The Prime Minister’s announcement on the eve of the new term of another national lockdown, and extended period of remote learning, meant that schools across the country had to set aside all best-laid plans for mass testing and a return to the physical classroom, in favour of a switch once more to the virtual one. Whilst we would all agree that nothing can ever fully replace the in-person learning experience, a comprehensive remote learning offer can ensure pupils keep up with the curriculum and experience as many of the benefits of school life as possible.
A smooth transition to remote provision
At Wellingborough School, we were able to draw upon our successful experiences from last year and were ready and able to switch quickly to remote provision without interruption to our pupils’ education. Processes and systems were already in place, with staff and pupils up to speed on technology and able to hit the ground running, launching straight into live lessons with confidence. We know that whilst our exam year students might face uncertainty from the government as to how their grades will be awarded, they can be reassured by the fact they are fully up to date with their courses without gaps in learning to be overcome.
We know that just as there is no one-size-fits-all approach in the classroom, the same applies remotely, and we use a range of systems and approaches to tailor our provision to different ages. In addition to this, our dedicated and highly skilled staff use their knowledge of classes and individuals to deliver remote learning which engages pupils and, critically, enables them to continue making excellent progress.
In the Lower Prep, pupils are able to interact with their teachers, submit work in the form of writing, photos or videos, and receive work via Seesaw. Firefly is used extensively throughout both the Prep and Senior Schools as a hugely powerful and versatile platform for task setting, marking and feedback, resource sharing, publishing reports, and virtual concerts to name just a few. In the Upper Prep and Senior Schools, Microsoft Teams is used extensively for live lessons and events, following pupils’ normal timetables in the most part, with some tweaks to allow for breaks between lessons and time away from the screen. These core systems are supplemented by a plethora of different tools in our digital armoury, be they interactive quizzes, virtual whiteboards, green screens or visualisers. Tasks away from the screen are also incorporated, with pupils of all ages showing great creativity completing Art and DT work, carrying out science experiments, producing Music and Drama performances, or completing weekly challenges set by the Head of Prep; possibly even earning the accolade of Home School Hero!
Keeping a sense of normality
We know from our pupils and parents that at a time when almost everything else in life is uncertain, the daily routine of school life can bring much-needed stability and a sense of normality to proceedings, so we have sought to preserve as much of that as possible. As well as the full academic curriculum, this has included pastoral group and one-to-one sessions, assemblies and chapel services, virtual Duke of Edinburgh and CCF training, instrumental lessons, and much more besides.
Events such as the recent GCSE Options evening, UCAS and apprenticeship events have taken place successfully in virtual form, whilst online Parents’ Evenings have been a big success, providing the comfort of home and a guarantee of running to time!
Our award-winning Wellbeing provision has also continued to support both pupils and parents, building upon the series of parent workshops and talks from the last extended remote learning period, with additional resources including a Lockdown Survival Guide and guided imagery sessions to help find moments of calm amid the maelstrom.
This term, new pupils have successfully joined us and leapt straight into the fray of online lessons without having yet been in the same physical room as their classmates, whilst entrance testing for prospective pupils took place very successfully in remote form, with young pupils able to complete the tests in comfort at home. We received much positive feedback about the straightforward and stress-free process, and believe it really enabled pupils to demonstrate their best work.
As we eagerly look forward to all pupils returning to the classroom and seeing their faces physically rather than on a screen, we take heart from the knowledge that whenever they are required, now and in the future, our remote learning systems are tried and tested, and our pupils supported in the best possible way to continue to achieve their best.
Find out more at our upcoming Virtual Open Day on Saturday, March 6 at www.wellingboroughschool.org/open-events