Acting Head’s Blog 24th April Friday 24th April 2020

Welcome back for the Trinity Term. It was wonderful to see the children, and many of you, in my assembly yesterday morning and scrolling through pages of smiling faces and warm waves was a great moment. I am very excited to be ‘back’ together. Although we worked continuously through the holidays, the connection with you all was great to re-establish this week and something that I have missed. As I write, I can hear a pastoral Zoom check-in happening in another room and the chatter and fun is a welcome, familiar St Michael’s sound.

Yesterday we ventured into the launch of our new remote learning model and, as with the start of anything, we need the opportunity to find our feet and establish a rhythm. Gordon Baird will be initiating parental feedback once we have experienced a full week of school. I hope that you will all contribute when we have enough experience to make clear judgements.

Some parents have asked us why we are not delivering live lessons so I thought it would be helpful for me to explain our rationale. The reasons are far-reaching, and the bottom line is that we are confident that pre-recorded lesson content is the best, and safest, option for our pupils. Our decisions are based on thorough research and advice from professional bodies. Understandably, people will want something most similar to what we know, what we are comfortable with, as ‘normal’ a school day as possible.  However, if this situation has taught us anything it is that things cannot be the same right now. If we simply attempted to replicate what we traditionally know about an average school day then we could be setting ourselves up to fail.

Research from countries who are further into lockdown has shown that it does not work to try and replicate or attempt to produce what would usually be done in an average day in your school. An example of this would be by continuing with the timetable and having lessons taught live. Schools that have attempted this with younger children were commonly left with pupils who felt frustrated and de-motivated because it is extremely difficult to access teaching explanations and instructions via a live online session. If you were present for yesterday’s assembly, you will have seen the technical glitches and some teachers were unable to remain ‘in’ for the whole assembly due to internet failure.

In the classroom, we are used to collaboration and discussion. This is not possible in a live lesson online. In the classroom, we are used to having instructions or explanations repeated if they are not fully understood. This is not possible in a live lesson online. In the classroom, teachers read and assess understanding through body language and adapt our teaching accordingly. This is not possible in a live lesson online. Therefore, we have thought carefully about how we can accommodate all of our pupils’ needs through rigorously planned and prepared online lessons that can be accessed and repeated as much as and when possible.

By pre-recording our lessons and breaking them down into short, manageable chunks, we can ensure that the pupils absorb content and move on at a pace that is best for them. Any misconceptions or misunderstandings can be dealt with by re-watching explanations and instructions. There will be no bits missed through internet issues, juggling the family management of the household devices or re-scheduling time due to illness. The summer term curriculum has been entirely re-thought and put into this new lesson format. The children will be accessing the right content, teaching and learning for their stage and age and our feedback will guide them carefully through the term. There are a variety of tasks that children may do on paper, or online, or actively as enquiry-based learning within the home. The teaching model that we have implemented is essentially one that has breadth and variety.

Our aim, as teachers, is to be present and visible for the learning journey of our pupils. We will be engaging with them for their lessons, providing video, audio and written feedback as swiftly and responsively as possible. We will follow up issues with phone calls, video calls, chats on Seesaw or by email, whichever is the most appropriate and confidence building method for the group or individual concerned. We continue to be present in their learning and will be taking time and care to feedback fully and effectively.

As experienced professionals, we are confident that this model enables a realistic, helpful and inspiring method of learning for our pupils. We will, of course, continue to reflect on our practice and we will welcome your feedback once we have tested it out for the first two weeks. Please engage with us and allow our efforts to be effectively implemented before you draw any conclusions about it.

Thank you, once again, for your commitment and support to St Michael’s. What makes the school so special is our community and in times of challenge such as this, working together is more important than ever.  I wish you all a happy and healthy weekend.

