’ digital skills had improved with the shift to online learning too
26% of educators said that the shift to online learning led to increased creativity in lesson delivery or content
a quarter of educators feel that the move to blended learning has improved their work/life balance
over a third of educators predict that technology will drive-up parents’ engagement with their children’s learning in the years ahead.
Ensuring widespread access to digital resources and technology has been a challenge, and will continue to be one, but with initiatives like Computers for Kids, which Pearson is a part of, and the dedication from the sector to make a difference here, the inclusivity of digital learning in future is looking hopeful.
3. Teachers are tackling issues of mental health and wellbeing head on and are confident doing so
The pandemic affected everyone physically and emotionally in different ways – staff and students alike. The importance of acknowledging this impact was a recurring theme in our #PrimarySpotlightReport – with results that showed just how strong teacher and leaders’ understanding and awareness of mental health issues are and their unwavering commitment in prioritising their learners’ wellbeing:
one in two primary teachers think student mental health and wellbeing is the biggest challenge facing their students
56% are prioritising building up their students’ confidence
51% are addressing their mental health and wellbeing needs
Elsewhere, among the observed behaviours reported by educators, 24% noted an increase in pupil resilience, and almost one in five observed “more kindness to others”. We were also heartened to discover that 75% of teachers report feeling confident about their own abilities to support student health and wellbeing.
The resilience of educators – and the strength of the generation now under their care – is shining through.
4. Pupils have an increased enjoyment of school – and teachers have new sense of purpose
My colleagues and I have discovered a new sense of purpose over lockdown, and it has endured since.
What is apparent in our work across the sector is that when our school connections are threatened, or obstructed by circumstances beyond our control, the hard work of educators remains appreciated throughout the school system and beyond – and rightly so!
This year over 30,000 Thank A Teacher cards were shared through our friends at National Thank A Teacher Day. As headline sponsor of the Pearson National Teaching Awards, we enjoyed the chance to show our gratitude too, joining the celebration of those who kept learning going throughout the year – and the support of young people too. It was amazing to hear so many stories about the impact educators had on learners and communities, and look forward to seeing the Gold award winners announced this November on The One Show.
This spring, when we asked 3,000 UK teachers and leaders if they had noticed any improvements among their students since returning to the classroom:
“Enjoyment of school” was the most selected answer
almost six in ten primary teachers witnessed an increase in their pupils’ love for school
and almost a third of secondary teachers said the same.
Earlier in the academic year, we also learnt that teachers felt more positive about their own schools despite the pandemic, with four out of five respondents (85%) rating their schools as either “very happy and healthy” or “fairly happy and healthy” since the first lockdown began. Although their strengths have been tested, many schools have not just endured the trials – they’ve excelled.
5. There's much more to be done – but we're well on the way
The future is still unknown – but it’s OK, we can do unknown
As a sector, we all recognise there is plenty of work still to do. Indeed, the drive to achieve full diversity, digital inclusion, comprehensive wellbeing support, and environments that support every student to achieve – is a journey that will always be evolving. But by continuing these conversations, speaking openly about both the hardships and happy moments, we can all continue to make positive progress. In listening to what’s around us, remaining observant around our peers and pupils, all of us can learn to help lives thrive.
On behalf of everyone here at Pearson, we want to take this opportunity to thank all teachers, educators, leaders, pupils, parents, carers and communities for their hard work over the past academic year and beyond. We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation with you in the months ahead, and supporting you with whatever comes your way. For now, though, we wish you all a wonderful summer break.