This report provides a summary of the key themes that were raised within and across the Beyond COVID: learning in the next phase conversations.

The conversations brought together education practitioners from across Wales to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on teaching and learning.

The report is intended to provide a practical resource for practitioners, highlighting and sharing experiences, practice, and learning.

The issues, challenges, and suggestions raised by practitioners in these conversations have informed and will continue to inform the Welsh Government’s work on important policy issues. This includes the development of a national network to support the implementation of the new curriculum, and providing useful feedback to consider for our plans to support learners and teachers as we move away from the pandemic.

Participants were invited to give their views across three substantive areas:

  1. what worked well over the last year and why it worked well
  2. the challenges and opportunities practitioners may face in supporting learners with their readiness to learn following the disruptions of the last year
  3. the challenges and opportunities practitioners may encounter in ensuring learner progression in the coming months

A key theme was the importance of supporting learner well-being. Many participants outlined that broader welfare had become a key priority informing engagement with learners and their families. Participants across settings and schools outlined issues such as increased anxiety, stress and social isolation, as well as reduced peer interaction and physical activity as significant challenges facing learners. Reflecting on the last 12 months, a key area of progress highlighted by participants was the strengthening of links between home and school or setting. The situation had enabled practitioners to develop a greater understanding of learners’ home lives, for example, which enabled them to better tailor their support.

Another key, overarching theme across conversations included delivering effective teaching and learning. The disruption faced by schools and settings required practitioners to pivot towards greater digital and blended learning provision. Underscoring reflections on teaching and learning was the impact of disruption on learner progression. A key factor in responses was the importance of ensuring that practitioners held the necessary skills and confidence to draw on digital teaching tools. Practitioners also drew on pedagogical innovations that digital tools enabled, such as synchronous and asynchronous teaching and learning.

Another key theme raised by participants included parental engagement. Some participants highlighted the important contribution that parents and carers had made in supporting their children’s education over the last 12 months. Many felt that significant progress had been made in setting up more established lines of communications and in developing more positive relationships with parents. This was felt by many to be a significant achievement.