Return to Home Learning: Update
Following a relatively straightforward autumn term, children and staff switched back to online learning in January and once more our successful Home Learning Programme is in full swing at Newland House.
If you were following our news over the course of the last year, you will recall that in response to the first lock-down we established the largest schools WebEx programme in the UK in the space of just a few days. We were able to commit and invest so quickly in the launch of our Home Learning Programme due to the comprehensive nature of our existing IT framework, versatile communication infrastructure and engaging approach to education. In September, we launched our Recovery Curriculum to help re-embed pupils but also reflected on some of the positive and perhaps unexpected outcomes from this period of remote learning. In particular, we acknowledged how both children and teachers had become so much more IT literate and how pupils had developed significant organisational skills and independence in managing their online timetables and workloads. Our teachers were also able to bring the very best aspects on teaching online in terms of adaptability and creating stimulating resources, back into the ‘normal' classroom.
Nonetheless, we met the return to remote learning this year with a sense of resignation and whilst we could be confident that most of the online infrastructure was already in place, that parents were familiar with the concept and staff were experienced with teaching remotely, there have still been plenty of new challenges.
Schools like society in general, are suffering with ‘COVID-fatigue’ and much of the initial energy during the first lock-down has been somewhat exhausted. We also felt we may have been a little in danger of getting bogged down by the sense of loss as there is no denying the fact that being in school is hugely beneficial and rewarding for children and staff. We all know that the best and most effective learning happens when it is done as part of a collaborative process and the added benefit of socialising with peers is vital for children to be able to develop this fundamental life skill. Remote learning removes the opportunity for teachers and supporting adults to ‘check in’ with children informally but by setting up effective channels of communication with both parents and pupils we hope we have ensured that no child is overlooked.
The way in which the children have adapted positively to the constant changes to their routines over the last year and the resilience and commitment demonstrated by staff has been instrumental in keeping teaching, learning and the school running so successfully. Our initial investment in home learning last March meant that the return to online has been relatively seamless in terms of organisation. None the less, appetites for another long period of home learning are supressed and so we have actively sought ways to revive enthusiasm through refining and revitalising our approach to home learning, both for pupils and staff.
Our focus this term has been on how to maintain children’s engagement. We accept that because of the differences between learning in school and at home we cannot simply replicate the existing school day. Children cannot mentally or physically engage with online lessons for that length of time and we have carefully re-evaluated year group timetables to find an appropriate and manageable balance which best fosters concentration.
Flexibility is our starting point and because we appreciate that children and their families often have unique needs and circumstances, and that there is no such thing as a one size fits all timetable, we have included a range of teaching styles and activities with a mix of both static and live lessons. We have also actively sought new ways to create interaction such as through daily live story sessions, form time and social opportunities. Importantly, live lessons are now delivered on a more granular basis to smaller groups aiding collaboration and learning mentors have been allocated to ensure each pupil is progressing well. Core academic lessons are timetabled for the morning when concentration is freshest and motivation is stimulated and differentiation is made clear through setting work at core, stretch and challenge levels. In the Pre-Prep, children are also well supported through bi-weekly one to one reading sessions providing unique contact time which is also incredibly beneficial from a well-being perspective.
There are some bonuses to remote learning and the relative quiet at home when completing independent tasks is very conducive to developing concentration skills. Overall though, home learning can be a stressful and anxious time and we have encouraged pupils, families and staff to take advantage of a range of well-being resources and these themes are reinforced during PE and sports sessions. Our Home Learning Programme has provided children and families with a sense of routine and is helping them to maintain social contact and continue to feel part of the school community which is vitally important for their emotional and educational stability during this lockdown.
Our next challenge will be re-integrating pupils once the school site reopens but we hope that the experiences from the first return to school and our Recovery Curriculum will stand us in good stead. As a school where the pastoral care of children is of the utmost importance, we feel confident that we are well placed to support them.
Staying in Touch
School site visits remain suspended for the time being, but we are happy to offer video meetings, our virtual tour and Jane Tosetti, our Admission Manager, is also available to talk with you. If you do have any question in regard to your child joining the school, please feel free to make contact on 020 8865 1305 firstname.lastname@example.org.