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.