Earlier this year, updated statutory guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) on ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ came into effect, which revised and replaced the 2015 guidance. This means that, once again, the spotlight is firmly on the issue of safeguarding within the education sector.
Here, Sam Warnes, a former teacher and founder of EDLounge, a unique platform that gives students who struggle with mainstream education the opportunity to access learning, explains how virtual classrooms and online support systems can provide a great alternative provision for students which adheres to government safeguarding and wellbeing guidance.
How do virtual classrooms work?
Virtual classrooms are accessible to anyone who has a computer, tablet or smartphone device, regardless of where they are based. They are designed to cater for all alternative curriculum students – those within the pupil premium category, in exclusion or inclusion, home education or isolation, school refusers, target groups, or those with low literacy/numeracy levels, to mention just a few – and meet the needs of their teaching assistants, senior leadership and parents. These online support systems provide a great alternative provision, on or off-site, for many students, which adheres to government safeguarding, wellbeing and supervision legislation.
Some will also offer tutoring, assessment, pre-assessment, verification and expertise in any subject, for any age group for those doing core, academic or vocational courses. Students can ask for and receive help, feedback, comments, and direction from support members, ensuring all students can progress through the virtual classroom.
Sam Warnes, a former teacher and founder of EDLounge,
The resources offered within a virtual classroom have been proven to be effective. Presenting teaching materials in this way allows students to have greater control over how and when they access them, putting them in the driving seat when it comes to their own learning journey, and increasing the likelihood of success.
In addition, virtual classrooms provide immediate feedback to students. They no longer have to wait weeks to receive a grade on an exam, or comments on their coursework. The results of online tests are available to them upon completion; they are consistently kept abreast of their progress as it happens, meaning they can ensure they stay on track to meet their objectives.
Over the past number of years, virtual learning platforms have become incredibly popular with schools and students alike; students are actually excited to be using them. Because of this, they’re much more likely to spend time studying and doing coursework;they’re more engaged, feel supported and are and less likely to slip under the radar and drop out.
Attendance can also be tracked using virtual classrooms, with teachers having the ability to set when the students are expected to register on the website in the morning and afternoon. If they fail to register when they are supposed to, an attendance report is sent via email to the school and parents who have provided contact email addresses.
Students also have to complete a safety questionnaire at the beginning of each session to confirm that they feel safe, have the correct equipment and are ready to learn. While in the virtual classroom, they also have access to an ‘alert’ button. If, at any point, there is an emergency or change in circumstances, the students can use the button to alert the relevant staff at the associated school by email, text or phone call.
Each support officer is trained to have extensive knowledge and understanding of lessons, systems, and so on. All written communication between students and tutors is recorded and backed up for safeguarding purposes, and all logs, videos and audio between students and tutors using the virtual classroom are recorded and exported to the associated school.
Of course, there will always be those who question the benefits of virtual classrooms; some will find them too impersonal and prefer in-person learning to digital learning. However, in my opinion, the advantages vastly outweigh the disadvantages. Virtual classrooms have removed the boundaries that once surrounded learning; learning is no longer something that has to be confined to within the classrooms walls. And for those not in mainstream education, they have set the stage for a far more personal and interactive learning experience, while also adhering to government safeguarding and well-being.