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At the beginning of 2021, Cosmic were approached by the Employment and Skills team of Somerset West and Taunton Council to provide training to parents across West Somerset. Through their contacts in the county, the team had identified a skills gap in the community which was highlighted by the need to support children with remote learning due to ongoing lockdown. 

Whilst remote learning is a fantastic way to ensure pupils continue to be engaged with education when they’re not able to attend school; Employment and Skills Lead, Beccy Brown was aware that  “the effectiveness of the support would be reflected by the extent of parents/carers digital skills and knowledge.” In 2020, Lloyds bank completed research for the UK Consumer Digital Index that showed over 49% of the population of the South West fell into the categories of Low, or Very Low when it came to their digital skills. This, paired with unpredictable restrictions throughout the pandemic, meant that many children and parents were continuing to struggle with online learning to the detriment of the child’s education and the stress levels of the parents. 

Beccy Brown commented further that “Teachers have highlighted that this pressure [to continue remote learning] is further exacerbated by parents feeling they are not supporting their children sufficiently … and the worry of online safety and excessive screen time.  For parents who have limited experience of online programmes, or access to digital devices, the stress is doubled.” 

The opportunity was clear, and the Cosmic team were able to deliver 4 bespoke training sessions via Zoom to develop the skills of parents covering the following themes: 

  • Tapestry 

  • Parental Controls and Screen Time. 

  • Microsoft Teams  

  • Google Classroom 

During the development of the sessions, our team had the opportunity to speak to a Headteacher from the area, Naomi Philp [Head Teacher of Dunster First School and Timberscombe First School], to get a better understanding of how the tools were being used in the area. This information was invaluable and allowed us to add in really specific language (like the “waffle” icon, a description used for the apps menus in Google Classroom) and further support the schools by addressing specific areas of concern for the teaching staff (such as how to take screenshots on different devices).  

Naomi, her staff, and schools throughout the area could see the effort being made by families to engage with online learning, but due to the lack of time to prepare, there were some gaps in knowledge which put additional pressure on all parties. Naomi commented, “The efforts put in by everyone has been phenomenal. … Parents have laughed along with us testing new systems, seeing us learn from our mistakes and we have been there for them when the pressure has become overwhelming. As a head teacher, and parent myself, I knew when the expectation was raised for schools, in terms of remote learning, that pressure would unfold into every home and that needed to be managed carefully and thoughtfully.  We devised our educational provision to ensure screen time was kept to a healthy amount, that wellbeing and educational activities were carefully balanced, alongside free play and socialisation… Having online ICT support sessions for teachers and for our parents has been really useful to give everyone the confidence to get started.” 

The training itself took place in February across 4 afternoons where attendees actively took part in the sessions, asking questions, and picking the brains of our Cosmic trainers. Whilst the pupils may be back in the classroom now, it is clear that remote learning will be part of the school curriculum for some time yet, whether during periods of self isolation, or for homework tasks. The parents that attended, left the sessions with new skills under their belt, and reassurance that they can continue to support their children wherever the road may lead.  The feedback showed that many were grateful for the opportunity to access training like this, and valued the casual, informative and clear approach of the Cosmic trainers. 

Beccy Brown commented after the training that “this has been an excellent example of partnership working and the Employment and Skills team at Somerset West and Taunton Council have been delighted by the professionalism, responsiveness and quality of service which Cosmic has once again provided in delivering these workshops.”