 

Latest News

As Y5 pupil, C Hunter, explained during Monday’s assembly, Sevenoaks School has organised weekly food/supply collections for those in need during these very uncertain times.  The collections have benefited local organisations such as One Big Family: Helping the Homeless, Friends for Families, The Hygiene Bank, Sevenoaks Food Bank: Loaves & Fishes, Community Cupboard, area primary schools and others.  Miss Cat Davison, the School’s Director of Service and Social Impact, updates its online social media feeds (@sevenoaksimpact on Twitter and Instagram) with the items needed each week.  We hope that you will consider helping with this effort.  Together we can make a huge difference for those living right here in our community!
The details of the collections are provided below.  If you do wish to participate, please ensure that items are unopened and handled with washed or sanitised hands, and that social distancing is strictly adhered to on delivery.
What: Food, Supplies (check social media links for current needs)
When:   Every Tuesday, 9am – 12pm
Where: Outside Claridge House, Sevenoaks School,TN13 1HU
(Claridge House is just to the right of the main entrance of Knole Park on High Street)
On Monday our community-minded pupil also discussed a book collection which took place earlier this year for children in Ghana.  Below are photos of EduSpots centres where the books are available for local communities throughout Ghana.

We’ve been amazed by the phenomenal success of the Art Department’s recent challenge “Painting without Paint”. Set as part of our remote learning programme, children were asked to select a work of art of their choice and to recreate it at home – but without using paint!

The Art Department has been overwhelmed by submissions, which Miss Rodwell, described as “creative, humorous and inventive”. She added “Staff have been impressed by submissions that showed how carefully the children have looked at their chosen artworks in order to create such brilliant responses.”

Posts on our Twitter account have received positive responses from prestigious art galleries, such as the Tate and the National Gallery, with The Lowry in Manchester commenting “Wow, we love this!!” on T Neville’s version of L S Lowry’s “Man Lying on a Wall”. But it’s not just art galleries in the UK, who have responded to the children’s art; their work has been liked by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden and the Mauritshuis in Den Haag. One Year 3 pupil, who was inspired by artist Aja Trier, even reached New York, as permission was sought to post an image of one of her paintings. She was delighted to allow us to feature her work and on seeing J Gagg’s interpretation commented “Oh my gosh that is precious! Please tell the artist I love it! I will post on my Instagram and Facebook. Thank you!” She went on to tell us “I am always so humbled when kids are inspired by my work, but this is next level!”

In order to show you all the wonderful work our pupils have done, we’ve put together an online gallery of the work. Talking about the project and the reaction, Mrs Barratt declared “This is wonderful!” and reactions from other schools included the comment “Excellent work St Michael’s Art Department this is a really fun activity”.

Mrs Bridges told us “I am absolutely delighted, and inspired, by the way that the children have responded to these challenges. Creativity is keeping us connected, not only within our own community but across the world too!”

We can’t wait to see what the department comes up with next. Miss Rodwell is keeping us in suspense “I’ve been working on a new one today …”. We’re sure that our pupils will have even more opportunity to excel!

Click here to view our online gallery of more ingenious images.

Some of our super St Michael’s Swimmers have won an array of silverware at recent events.

At the Sevenoaks Swimming Club presentation evening, I Pennington Legh was presented with the Kingsbury Cup for U10 girls; A Green was awarded the Kingsbury Cup for U10 boys; E Green received runner up plate for the best U9 boy; S. Taylor was awarded the Mike Radford Trophy for most improved U9 boy; A Ashton was presented with the U9 Individual Medley Cup and U9 trophy for most improved swimmer; B Tovey and J Taylor were both awarded plaques with their positions from the recent Sevenoaks Club Championships.

At the Black Lion Gala, Gillingham, at the start of March our swimmers again came away with medals. A Ashton won three gold, one bronze, one fourth and one sixth medal; A Green three gold and two silver medals; E Green four silver and one bronze medal; S Taylor one silver and one fourth medal and J Taylor a fourth position medal. V Medlen also came away with a medal from the gala.

Well done to all those swimmers; your hard work and dedication is certainly paying off!

Mrs Denton

Swim School Manager

Well done to our doubles girls, E Julio and S Savidge, who also played in last weekend’s Junior Orange Ball Tournament in Sevenoaks. They played four matches, won two, beating Sevenoaks Prep and Lady Boswell’s and lost two to the eventual finalists Amherst and Granville.

This was a great performance by the girls, particularly in the light of little experience of Orange Ball competition.

Well done!

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