Remote Education Update Feb 2nd 2021
2nd February 2021
We are now in our fifth week of delivering remote education to our children at home alongside providing in school teaching to vulnerable children and children of critical workers in school. I think it would be fair to say that the last few weeks have presented us all with a range of challenges, which we have been working hard to overcome.
First and foremost, the message presented by the media that schools are ‘closed’, is both frustrating and misleading. At Borrow Wood we currently have about 40% of our children in school, who are working mainly in year group classes. Contrary to the images being presented on the news, this means that classes are generally almost full. We continue to operate our systems of control and protective measures throughout the school day by keeping bubbles separated; insisting on handwashing; following the ‘Catch it, Bin it! Kill it’ mantra and cleaning high frequency touch points throughout the day. Despite these measures we have had a number of positive COVID cases in school since returning in January, some of which have led to bubble closures.
Last week we started Lateral Flow Device testing of all school staff, which will help us monitor and manage any possible COVID cases amongst staff in school. Although not pleasant, we see it as a positive step in identifying any possible positive cases amongst staff early.
Over the last fortnight, we have undertaken a review and evaluation of our remote education offer. Thank you to those of you who completed the survey sent out by Miss Sargison. We have also consulted with teachers to find out their views of providing remote learning whilst also having to liaise with colleagues in school.
Parent/carer responses to the survey have been overwhelmingly positive. Thank you so much for taking the time to let us know the positives alongside suggestions for further improvement. It is a fine balancing act to get provision right for everyone. The Department for Education has been clear in their guidance to schools about their expectations of what schools should be offering. We have worked hard to quickly develop our provision through Microsoft Teams including daily live sessions for Years 1 to 6. Our monitoring of these, shows high levels of engagement and where we have identified concerns, we have contacted families and offered support – including technical support and offers of devices, SIM Cards and BT hotspot codes to enable access to the internet.
There is strong evidence from parents that live sessions are very effective and support the children with their learning as well as providing a routine and familiar structure to the learning day. Feedback acknowledges that parents/carers have also been on a steep learning curve to become familiar with Microsoft Teams and assignments. An unexpected positive is that our IT skills have made rapid progress!
Feedback also tells us that some children at home find it difficult to focus and engage with the learning without a lot of adult support, which presents challenges when parents/carers are working themselves. There is a need to recognise that our children at home need to be rewarded and praised for their efforts to keep them motivated and focussed, and teachers are making a conscious effort to reward children for their learning on submitted assignments and within live sessions.
One of the issues we are trying to balance in school is teacher workload. Remote education provision has increased this significantly and one of the decisions we are making to reduce this is to move entirely to Microsoft Teams to teach, set assignments and give feedback. Up until now we have posted the same work on the school website thereby doubling the workload for teachers. We will, therefore, not be uploading work for Years 1 to 6 onto the website from the week beginning 8th February unless there is an issue with Microsoft Teams. Should that happen, teachers will upload to the school website the work children need to access for that day/period of time only. Please contact your child’s teacher for advice and support on Microsoft Teams this week if you are unsure how to use any aspect of Microsoft Teams. For our Reception and nursery children the school website will continue to be used to upload ideas, activities and phonics videos.
We have also considered the following:
- The need for a ‘social’ live session to enable all of the children in school and at home to come together each week. We are still trying to timetable this around live sessions which have been set to enable households with more than one child to access these key times.
- Reward and praise systems for children at home – children should have a reward card equivalent to the one in school that they can colour in in response to teacher praise and feedback. When they come back in to school they can transfer these rewards to their charts in school.
- We will also be sending ‘surprise’ postcards home to celebrate children’s contributions and efforts.
- I have also ordered a very special batch of badges linked to remote learning but I am still waiting for these to be delivered – some things are still taking longer to arrive!
There are some other tweaks and improvements we are addressing as we go along to continually improve our offer.
Needless to say, there will be times when you have to pick your battles, take a deep breath and come back to something later.
Please let us know if there is anything else we can support you with. Teachers and teaching assistants are making 1:1 video calls on a daily basis to support children with their learning. Phone calls home are also being made to check in on specific children – if you feel you would benefit from one of our safe and well calls, please let your child’s teacher know. We do not have a magic wand to sort this out but we will try our utmost to offer advice and support in whatever way we can.
To finish I would like to say thank you for your ongoing support, your positive comments about remote learning and your kind emails. Sharing what you say with my staff has been a pleasure.
Kind regards and take care of one another