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How teachers supported children and parents through COVID-19 school closures

Teachers went to great effort to help parents support their children’s learning.

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When the first wave of COVID-19 reached England, the national lockdown led to school closures with very little warning for pupils, teachers and parents. Children’s homes became their classrooms.

We carried out research into primary school teachers’ experiences of remote learning during the first and second COVID lockdowns. This involved an online survey of 271 teachers from schools across England and interviews with teachers from 24 schools in June and July 2020. We then conducted follow-up interviews with 14 of the teachers in April 2021, after the second period of school closures.

In particular, we looked at the relationship between teachers and parents. School closures resulted in a dramatic shift in the role that parents were required to play in their children’s learning. Teachers’ expectations of parents shifted from supporting learning at home, based on what children were doing at school, to being integrally involved in schooling at home.

Helping families

Our research sheds light on the obstacles that parents and teachers faced, but also the effective strategies that teachers used to get parents involved with their children’s learning.

School closures exacerbated the “digital divide” between families who had good access to technology and digital skills, and those who did not. Disadvantaged children and families were less likely to have sufficient technology and internet access for remote learning, compared with their more affluent counterparts. Some parents and children only had internet access through a smartphone rather than a tablet or computer, which was often impractical for remote learning.

The UK government set up a scheme to allocate digital devices to families who needed them, but the teachers we spoke to told us that attempts to provide devices to families were not always effective. Schools often had very few devices available compared with the number of pupils in need, and teachers also reported that devices quickly became damaged.

In some cases, parents were unwilling to take laptops home – for example, one teacher commented:

We had about 29 (laptops). In the end most families didn’t want one. We actually gave out about four of the 29 – possibly because if you’ve got a computer, then you need to be doing the learning.

For some families, additional barriers such as work commitments and other children at home prevented them engaging in home learning.

During the first lockdown, the teachers we spoke to wanted to prioritise the wellbeing of families and children, rather than adding to the pressure families were facing with demands for schooling at home. As one teacher noted, “We have said to families, just having experiences like cooking at home or gardening, these are all equally as valuable.” Another told us:

I sent out [letters] about parents not putting themselves under pressure about the amount and quality of work their child should be submitting each week. I had quite a number of emails from some parents saying: ‘Oh my goodness, you don’t know how much that letter meant to me when I read it. I’ve been putting myself under so much pressure. I was really worried about this.’

Under pressure

The mood had shifted by the second period of school closures. When we interviewed teachers again, government requirements for remote and in-person teaching during school closures had increased considerably. One teacher explained:

The government told us that we had to do exactly what we would have been doing in class. And we had to provide four hours of good-quality teaching and learning every day. That’s what people could expect.

This created stress for teachers in providing sufficient materials, and for parents in keeping up with the learning, particularly as more parents were back working in the second period of closures.

Teachers told us they worked with parents to build their digital skills and increase their confidence when helping their children with schoolwork. This included running online workshops and providing short videos to introduce parents to key concepts and teaching methods.

Father and daughter doing online learning
Teachers helped parents get to grips with what their children were learning. Inside Creative House/Shutterstock

Greater communication between teachers and parents during the school closures also led to stronger relationships. One deputy headteacher observed:

Getting to know the parents at a deeper level… we actually sort of moved further on in the relationships, and trust really helped… I think we built more (trust).

Gaining insight into children’s home lives also allowed schools to provide additional support where it was needed most. One teacher told us their school sent out hampers of food and other essential items to families.

Technology can provide valuable opportunities for connecting parents with their children’s schooling. However, unless there are greater efforts to tackle the digital divide, increasing use of technology will put the most vulnerable children at a greater disadvantage. Overall, the experiences of the teachers we spoke to during lockdown show that parents and teachers can play a mutually supportive role in children’s education, in the pandemic and beyond.

