I spoke to four students in Year 8 and Year 10 across four different schools in Sussex to get their views on how maths lessons, and school in general, are going under the new lockdown conditions that we are now getting used to.
Maths lessons have generally taken on the format whereby their teachers send out a Word or a PowerPoint explanation of the lesson, and sometimes a video. This is followed by an exercise or other activity which the students have to complete and send back to their teacher. Due to the nature of explaining new concepts remotely, the focus tended to be more on revision of topics rather than learning new things. One student said they always use HegartyMaths to watch a video and complete an online exercise which his teacher can monitor. All of the students said they found it easier to work this way because they could read the notes or watch the video over again if they wanted to, and they could work at their own speed, however sometimes it feels harder because help is not so easily accessible.
The students maintained contact with their teachers through email, which was the main method they used if they wanted to ask any questions. Although the students used this method on occasion, they only used this method if their parents couldn’t help them. One of the students said they use Microsoft Teams, which can be a bit awkward and slow in the “chat” facility because sometimes there are silences or several students try to answer a question at once. Although this is currently probably the best solution for teaching with discussion, it is much less straightforward than in a physical classroom.
Parental involvement ranged from ‘just being left to get on with it’ to regular check-ups under the disguise of “do you need anything?” and parents being willing to help if needed, but generally busy with their own work or helping younger siblings. In all four households, the younger the child was, the more parental help they received.
Generally, the students were content with the way school has been going in lockdown. Some of them are enjoying the freedom of being more relaxed, for example they can listen to music while they work, stay in their pyjamas or do the lessons in order of choice rather than what has been timetabled.
Maths was one of the subjects that the students said was easier to manage in lockdown. The most problematic subjects were those with more practical elements, such as art, music and languages.
The new arrangements have not really impacted very much at all on their feelings about GCSEs. Perhaps surprisingly, it was one of the Year 8 students who was most worried about ‘getting behind’ when thinking about their GCSEs, however I suspect this will vary individually from student to student.
Unsurprisingly, when asked about the best and worst of lockdown, the students all miss being with their friends, but feel they are able to work more at their own pace and are enjoying the freedom of being able to do their work without the feeling of anyone looking over their shoulder.
I’d like to say a big thank you to all teachers for keeping things going as well as possible under the current circumstances, and also to the students who are faithfully keeping up with their work. A special thank you to the four students who were interviewed for this article.