What are the options for ‘proper’ teaching during school closures?

With schools closed and the whole nation learning from home, some schools are able to provide a more interactive learning experience than others. For students and families where schools are only providing worksheets and relying on parents to do much of the teaching, you may be be craving some ‘proper', expert teaching.

In this blog post, I'm going to summarise the options that are out there for you.

What are the options for ‘proper' teaching during school closures?

1. BBC Bitesize

The BBC, as a public service broadcaster, has put together a series of online lessons for students in years 1 to 10.

They are providing live programming on the BBC red button from 9 am – 11am (you can watch it later on Player) consisting of 20-minute lessons for students aged 5-14. These will cover Maths, Science and English as well as other subjects such as history, geography, music and art.

There will also be 150 lessons per week added for students up to the age of 15 (year 10). These are being created in collaboration with teachers and education experts. Find out more about the range of things BBC Bitesize is offering here.

See the menu for BBC Bitesize daily lessons here.

A review of a BBC Bitesize lesson – Year 10 Geography

I looked at a year 10 geography lesson to see what it was like. I chose geography because that's the subject I used to teach so I can make a professional judgement about the quality of the materials.

The lesson I chose was a year 10 lesson on global warming. You can see it here.

What I liked about the lesson
  1. The lesson was well structured on the page, with a lesson objective at the top and a summary of you were going to learn, as well as lots of sub-headings, bullet points, videos and diagrams.
  2. The videos gave good background and broader knowledge on the subject of global warming. It appeared they were taken from the BBC's TV archive rather than being specifically created to teach this topic.
  3. The information provided an excellent overview of relevant aspects of the topic.
  4. There were two activities at the end of the lesson to help reinforce understanding and learning.
What I didn't like about the lesson
  1. I know from having taught this topic multiple times that many students struggle to understand the mechanism of the greenhouse effect. The diagram provided to explain this would probably leave many students without a thorough understanding of this important point.
  2. The activity at the bottom of the page doesn't give you the correct answers so you don't have any feedback on your understanding.
  3. The lesson feels as if it would serve students better as a revision resource, rather than as a place to learn about global warming for the first time.

Overall, this is a good resource, but I think most students will need more input in order to really understand this topic and get good marks for it in an exam. But, I've only looked at this one lesson so it's worth looking at others, or using them in conjunction with other resources. Overall, as a free resource used for revision or in conjunction with other materials or teaching support, it's good.

At a glance

Live or pre-recorded – Pre-precorded

GCSE subjects offered? Yes

A Level subjects offered? No

Range of subjects – Excellent

Cost – Free

Quality of teaching – 3/5

2. The National Oak Academy

The National Oak Academy has been set up in just two weeks (at the time of writing) pooling the expertise of highly regarded subject teachers and education organisations. It is free. You don't even need to log-in to do the lessons.

I looked at the offerings for year 10 because I mainly work with GCSE students. The subjects offered (at the time of writing) are:

  • English
  • French
  • Latin
  • Maths
  • Science
  • Spanish

I do think it's strange that they're offering Latin rather than either geography or history which are core academic subjects that many students take.

It appears that they're releasing lessons on a timetable, which you can view when you visit the website. As it's only been open for two weeks there's quite a few lessons, and it looks like they're planning to add more over time.

A review of a National Oak Academy lesson – Year 10 Biology

I chose a science lesson because I love science, and particularly biology. The lesson was on photosynthesis.

See the lesson on photosynthesis here.

It started with a quick quiz to see what you could remember. The quiz really made you think and you can see your results immediately, as well as the answer to any that you got wrong.

You then went into watching a video presented by a teacher. It was incredibly clear in terms of what you needed to do and the explanations the teacher gave. There were activities throughout the video where you were encouraged to pause the video and follow the on-screen instructions. These activities were very well thought-through to make students really think about the information they were learning and internalise it.

The lesson finished with another quiz to test what you'd learned. Again, you could see your results and see if you'd got anything wrong.

Overall, this lesson contained truly excellent, detailed teaching. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone. The only thing missing from the real classroom experience is the facility to do written work and submit it for feedback to a teacher.

At a glance

Live or pre-recorded – Pre-precorded

GCSE subjects offered? Yes

A Level subjects offered? No

Range of subjects – Limited

Cost – Free

Quality of teaching – 5/5

3. Live, group learning with Justin Craig

Tuition company, Justin Craig, are offering live online courses to groups of no more than eight students. They're offering three types of courses:

Year 10 – Getting Ahead, Preparation for Year 11

Year 11 – Bridging the Gap to A Level Maths

Year 12 – Getting Ahead – Preparation for Year 13

Justin Craig only use experienced and qualified teachers, not university students.

Year 10 courses with Justin Craig

In order to maintain students' momentum for their GCSE studies, Justin Craig offer a package of five subjects over five days, focusing on consolidating knowledge from Year 10 and giving an introduction to Year 11 content.

Each day will include 3 hours of tuition across the core subjects of English, Maths and the sciences.

Year 12 course with Justin Craig

The year 12 courses reflect the more in-depth nature of A Level study. Each course is on a specific subject and the subjects covered include the Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Maths. There are opportunities for other subjects. The courses are five days long and include 3 hours of tuition.

Click here to find out more about Justin Craig's online courses.

This is what one of my clients, Emma, said about her daughter's experience of Justin Craig courses over the last year:

“My daughter, Emily finds it challenging to organise her revision time so I suggested Justin Craig courses to help prepare her for GCSEs.  Last October half term at the start of year 11 Emily went on her first course and it clearly made a difference as she improved her geography by 2 grades and chemistry by 1 grade in the November mocks, which was just fantastic. 

Emily subsequently did more Justin Craig revision courses, all of which have been really good. She likes the small groups and the way the tutors structure the courses such that the more challenging topics are always discussed, and there is enough flexibility to change the schedule if students need to focus on a specific area”.

At a glance

Live or pre-recorded – Live

GCSE subjects offered? Yes

A Level subjects offered? Yes

Range of subjects – Core subjects / sciences, but it's worth asking about other subjects

Cost – £325 for 15 hours (across 3 or 5 days, depending on the level).  This works out as a per hour rate of £21.66.

Quality of teaching – 5/5

4. One-to-one tutoring

The final option available to you to get some ‘proper' teaching is to have sessions with one or more private tutors.

The advantage of this is that you can choose the right tutor for you, and, depending on your tutor's schedule, have the sessions at a time that suits your family. The tutor can also tailor what they teach to your precise learning needs and you will have work set and receive detailed feedback.

The only downside to this is the cost. Most of the tutors that I know and respect charge £60 per hour for their work, which is out of the reach of most families. I would avoid using university students as tutors as they don't have the teaching background or wide experience that you would ideally be looking for.

You might be interested in my podcast episode Does your child need a private tutor  or my blog post, Tutor vs academic coach: which does your child need?

At a glance

Live or pre-recorded – Live

GCSE subjects offered? Yes

A Level subjects offered? Yes

Range of subjects – All – you just need to find the tutor

Cost – £40-£60 per hour for quality tutoring

Quality of teaching – 5/5 (but dependent on the tutor, ask for recommendations)

Over to you…

It depends on your budget, your child's needs and the learning provision your school is providing as to which of these options you chose. I hope you find the right way to support your child's learning.

Whichever one you go with, it will help your child greatly to learn to study more independently at the moment so that they are more resourceful and less reliant on their teachers. I'm teaching a special course right now in The Extraordinaries Club teaching students to study more independently while schools are closed. Find out more about the course here.

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