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Spread & Containment

Aging-US | Time makes histone H3 modifications drift in mouse liver

BUFFALO, NY- June 30, 2022 – A new research paper was published in Aging (Aging-US) on the cover of Volume 14, Issue 12, entitled, “Time makes histone…

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BUFFALO, NY- June 30, 2022 – A new research paper was published in Aging (Aging-US) on the cover of Volume 14, Issue 12, entitled, “Time makes histone H3 modifications drift in mouse liver.”

Credit: Hillje et al.

BUFFALO, NY- June 30, 2022 – A new research paper was published in Aging (Aging-US) on the cover of Volume 14, Issue 12, entitled, “Time makes histone H3 modifications drift in mouse liver.”

Aging is known to involve epigenetic histone modifications, which are associated with transcriptional changes, occurring throughout the entire lifespan of an individual.

“So far, no study discloses any drift of histone marks in mammals which is time-dependent or influenced by pro-longevity caloric restriction treatment.”

To detect the epigenetic drift of time passing, researchers—from Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico, University of Urbino ‘Carlo Bo’, University of Milan, and University of Padua—determined the genome-wide distributions of mono- and tri-methylated lysine 4 and acetylated and tri-methylated lysine 27 of histone H3 in the livers of healthy 3, 6 and 12 months old C57BL/6 mice. 

“In this study, we used chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing technology to acquire 108 high-resolution profiles of H3K4me3, H3K4me1, H3K27me3 and H3K27ac from the livers of mice aged between 3 months and 12 months and fed 30% caloric restriction diet (CR) or standard diet (SD).”

The comparison of different age profiles of histone H3 marks revealed global redistribution of histone H3 modifications with time, in particular in intergenic regions and near transcription start sites, as well as altered correlation between the profiles of different histone modifications. Moreover, feeding mice with caloric restriction diet, a treatment known to retard aging, reduced the extent of changes occurring during the first year of life in these genomic regions.

“In conclusion, while our data do not establish that the observed changes in H3 modification are causally involved in aging, they indicate age, buffered by caloric restriction, releases the histone H3 marking process of transcriptional suppression in gene desert regions of mouse liver genome most of which remain to be functionally understood.”

DOI: https://doi.org/10.18632/aging.204107 

Corresponding Author: Marco Giorgio – marco.giorgio@unipd.it 

Keywords: epigenetics, aging, histones, ChIP-seq, diet

Sign up for free Altmetric alerts about this article:  https://aging.altmetric.com/details/email_updates?id=10.18632%2Faging.204107

About Aging-US:

Launched in 2009, Aging (Aging-US) publishes papers of general interest and biological significance in all fields of aging research and age-related diseases, including cancer—and now, with a special focus on COVID-19 vulnerability as an age-dependent syndrome. Topics in Aging go beyond traditional gerontology, including, but not limited to, cellular and molecular biology, human age-related diseases, pathology in model organisms, signal transduction pathways (e.g., p53, sirtuins, and PI-3K/AKT/mTOR, among others), and approaches to modulating these signaling pathways.

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FDA asks for COVID boosters to fight Omicron’s BA.4, BA.5 subvariants

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday recommended booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines be modified beginning this fall to include components…

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FDA asks for COVID boosters to fight Omicron’s BA.4, BA.5 subvariants

By Michael Erman

June 30 (Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday recommended booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines be modified beginning this fall to include components tailored to combat the currently dominant Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the coronavirus.

The FDA said manufacturers would not need to change the vaccine for the primary vaccination series, saying the coming year will be “a transitional period when this modified booster vaccine may be introduced.”

FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen outside of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in White Oak, Maryland, U.S., August 29, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

The new booster shots would be bivalent vaccines, meaning doses would target both the original virus as well as the Omicron subvariants.

The decision follows a recommendation by the agency’s outside advisers to change the design of the shots this fall in order to combat more prevalent versions of the coronavirus. read more

BA.4 and BA.5 are now estimated to account for more than 50% of U.S. infections, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and have also become dominant elsewhere.

The FDA said in a statement on Thursday that it hoped the modified vaccines could be used in early to mid-fall.

Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) with partner BioNTech SE (22UAy.DE) and Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) have been testing versions of their vaccines modified to combat the BA.1 Omicron variant that caused the massive surge in cases last winter.

Although they have said those vaccines worked against BA.1 and the more recently circulating variants, they did see a lower immune response against BA.4 and BA.5.

The companies had already been manufacturing their BA.1 vaccines, and said on Tuesday that swapping to a BA.4/BA.5 version could slow the rollout.

Pfizer/BioNTech, which on Wednesday announced a $3.2 billion contract to supply more COVID vaccine doses to the United States, said they would have a substantial amount of BA.4/BA.5 vaccine ready for distribution by the first week of October. read more

Moderna said it would be late October or early November before it would have the newly modified vaccine ready.

Reporting by Michael Erman in New Jersey and Leroy Leo in Bengaluru; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source: Reuters

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Marketing automation startup Retail Rocket nabs $24M for expansion

Retail Rocket, a retention management platform for brands, today announced that it raised $24 million in a Series A round led by Cyprus-based private equity…

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Retail Rocket, a retention management platform for brands, today announced that it raised $24 million in a Series A round led by Cyprus-based private equity fund Flintera. In addition to the fundraising, Retail Rocket revealed that it acquired SailPlay, a startup developing software to help retailers build loyalty programs and send mass message campaigns.

New York-based SailPlay had raised $3.3 million prior to the acquisition. Founded in 2013 by Leonid Shangin and Yakov Filippenko, the company offered services to collect customer data and leverage it to create games, texts, and tasks designed to encourage repeat business.

As for Retail Rocket, it launched in 2012 headed by Moscow Business School of Management classmates, Nick Khlebinsky and Andrey Chizh, who’d attempted but failed to gain traction with several startups. The learnings from their previous efforts were the springboard for Retail Rocket, which after multiple pivots eventually grew its customer base to over 1,000 companies including Nintendo, Puma, and Decathlon.

“The digital marketing world is growing very fast and the demand for highly-skilled professionals is constantly increasing,” CEO Khlebinsky said. “The complexity of digital marketing tools is booming too — just several years ago we couldn’t imagine the technologies we use today.”

According to Khlebinsky, Retail Rocket uses a mathematical model to segment first-time buyers of a company’s product. By analyzing their actions — for example, the links they click on — the platform attempts to figure out their wants and preferences.

Image Credits: Retail Rocket

Retail Rocket also offers tools for campaign management like email marketing and web-based push notifications, as well as an engine that attempts to identify the best timing and communication channel (e.g., SMS) to make personalized offers. The goal is to create a “system of loyalty and retention management” for both online and offline customers, Khlebinsky said, that ultimately boosts business.

“We work with ecommerce on a performance-based pricing model,” Khlebinsky explained. “In most countries, the pandemic lockdowns spiked online sales, thus we experienced a temporary revenue increase. After the lockdown ended, there was a decrease, but to levels exceeding the pre-lockdown months, because a lot of people were forced to change their buying habits towards online shoppings.”

Absent independent reviews of Retail Rocket’s platform, it’s unclear whether its approach might beat out rivals like SalesForce, SAP, Bloomreach, and Dynamic Yield. But the promise of software that predictably drives repeat business is alluring. According to HubSpot, a mere 5% increase in customer retention can boost profits by 25% to 95%.

Retail Rocket has around 150 employees spread across offices in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Chile, and it plans to double down on mergers and purchases in the coming months. Sources close to the company tell TechCrunch that Retail Rocket has $50 million set aside for acquisitions alone.

“Retail Rocket popped on our radars thanks to their international expansion and ability to set up sales teams in Europe and Latin America,” Flintera partner Sergey Vasin said in a statement. “We were impressed with the company’s results given the limited amount of investment they raised. The company was bootstrapping its growth after the seed round. Despite that, the efficiency of Retail Rocket products surpasses those of international competitors. We expect that the global e-commerce market will continue its growth at more than 10% per annum, with Latin America leading the race.”

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