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Lessons From Lockdown

Lessons from Lockdown

It’s clear – perhaps in the education sector more than others – that we are always learning, and needing to adapt. The partial closure of schools as a result of a global pandemic is a situation that none of us had ever faced before, and gearing up to facilitate home learning, whilst delivering onsite support for key worker children, and then wider year groups, provided significant challenges. Yet with these challenges came opportunities, some of which will be taken forward to help us in the future. So what lessons have we learnt?

 

Concentrated learning packs – in the early days of the pandemic it became clear for the need to provide a clear and concise overview of each week’s learning in the form of a simple single sided A4 sheet. These topic planners – which were used in parallel for in-school and at home learning - provided the structure for a range of key activities for each child, and could be easily understood by parents, whilst being successfully delivered in class. This level of consistency, by way of a simple repetitive structure, was ideal for home learning and could be used successfully as the basis of classroom delivery. Many of our schools are planning to continue the same approach, feeling that it will create a stronger bridge between classroom activity and homework. 

 

Retaining breadth – the cancellation of all educational visits, and residential activities, gave us cause to consider how to manage the delivery of this important method of learning and new experiences in the future. For Autumn term we are adapting to the use of in-school visitors, with professionals who will come in to deliver class activities for each bubble. In addition, the concept of playground ‘play zones’ will continue to offer children the opportunity to choose a variety of activities, whilst maintaining social distancing from other groups.

 

Embracing digital – it’s safe to say that although we were using digital platforms, it was clear that their full potential hadn’t been exploited. Widespread use developed as lockdown began, and we also saw a reaction from those parents who hadn’t followed their school’s social media or signed up to Parentmail; many did so quickly, which helped ensure messages and updates could be easily shared to the widest audience. All schools in the Trust moved to a programme of weekly, online assemblies, delivered by the Head, with other teachers supporting key curriculum areas, which provided a means of sharing work and connecting children in school and at home. Video content was also developed to provide the means to explain new procedures for the children who re-joined the school in June, and for new Reception families who didn’t have the option of traditional transition sessions. Moving forward videos to parents will form a core area of providing updates and maintaining good communication next year. We are also exploring virtual options for parents evenings and class performances, as well as for staff updates which is extremely useful for part-time staff who may have missed sessions otherwise. Google Classroom has also been successfully implemented in all schools, as a means of ensuring a consistent home learning platform if and when other lockdowns occur.

 

Flexible staffing – as with all key worker organisations we faced the inevitable challenge of supporting staff who were isolating and shielding as well as ensuring a safe environment for those who were able to work. Our schools created robust rotas with bubbles of teams dealing with specific duties. In this way the bubbles could work independent of one another, and provide an element of contingency planning as needed.

 

Prioritising hygiene – with increased handwashing stations we’ve found a very positive impact – increased hygiene is doing a good job at keeping other illnesses at bay too! This of course should help over the long-term with attendance. In addition, the need for cleaner and clearer classrooms have helped our teacher re-consider what’s really important in a learning environment, and choosing those displays which have the most impact.

 

A new perspective on safeguarding – as you’d expect our safeguarding procedures across all schools were a top priority but in the process of maintaining links with all families we were able to identify a number of vulnerable children who had additional needs from a different perspective, notably technology poverty. In reacting to this one of our schools was able to take advantage of a community engagement project being run by a local Solar Farm who donated laptops to vulnerable families to enable children to access online support and learning activities.

 

Magpieing – during the lockdown weeks we saw a range of different providers spring up, from Joe Wicks delivering PE lessons and Twinkl offering free learning resources by year group to Maddie Moate providing daily online science lessons and Draw with Rob taking us through step by step art. Part of our role was to offer good signposting for families with children working from home, and with a wealth of new approaches and resources it was clear that there was something for everyone. These engaging and targeted sources now provide good options for cover, support intelligent topic planning and inspire teaching in different ways.

 

Trust collaboration – we knew that, as a Trust, we worked in a highly collaborative nature before the pandemic. Yet the crisis created even greater support and synergy between our teams. During lockdown our staff groups, and Heads, met regularly, in a virtual environment to share ideas and experiences. With many of our staff reporting that their colleagues in schools outside the Trust felt inadequately supported it was encouraging to hear that our Trust structure had provided a strong mechanism for our teams to pull on. Throughout the entire period the attitude of all staff was aimed at providing the very best with many going beyond their roles to help out, to deliver food, resources and clothing to families in need.

 

Sharing the load – our Shared Services Team was able to provide a huge level of support to our schools and staff teams, most notably by reading and interpreting new Government guidelines as they were published and disseminating information accordingly. This freed up staff at our schools to ensure they could focus on more important day-to-day support for the children. In addition, the SST managed the cancellation of many of the school trips and liaised with suppliers over new requirements for Perspex screens and handwashing stations, all whilst carrying out normal duties. This feedback has taught us to ensure that we continue to invest in this valuable central resource in the future.

 

Creating efficiencies – as we moved through the pandemic it became clear that our use of new technology and ways of working should be robust and future proof. Our mantra with any new process was to ensure that we weren’t just introducing it for the sake of Covid, but would maintain its use into the future. So, for example, transition microsites for new pupils (notably Reception and Year 3 pupils for our Junior schools) can be updated and used in the months and years to come, and online ordering for uniform and supplies is now the standard for all schools.