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"It has given a lot of kids a voice." The children who have thrived with remote learning.

The pandemic landscape has undoubtedly been challenging for students, parents and teachers. 

Parents have faced significant stress, juggling their own work whilst supervising remote schooling, and the lack of face-to-face interaction has been difficult.

But despite the struggles, there are some children who have thrived during lockdown.

Clinical and health psychologist Amanda Gordon helps break down how you can help your children if they're suffering with anxiety. Post continues after video. 


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As an educator and a mum of two primary-aged children, I’ve been impressed with the resilience that young people have shown through this time of isolation and learning at home.

While some have had a positive experience in lockdown, it’s also important to acknowledge upfront that there are many children and parents who have not. 

The difficulties of remote learning are absolutely real, further amplified by disadvantage and existing inequities that impact some students.

This is not to detract from those experiences, but rather, to shine a light on some positives.

For 15-year-old Matilda, from Chisholm in the Lower Hunter, lockdown has had advantages. With a history of high anxiety, she admits that "school stressed me out a lot." 

Working independently at home and a flexible schedule have been important factors in her remote learning success.

"It’s the freedom that comes with it, I'm able to do a lot more than I'd normally be able to do at school. I have extra time in the afternoon to do more work with my business." 

This additional time has allowed Matilda to develop a burgeoning cupcake business - she has sold over 700 cupcakes in her local area during lockdown.

Image: Getty.

"She can follow the schedule of the school with her breaks and she's just loved it," says Matilda’s mum, Krista. "That structure has still been helpful, but being home and able to do it, she prefers it."

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Sticking to routines and getting outside has also helped Matilda in lockdown. "I get up early, have breakfast, and get dressed for the day. And I make sure that I get off my screens during breaks."

In Sydney’s Warriewood, 16-year-old Emma agrees, "I make sure that I get outside at lunchtime, whether it’s walking or running. Getting fresh air."

Both girls attribute increased freedom and flexibility as important factors in coping with remote learning. "We have a revised timetable which gives us more breaks," says Emma. 

Matilda’s school also introduced 'flexible learning time' in the afternoon, which allows students to catch up on work or ask questions.

Similarly, Emma has noticed a difference in lockdown this year. "I think teachers are more experienced in the best way to deliver their classes online, to make it most engaging." 

Staying in touch with friends, through social media and online chats, is another key factor in the remote learning experience. "I thought it would go downhill because I like to socialise a lot with my friends, but we've managed to keep that up."

A combination of factors have helped 12-year-old Taylor, from Cromer in Sydney, thrive during remote learning. 

"He has less distractions at home and is able to just get on with his work," says his mum, Deb. "I think he gets very easily distracted in class and uses that as a means for not getting much work done. It’s also helped that I’ve had flexible working hours during lockdown, so I’ve been able to sit with him... that one-on-one time has been a massive benefit."

For Michelle, a primary school principal in Victoria’s Gippsland region, it’s been a process of trial and error to reach remote learning success. 

Over multiple lockdowns of varying lengths, they’ve implemented a system that has "worked so successfully, to the point of families of six, with both parents working in the house, and it still works."

"We're a little bit different from metropolitan Melbourne, who've been in lockdown for consistently a long time," she says, "We're in and out... so we need to be able to do that pretty seamlessly."

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Image: Getty.

Sessions of live teaching online and breakout groups have resulted in high levels of student engagement.

"We've had kids that have really thrived in it, because along with what we're providing, they've got families who are in a position to help."

The "student-focused, teacher-driven approach" has worked, according to Michelle. "Our NAPLAN results were really good this year." 

The school is also prioritising wellbeing. "The teachers are now including lots of mindfulness in their live teaching," she says, adding that it’s particularly beneficial for the many students clinically diagnosed with anxiety or depression.

Suzi, a lead teacher in learning support in the Lower Hunter region, says that while some of her students have still struggled with the online environment this year, many have coped well. 

"We’ve found it to be really successful... our levels of engagement are a lot better," she says.

"A lot of kids who normally would fly under the radar in class... we were able to chat... they could just type a question. They don’t have to have their camera on all the time... so they feel more comfortable and could sit and engage in the lesson. It was quiet, and they didn't have the normal noise and disruption.

"We also had break out rooms... that was a positive because it was small group learning and they had a learning support assistant working with them.

"It has given a lot of our kids a voice, and it teaches parents that their kids are more independent and resilient than they thought they were."

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The commitment of teachers and families to ensure learning hasn’t been compromised in lockdown is certainly a factor in remote learning successes. 

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When the pandemic first hit, Laureate Professor Jenny Gore and her team at the University of Newcastle were conducting a multi-year study comparing student achievement in reading and mathematics. This coincidental timing led to some of the first global data on the impact of COVID-19 school disruptions

The study of more than 4,800 Year 3 and 4 students from 113 New South Wales government schools, found that school closures in 2020 had minimal negative impact on academic progress for most of the students involved, and in some cases, students made gains beyond the expected levels.

"Yes, it was challenging," says Professor Gore, "but teachers worked really hard to make sure students were having learning opportunities, and families did what they could to support their kids, which for some was a huge juggle." Intensive efforts in literacy and numeracy following closures also helped.

"I think the other thing is those kids for whom school is not a particularly comfortable place, because they've been bullied or don't quite fit in. Perhaps being away from some of those pressures of being a young person is actually really helpful."

However, she acknowledges that there are many variables. "So we found, for teachers and for students, some had very negative experiences and some had positive and some were a bit up and down."

With two subsequent research papers in the works, Professor Gore and her colleagues will be able to compare the cohorts of 2019, 2020 and 2021. "I think that's going to be really interesting because no one really has any evidence about accumulative effects of consecutive periods of school closure," she says.

With an end to lockdown in sight, getting back to the classroom will certainly present challenges. But if we are to take something positive away from this testing time, it’s the resilience of our young people, their capacity to learn, and the tireless support they’ve received along the way. 

Danielle Lucas is a freelance writer, mum to two primary school-aged children, and a teacher currently on a career break. She is passionate about inspiring others, lifelong learning and travel - you’ll often find her daydreaming about that next trip or hitting the road with her family, caravan in tow. 

Confused about Snapchat? Unsure about TikTok? Meet the Safe on Social Toolkit: the digital 'survival kit' designed to arm parents with everything they need to know about keeping their kids safe online. Find out more now at www.safeonsocialtoolkit.com.

Feature Image: Getty.

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