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For educators, covid 19 has been termed, ‘a quintessential adaptive and transformative challenge’, (OECD, 2020), the impact of which will be felt for a long time to come.

It is clear that during lockdown, teachers have been creatively carrying out blended and online learning, but in an ad hoc manner, with little strategic or whole school strategic approach (OECD, 2020). In addition, disadvantaged students have engaged less readily, and, as a result, many have been out of education for over 6 months.

What is clear from the limited research on innovations so far, is that some of these ‘stopgap’ responses have the potential to change schools’ delivery of teaching and learning, but only if what schools have learned is integrated into their strategic planning for the future; ensuring that this planning particularly focuses on provision for disadvantaged students. However, this is unlikely to occur unless, as highlighted by a number of organisations (for example the National Education Union), it is strategically led and coordinated by leaders at all levels within schools.

This project taps into this key area, the strategic management of online learning in schools, both during and post lockdown. Targeting three levels of management: CEOs (Multi Academy Trusts) and headteachers, (HTs) curriculum leads (CLs) and heads of department,(HoDs), the project is the first attempt to examine how online learning is being led and strategically managed by secondary schools in England. In so doing it will begin to develop an important knowledge base for leaders and managers in schools in the UK, both during this pandemic, and beyond.

Our research will:

  • add value to existing research into how teachers use online learning in secondary schools
  • add value to existing research by extending this research beyond the operational, to the planning and strategy of such learning going forward, particularly in relation to closing the gap between disadvantaged students and their peers
  • investigate how school and curriculum leaders look to incorporate the pastoral elements inherent within good online learning, and that are vital to ensure good mental health and motivation amongst learners
  • identify gaps and blocks to delivering high quality provision through strategic planning
  • via a series of recommendations formed from case studies of good practice, it will provide valuable insights to school leaders as to how to build on existing good practice and integrate it into curriculum planning
  • complement international studies on the effects of Covid 19 on pupil learning
  • create an important knowledge base in terms of the strategic management of online learning to raise learning outcomes both in the UK and beyond.