The New South Wales (Australia) school education response to the Covid-19 pandemic was based on the premise that children would learn from home or school through online learning. This study of the experiences of a group of rural New South Wales primary school principals challenges this premise. Rural schools in the State are mostly small, relatively isolated, and linked closely to small socio-economically-poor communities. They are marginal to the education establishment, and thus offer opportunities to test assumptions of mainstream sector-wide approaches. This paper reports interviews with six rural principals regarding their approaches to learning for their students during the pandemic. We identify five key issues: initial concerns; the importance of communication; access and attitudes to technology; parents’ attitudes to home learning; and change on return to school. Presumptions of successful off-site learning and technology implementation are challenged by the experience of these rural schools. This study raises two questions about post-Covid-19 school education: How can pre-existing social disadvantage be better dealt within the education system? What might a future education model post COVID-19 look like?
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COVID-19; rural schools; New South Wales; learning at home