Crystal ball gazing almost never gives a wholly accurate forecast of what is to come, especially in times such as these which are uncertain, unfamiliar and unprecedented. Despite this, I’ve dusted down my Mystic Max apparel and gazed into the future to offer my top 5 predictions for the education world in 2022…
1. Staff availability will cause headaches for schools
There will continue to be a demand for more teaching professionals and support staff in schools but as more pupils in the 12-15 age category get vaccinated against COVID19, hopefully the threat of closures will begin to diminish with schools remaining open despite the continuation of the pandemic.
Expect though to see headteachers and teachers moving out of the profession – retiring, taking early retirement or looking for other employment options with the school pressures, under resourcing of schools and COVID challenges all taking their toll.
2. Mental health will be a big issue for the education sector
Let’s face it, the last two years have taken their toll, and one of the biggest challenges that parents, learners and educators will face in the upcoming school year will be mental health.
Throughout 2021, the Education sector was highly affected by COVID19 testing and isolating requirements, class bubbles, and school closures. This level of change caused anxiety for many involved, be it pupils, parents, headteachers, teachers, support staff, and all other school staff.
With staff facing burnout, and in some cases, overwhelming stress caused by uncertainty with regards to working practices and lockdown threats, and many children having had to show resilience in the face of learning disruptions and social isolation, it’s been the perfect storm for exacerbating existing mental health problems and for allowing new anxieties to form and grow.
There are no easy answers in these uncertain landscapes, but in 2022 expect schools to find themselves at the centre of this emerging mental health crisis both as patient and doctor.
3. Masks and mitigations will divide opinion
Who envies the politicians and policy-makers as we take our first tentative steps into 2022? 24 months of COVID19 has given everyone plenty of time to form an opinion and politicians are beginning to hear “you’ve had two years to come up with a plan” for every decision they make which doesn’t cut the mustard with someone.
The problem is that for every person who thinks children should wear a mask in school, there is another who opposes it greatly. For every parent who says “let the kids get on with it” there’s another thinking “please let them bubble for safety.” For everyone who says keep the windows open there is someone else saying close them because the cold is worse for the children that the threat of catching COVID19. It’s highly emotive and passionately argued, especially in the often anonymous world of social media.
As 2022 plays out, expect to see a range of responses and mitigations play out, with a barrel-load of views and opinions which come from all sides including the extreme reaches of the spectrum.
4. Remote learning will return
The messaging from central government in the UK is that schools will try to remain open with the Secretary of State pledging to do “everything in his power” to protect education. It’s a similar story in the Isle of Man with a contingency plan heavily weighted on keeping schools open through “proportionate” mitigations such as opening windows and requiring adults to wear masks in schools. However, some experts have said more should be done. Education Unions have also consistently called for more from Governments especially in terms of COVID-funding for air filtration systems and enhanced human resource for cleaning and hygiene. They argue that without this funding and investment in tech & HR mitigations, schools will remain sources of high levels of transmission which may result in intermittent closing and therefore online learning.
Another key issue is staffing, given the level of absences because of COVID19 and self-isolation, with ex-teachers being encouraged to return.
It seems likely then that at least some teaching will be done remotely, with the Isle of Man promoting remote learning protocols that can be activated within 48 hours of any decision to close and UK Secretary of State Nadhim Zahawi urging schools to implement a flexible approach to learning where necessary, to maximise on-site education.
5. Technology-led solutions will embed as the norm
One of the positives of the last two years is the huge leaps school communities have made with technology and ICT systems. A recent report from Vacancysoft notes a 71.5% growth in the UK’s Education technology sector over the last year alone so expect some trends for 2022 to be very tech orientated:
- Virtual parents’ evenings – these will become increasingly prevalent either through video-conference platforms like Zoom and Teams, or over the telephone. Expect also to see hybrid options popping up where parents have the choice between a virtual and physical appointment. How To Run A Virtual Parents Evening Via Zoom
- Webinars – webinar tech will start to allow schools to communicate very effectively with parents, and will become increasingly popular against traditional formats such as gathering parents in a school hall on a wet and windy Tuesday night to talk about transition.
- CPD – the move towards CPD being online is already huge. It’s cheaper, has greater reach and ever growing ways of building in interactivity and engagement. With Twitter and social media playing its part too, this is definitely an element of the future.
- Interactive play-based learning – projection technology using interactive and mobile floors and/or walls that bring classes to life.
- Immersive lessons – using bespoke immersion suites that can recreate any place in the past or present, with 180-degree wraparound screens, interactive floors, sound systems, LED lighting, scent box and temperature control.
- Digital connectivity – apps can help improve pupil involvement in creating, sharing, and accomplishing classroom challenges. We saw this explode through Teams and Microsoft Apps during the national lockdowns and teachers are ready to build on this emerging practice.
- Artificial Intelligence – as AI educational solutions continue to mature, the hope is that AI can help fill needs gaps in learning and teaching and allow schools and teachers to do more than ever before. We’ll hear more and more about the role of AI in education throughout 2022 and beyond.
- Remote learning – there is a new and exciting pedagogy emerging in the live lesson space and recorded lesson space. You can read more on that here – expect to see it feature more and more as teachers and schools become more adept at offering blended learning models for a wide range of scenarios.