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To avoid repetitive details, I decided to combine two weeks within this blog. Weeks 7 and 8 of my school’s distance learning took place between Monday 27th April 2020 to Friday 15th May 2020.

These dates coincided with the third and fourth weeks of the Summer Term. The same level of monotony continued during the third week, however it was broken up by VE Day / Bank Holiday weekend on Friday 8th May 2020.

As a school, it has been uplifting to receive powerfully positive responses from families in regards to how we have kept students engaged, as they continue their learning off site. This is due to various levels of facilitation in place which ensure parents, carers and guardians are there to support the learning of the young people. This also includes one of the key colleagues that contacts students, reminding them that they have a lesson so that they are prepared for the online session. The past two months have shown how much parents, carers and guardians are willing to work with the school in order to make the distance learning work for their child. 

What we also realised as a team, is that the success of online learning is to do with the passion of the person undertaking the teaching. We really care about the students we teach and have been solution focussed to make distance learning work for every learner. With our harder to reach students,  we ensured that students were regularly contacted so that we knew that they are ok. Some of the online lessons included meditation and mindfulness for students that are struggling with the lockdown procedures in place. 

During week 7, we undertook midweek updates about all the students i.e.:

  • how they all are
  • when their annual reviews were taking place
  • who is transitioning
  • what we need to put in place for their transitions to happen successfully. 

This collective overview ensured that all staff were kept in the loop and given an opportunity to provide feedback that fed into the ‘child in need’ meetings. 

We also reviewed successes with particular students that struggle to complete homework e.g. we helped them to complete homework during the lesson. It was important to find a strategy that helped them to learn and feel some success, before we added additional learning challenge.

Y11 staff spent time collating evidence for the students’ final grades.

Week 8 started off with discussions about the prime minister’s update regarding plans in England to ease lockdown measures and for schools to allow more children on site (in addition to the key worker / vulnerable children) from 1st June 2020.

I will admit, that even though I would prefer to teach on site once it is safe to do so, I was anxious thinking about the possibility of commuting by public transport. On a good day it takes at least one hour to reach my school after taking two tubes and two buses… Alternatives forms of travel will therefore take a long time… 

Every family was informally contacted by the head teacher, to ask whether they would send in their child to school. There was no interest in returning to school until there was clearer safety guidance. Parents, carers and guardians were then formally called to explain that we are not opening in June.  

In my very first blog of this series, I shared that my school had made plans to remain open for our vulnerable children from 23rd March 2020 onwards. However, students were either self isolating or kept at home by parents, guardians and carers. This is what prompted us to switch gears and implement remote learning. I am not entirely surprised that families still have concerns about exposure to coronavirus.

As a school community, we will undertake risk assessments as a team and also for the parents / families. We also consider how we can manage reopening the school in ways  that are proportionate for the students’ needs and that works for our own well-being. This includes checking whether family members are returning to work and the impact it will have upon staff / student households. 

As we explored whether or not face masks should be worn on site, we realised that face masks would pose an issue for staff that have asthma.

Staff agreed to undertake Covid testing (including home testing kits) to make sure we are clear and at no risk of unwittingly transmitting the virus when we return on site.

Letters were sent out to parents / carers / guardians during week 8 that included:

  • a reminder that they have a half term break from Monday 25th May to Friday 29th May
  • an evaluation of the online learning (to review subjects our learners are finding more easy / most difficult to access at home).

Staff were reminded to:

  • pace ourselves for the next two weeks
  • continue motivating our students during our video conference lessons
  • remind students of the half term break so that they just don’t feel that we are going on and on with everything
  • have a definite mid term break.

In regards to my leadership responsibilities, I continued to monitor curriculum items on our shared drive and check that everything is in place.

I also created a quiz using Kahoot, which allowed us to bond as a team during our Friday briefing. The amount of light hearted discussion and laughter it generated, provided the best way to end the school week.

Reflections as we head into week 9 of lockdown:

I am changing the format of my reflections because there’s one key aspect that was apparent to me during week 8: the levels of teacher anxiety with regards to allowing more students on site, in ways that minimise the risk of contracting the Covid-19 virus.

I hope that school leaders have concrete dates and plans for this.

I say this because the results of a survey conducted by Teacher Tapp (Twitter handle @TeacherTapp) on Saturday 16th May 2020, highlights that nearly 50% of the teachers within the survey (8,477 responses) did not know whether or not they would be teaching on site in June (see image below)

This uncertainty contributes towards the anxiety experienced by staff.

If you are a school leader looking for plans to allow more students onto the school site in June, then Martyn Reah (Twitter handle @MartynReah) has generously shared a very thorough risk assessment for Y10s returning to school.

It can be accessed in the link below:

I would also recommend the thoughtful article by Mary Meredith (Twitter handle @marymered) that outlines five ways to help children heal when schools reopen (thanks again to TeacherTapp for signposting this article on Saturday 16th May 2020):