From the lockdown announcement to actual closure of school was 2 working days (19/20 March). Our Senior Leadership Team had already anticipated lockdown (as had most other schools) so preliminary discussions had already established the roadmap of what would happen in the event of closure, using our status as a Google School (Introduced September 2019).
We understood immediately that there should be no loss of time, recognising that even in the smallest amount of lost time, bad learning habits in a new and unfamiliar routine would be established and then “breed”. We knew we needed to capitalise on the good learning attitude and behaviours already instilled in our girls. We recognised that seeing familiar faces of their teachers and sticking to structure and routine would be the best way to support girls’ emotional wellbeing and ensure limited loss of learning. Therefore, needed to move swiftly to establish the way things were going to be
All of our staff agreed that maintaining the existing timetable structure was better for all students’ mental health and for those students who find organisation tricky. We made the decision that all lesson delivery would be live, face to face through Google Meet. We then address safeguarding considerations, “vulnerable” children were established (e.g., those who struggle with independent learning, split parents, those who might be neglected). Plans to address specific needs were drawn up, and immediately we socially distanced staff meeting held to win hearts and minds regarding this approach rather than setting work, acknowledging that this “real-time” approach is time consuming, tiring and difficult to manage from home (not difficult to secure staff commitment). We addressed lots of personal questions from staff, parents and our girls (what about managing my own children? Do I have to record all my lessons? Do I have to have my camera on?)
Our next step was to open a discussion of gaps in technical knowledge of staff regarding use of the Drive, establishing classrooms, creating and sending links etc. which we then rectified through training and support sessions held by our Head of IT. We put together a series of “How to” videos and help sheets, then placed on Google Drive in Learning Hub. Headmistress, Diane Browne, toured all classrooms on the last day before closure, to address any issues and answer questions. Boarders were reassured that they are safe and remaining in school to access the remote learning programme.
On Monday 23rd March we began our full, live, online learning timetable. We then took the time later in the week to evaluate system progress. We made adjustments based on the feedback given, over the Easter break. We gave our parents extra autonomy to assess each child’s needs, and to ensure that the mental wellbeing of our girls was not neglected. Further to these changes, we also increased the organisation of activities and work that did not include a screen, including games and keep fit exercises. Personal tutorials were organised to monitor girls’ academic and emotional wellbeing.
Our summer term then began without a hitch. Lessons began with all of the new adjustments in place. Mrs Browne became a member of every classroom, and therefore was able to conduct learning walks to monitor success of the online learning systems. We also restarted the Weekly Head’s assembly, to reinforce our community feeling.
As the term unfolded, everyone becoming more confident, the familiar structure of the summer term was able to unfold as much as possible. We held virtual concerts, house competitions, sports days, school challenge days, and even our speech day, all via Google Meet!
At the end of the Summer Term we audited the curriculum to establish how much had been lost and what our catch up programme needed to be for return to school in September. Unanimously, staff said that actually, they were a little ahead of where they needed to be as there had been no loss of momentum, focus in lessons had been high and fewer lessons had been lost to end of term rehearsals for school plays and other events such as Race For Life.
When the recent lockdown was announced, we were able to step immediately into the same structure as last year.
Testimonial from a happy parent:
“I just want to let you know how amazed and great-full I am for all the amazing staff at Adcote. 8pm we all receive notification of a national lockdown with the closure of schools.
9am my daughter is sat in a google classroom being taught her normal lessons. Incredible. Thank you.”
None of this would have been possible without the complete commitment of our staff whose collegiality was exceptional. Many surprised themselves by the speed and intensity of their technical upskilling, including teachers who were well advanced in their careers with only a couple of years’ service left.
Sharing of good practice was rapid and generous, shared in both briefings and through emails. The Head of IT continued to run sessions to reinforce knowledge. Our Director of Sport quickly became an IT ambassador supporting the Head of IT, introducing the staff to Screencastifying and the app Kami which allowed efficient marking of submitted work and was quickly adopted by all staff as the tool for assessment.
As a school, we have grown in confidence and as a body of colleagues grown very close, working together extremely efficiently. In September 2020 we were joined by two new members of staff and in January 2021 by two more new members of staff who have all commented on the close-knit and supportive nature of the school, and the high quality of remote learning our pupils have received in comparison to the schools they were teaching in previously.