A warm and wintery ‘welcome’ to all our readers, wherever you may be. This time last year I wished all of you a seasonal ‘yo-ho-ho’, blissfully unaware of how 2020 would play out. Today, as I write this year’s ‘end-of-year’ piece, I adopt a more sombre greeting, all too aware of the hardships that so many have faced over these last few months.
‘In 2020 parents, guardians and loved ones joined teachers and lecturers in the task of formally educating younger learners, juggling technology with new forms of curricula, assessment and pedagogy.’
During these months the distinctions between sites of work, recreation, learning, and sleep have melted away in our struggle to get to grips with the pandemic. In 2020 parents, guardians and loved ones joined teachers and lecturers in the task of formally educating younger learners – a task made more challenging by the need to juggle technology with new forms of curricula, assessment and pedagogy. This was also the year in which the climate crisis and the effects of lockdown forced many of us to reconsider what we mean by ‘wellbeing’, and rethink our relationship with our environment and the legacies we leave to future generations when we shuffle off this mortal coil. And it has also been a year in which the killing of George Floyd and a growth in populism have reignited a much-needed examination of what we mean by ‘racial justice’, and of the extent to which all of us working in education urgently need to revisit our own individual and institutional commitments to equity, diversity and inclusion.
This year the BERA Blog has speedily responded to all of these issues and more by publishing 215 posts and reaching an audience in 197 countries and territories. We’ve published nine special issues on a range of topics including: Covid-19, Education and Educational Research, Education for our Planet and Future; Researching Education and Mental Health; and Education, #BlackLivesMatter and Racial Justice in the UK and Beyond.
Our BERA Bites downloadable teaching resources have, this year, included collections of blog posts on promoting research practice in schools and two further collections on Researching Education and Mental Health and Teaching and Learning in Higher Education are in press. These collections gather together highlights from among the more than 800 articles published on the BERA Blog since it launched in 2015.
Over the last 12 months our editorial team has been bombarded with blog posts on topics as diverse as: celebrity teachers, climate change education, crime and race in higher education, self-harm in primary pupils, the impacts of Covid-19 on school-based sexuality education, adult education and homelessness, vulnerable learners in lockdown, prison education and raising ambitions for trans pupils.
But what else have we covered in-depth during 2020? Teacher education remained a dominant theme for many of our authors and readers. Anna Olsson-Rost, Yvonne Sinclair and Diane Warner powerfully captured the often uncomfortable and destabilising realities of Black, Asian and minority ethnic students on initial teacher education courses. Corinne Greaves and Heidi Long questioned the wisdom of placing beginning teachers into challenging schools during their training. The issue of mentoring in teacher education generated articles from Grace Healy and Nicola Walshe and Lizana Oberholzer, and the topic of wellbeing and workloads on PGCE courses was captured beautifully by Aimee Quickfall, Emma Clarke and Shaun Thompson. Other notable contributions came from Manjinder Jagdev, writing about anti-racist mathematics teacher education; Peter Wolstencroft and Georgina Gretton on the university–school divide within initial teacher education; Jamie Heywood on action research and teacher training; and Darío Luis Banegas on online teacher education.
The talkfest this year on the curriculum gathered momentum with a cracking contribution from Sally Power, Chris Taylor and Nigel Newton on the challenges facing Wales in relation to curriculum reform and inequality. We stayed in Wales with a brilliant piece by Lucy Jenkins on supporting multilingualism in the country’s new curriculum (which was the occasion for a special issue of the BERA Blog that in turn arose from a special issue of the Curriculum Journal).
Curricular breadth in Scottish secondary schools, and the issues of access and inequality, was the subject of Lyndsay Patterson’s article; and just a short hop across the Irish Sea took us to Una O’Connor, Elizabeth Anderson Worden, Jessica Bates, Vanessa Gstrein and Jane Finlay’s article on the lessons learned from Northern Ireland on implementing citizenship education in a post-conflict society. Against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter protests that followed the killing of George Floyd, Eleni Stamou, Anton Popov and Ebru Soytemel contributed a superb piece on the decolonisation of the curriculum. There was more on the curriculum from Mikko A. Niemelä, who wrote about powerful knowledge, and from Neil Selwyn and Jesper Aagaard, who looked at the digital curriculum and asked, ‘What else should we be aiming for?’
