The Trust expects that all schools will, as a minimum, meet the requirements set out by the DfE with regard to remote learning (3 hours minimum per day). To that end the CEO has ensured that all schools are aware of what is required and updates Head’s on a daily basis with any new guidance from the DfE.
At the Head’s regular zoom meetings with the CEO remote learning is almost always on the agenda so that expertise and experience can be shared. Every Friday Heads send a written report to the CEO on the impact of remote learning that week and any issues that may have arisen. Directors of the Trust receive a weekly update.
The number of computers on loan to children is checked weekly and any issues about connectivity are noted. Children whose parents who refuse to support the use of IT are telephoned and when necessary receive home visits to see if any IT problems or issues can be eased. There are paper packs available for children who do not have IT access.
Heads have organised CPD on remote teaching and in the last 12 months it is very clear that teacher skills have been greatly enhanced. Head’s monitor the quality of lessons. Many lessons are recorded so that pupils can access when it is convenient because when there is only one device in a household with several children following a rigid timetable becomes problematic.
Children are expected to register every day and be addressed appropriately for school, usually in school uniform. Those who do not register are called by the office to remind them that they should be online.
The timetable for each day will contain a mix of live lessons and recorded lessons. There will be a range of activities that the child can undertake at home and tasks that need to be up-loaded for teacher assessment. Up-loading material has called for additional IT support for some families.
Many schools have built up story libraries so that the children can listen to their teacher reading a story. The virtual library is a growing phenomenon and very enjoyable. There is regular collective worship and time for reflection which will include support for the child’s mental health.
Literacy, numeracy and phonics feature every day and then throughout the week there is a range of other topics to include the other curriculum areas. The schools have remained open for vulnerable and key worker children so that they have been able to join in with what has been happening and share online with their friends.
We have endeavoured to ensure that children receive rich and exciting curriculum during the lockdown which can be restarted whenever the need may arise if infection occurs.
The curriculum has been revamped several times to get good coverage and meet the children’s needs as situations have changed. Head’s have been relentless in ensuring, to the best of their ability, that every child is safe and happy and is given the opportunity to access good quality learning.
Locked Down Learning
Daniel Goleman said emotional literacy is more important than IQ. It is a better indicator of success.
Neurologist Antonio Damasio said that ‘learning without emotion or intuition simply produces intellectually clever people who behave stupidly.’
Children need to develop thinking skills, learn the skills of literacy and numeracy, experience awe, wonder, spirituality, and grow in scientific knowledge and appreciation of the arts. They will do that by becoming independent enquirers, creative thinkers, reflective learners, team workers, self-managers and effective participators who are responsible citizens and confident empathetic individuals.
Rosenshine’s ‘Principles of Effective Instruction’ provide a good model for teaching as they include elements which will help children to learn in the most difficult of circumstances. In precis, teachers are asked to quickly check previous learning, present new work in small steps and with good models and to ask a lot of questions.
We are schools that are founded upon Christian beliefs and value the model of teaching that Jesus offers. Jesus must have been a truly great teacher because more than 2000 years later people are still talking and learning from his teaching and the Bible is still the book that has the highest sales figures in the world.
Jesus didn’t choose people with the best paid jobs or possible even the highest IQ to become his disciples, but what they learned and developed with Jesus was spiritual and emotional intelligence. Their learning and life skills were so powerful that they were able to begin to build a world-wide church that continues to this day. They survived all the ups and down, the persecution and appalling events because they knew how to cope and how to build on less than promising beginnings.
To build the sort of learning community we need for the present time then we need to start with the fundamental questions.
- What really works well in our schools?
- Why does that work?
- What is doing less well and why is that happening?
The big questions continue when we look at our children.
- Are children ready to learn, with the right pre-learning skills?
- Is oracy valued and encouraged in their homes?
- Is learning valued in their homes?
- Are there high levels of aspiration?
- Are children resilient and able to deal with conflict and build relationships?
- Do they understand right from wrong?
- Do they know about their own community, its history and geography?
- Can children work independently and collaboratively?
- What do we know about the religious background of the children?
- What do we know about their cultural heritage?
Narrowing down to specific requirements.
- Do they enjoy learning?
- What skills do they need?
- What values and attitudes will help them?
- What essential knowledge do they need?
Good learning habits for mental and intellectual well-being.
- Think before acting.
- Really listen to other people.
- Consider a range of options – be flexible.
- Ask questions.
- Make connections with past learning and apply to new situations.
- Communicate clearly and precisely.
- Absorb information from a range of sources.
- Explore ideas in a creative way.
- Take calculated risks.
- Find humour in situations.
- Team up with others to improve things.
- Keep an open mind.
- Have a thirst for knowledge, be curious.
- Get outside in daylight
- Talk to people
- Eat well
- Get enough sleep.
Moving Forward from Lockdown
It is absolutely essential that once schools have returned time is given is given to emotional literacy and mental well-being so that children are really able to move forward quickly with their learning.
If there is to be catch up time in the summer; there should not be an expectation that teachers and Heads will lead this. they have had an extremely punishing year and really need to decompress and have some time for themselves.
We know that some of the best learning comes out of projects in which the children are really interested, and which are often multi-disciplinary. Music, art, drama, DT, and sport can all be taught by instructors and might prove a lifeline for many people who have been out of work for months. Children would learn new skills, gain new interests, and develop oracy skills which will be vital for their future development.
In 2019 St Richard’s experimented with a fortnight’s half term in the Autumn Term. This proved highly effective as staff and children came back refreshed and better able to work and learn right up to the Christmas break.
All teachers know that the youngest children really flag during that first term because they are so exhausted by school and new expectations. Parents have reported how tired their children are and the unhelpful impact on children’s behaviour. It is for that reason that at the very least I would support a rethink of the length of the summer holiday and a significant break in the autumn term.