The faster schools can adopt hybrid learning, the more chance children from all backgrounds have of success. The Government has done the right thing but must continue to do so, argues Leon Hady.

For millions of school students, online learning has been a waste of time. That needn't be the case: Done correctly and with the right support for both parents and teachers, digital learning can work just as well as in-person teaching, and even augment learning.

From the Department of Education down to individual teachers and parents, we must learn the lesson of the last year and blend our schooling – or face a lost opportunity where our learning capacity will be greatly damaged.

That means taking the educational experiment that lockdowns have forced upon us, and using it to shape how we carry digital learning into the post-pandemic future.

No one is calling for a return to dusty blackboards and crumpled textbooks. And no one wants a completely remote, digital schooling system for a day longer than necessary.

But technology is here to stay in schooling, and can and should be a permanent complement to school learning, rather than its replacement.

Hybrid working – where remote work complements a physical office – appears to be the new normal. We should be just as enthusiastic about hybrid learning.

Digital schooling has its problems: Adults who have transitioned to exclusively working from home have reported 'Zoom fatigue', and schoolchildren are no different.

Micro-delays in audio and video negatively affect our social perceptivity, which over time leads to a feeling of alienation and social discomfort. Those cues that we have learnt from infancy get disrupted, meaning we have to rely on alternative mental resources. Over time, this leads to fatigue and burnout. This can be the difference between a student's understanding, or not.

Teachers have struggled to assert the same level of authority in the classroom. When a central, dominant figure in the classroom is replaced with a crackly image that is equal to the size of pupils', a teacher's authority is undermined.

And playground interactions cannot be replaced by any amount of digital socialising. One crucial element of education is the joint attention: the feeling of being in a shared state of flow with another individual. This is harder to create when not sharing the same environment.

But all those challenges can be solved with proper internet access and delivering learning through customised, tailormade platforms.

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We must not blame digital learning for problems that predate it. Even before the pandemic, a fifth of all British schools were deemed less than 'Good' by Ofsted.

60% of private schools, and 37% of state schools in the most affluent areas have online learning portals; this was just 23% for schools in the most deprived areas.

Many of the more successful schools have found that quality trumps quantity in learning, every time, and have opted for shorter lessons. The average lesson time in the UK is approximately 50 minutes. The average attention span for older children, teenagers and adults is approximately 20 minutes.

Another result of lockdown lessons is that parents realise how important they are to learning.

No matter their income or background, students with involved parents are more likely to have higher grades and test scores, attend school regularly, have better social skills, show improved behavior and adapt well to school.

Rather than wanting to outsource all their child's learning to teachers, many parents see the value in being a larger part of the learning process. Digital learning allows them to essentially observe lessons and participate – something many of them have never had the chance to do before.

The £100 million offered by the government for digital tools for schools will allow more pupils to benefit from the kind of hybrid learning that can achieve the best results.

This is exactly what a new generation of digitally-savvy students want: more of the online learning experiences and online experiences that are second nature to them. The 'gamification' of learning – making it as fun as Fortnite but as informative as a textbook – will allow students who are not typically 'academic' to excel.

Some students feel uncomfortable in brick and mortar classrooms, and learn better digitally and at their own pace, reviewing lessons online and completing homework or projects through an interface that reminds them of a game. Space must be made for these students in our learning offer.

Many teachers need all the support they can get in the face of large class sizes and stretched resources.

And parents desperately want all this to work, and for their children to be able to put the pandemic behind them without it permanently affecting their lives and prospects.

If we can keep technology as part of our schooling mix, hybrid learning will be as loved by our children as hybrid working is by their parents. What's more, it could transform educational attainment and social mobility.

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