We don’t (yet) publish enough articles in the BERA Blog about children’s rights: Rhian Barrance’s offering on the school climate strikes was a welcome and worthy exception, as was Helen Young and Lee Jerome’s brilliant article on student voice during lockdown. Writing about home education during the pandemic and the challenges it poses to mainstream schooling, Victoria Bamsey argued that it is
‘time to take stock and value education outside of the school gate, to recognise the interests and needs of the individual child and to move away from an overreliance on examination grades’.
Claire Lee and Lucy Wenham did indeed take stock, in a moving piece documenting research into children’s reflections on home education during the pandemic and the implications that they posed for children returning to school.
The torrent of articles on educational technology has continued this year, often within the context of the pandemic. Matt Bower and Jodie Torrington’s fabulous 2020 typology of free web-based learning technologies is a must-read. Writing about the ‘kitchens and front rooms of home learning’, Warren Kidd captured the utility of video conferencing technology and the role it can play in primary education. Also worth reading are contributions from Hans Hummel on the thin line between gaming and learning; Annie Storkey on meeting the needs of students with mental health challenges in online learning environments; and Guido Makransky, who wrote about the effects of immersive virtual reality on science students’ interest and career aspirations. Emma Derbyshire’s article on virtual teaching for children with dyslexia draws attention to the realities and disturbing absence of research on this topic. Finally, I would also like to draw readers’ attention to a great piece by Elizabeth Aylott and Andrew Veasey on digital equity and learning in lockdown for autistic students.
We hope, in 2021, to publish more articles on and by doctoral students. In the meantime a piece on the wellbeing and mental health of doctoral students from BAME backgrounds by Siobhan Lynam, Carline Lafarge, Raffaella Margherita Milani and Marcia Worrell makes for compelling reading. So too does PhD candidate Chloe Reid’s article on employer engagement with schools in Wales. In her editorial for a BERA Blog special issue on independent researchers, Carrie Birch revealed the many challenges that independent researchers face when attempting to access ethical approval. And finally, if you fancy some bedtime reading, take a look at Stephen Ball’s wonderful collection of the 10 books that made him a sociologist of education.
A huge thanks to my wonderful BERA Blog co-editors Alison Fox and Rowena Passy, BERA publications manager Ross Fulton, BERA CEO Nick Johnson (for dreaming up the BERA Blog in the first place), and everyone in the BERA office for their work supporting this magnificent publication. Most of all, though, we would like to thank all of our authors – your creativity, inspiration and patience lies behind the success story that the BERA Blog has become.
We are sorry that this round-up can’t cover all of the many themes that the blog has engaged with over the last 12 months, particularly to the authors whose work could not be included here. However, we do hope that this overview has given you, our readers, some sense of the diversity, depth and impact of the work we publish. As always, we welcome future contributions from teachers, practitioners, academics, policymakers and all who have a stake in lifelong learning. And, while we continue to attract writers from the four nations of the UK, we also welcome contributions from all parts of the globe. If you have an idea for a future blog piece please contact our editorial team.
I started this end-of-year-round up relatively downbeat, but my usual pathological optimism has been turbocharged by re-reading this year’s collection of articles and the cocktail of creativity our authors offer all of us as we move into 2021. In different ways the articles we publish on the BERA Blog celebrate the integrity, commitment and passion these authors bring to their work, and their articles describe and inspire the improvements we all can make to our professional practice in these extraordinarily challenging times.
With vaccines starting to be rolled out, this may be the beginning of the end of the Covid-19 crisis – but in any case, we have lots to feel optimistic about over the next 12 months. We wish all our readers and authors a safe, joyous and relaxing festive season, and look forward to 2021.