Four steps to making the best of remote learning
By David Williams, Education Director
It is probably with an initial sense of trepidation that parents and pupils are returning to a period of online education after the Christmas break.
This time of year is always marked by a desire to return to normal life, school and friends after the indulgences and festivities. As a parent myself of two teenagers who were due to sit GCSE and A level examinations in the summer, there was a palpable sense of disappointment as Boris Johnson made his announcement that schools were to close due to the escalation in infection rates across the UK.
The difference this time round is that we know what to expect, and are armed with the experience and benefits of successful provision in the summer.
In Bellevue schools, we have been quick to reinstate online timetables that were tweaked and refined; delivered home learning packs; held cross-school meetings to ensure the very best learning experience for our youngest learners in reception and Year 1; and parental forums have been held to reassure and inform parents about this new period of home learning. Bellevue parents can be confident that everything will be done to harness the power of a group of schools, enabling teachers and leaders to collaborate, and school governance will continue to exercise its duty to provide the best quality education. I also know that the disappointment alluded to above will be quickly replaced by an excitement and optimism as teachers innovate further, and we become even more aware of new possibilities in this new (if unwelcome) world.
So how can parents and pupils put themselves in the best position to profit from this second lockdown period? As with the best way to succeed at school, there are unsurprisingly no complicated routes to success, but simple pointers to succeed in the remote environment. These will be expectations for older learners and developing habits for younger pupils, who will need more parental assistance.
- Get set up: As with the classroom, organisation is key. Create an area that is free from distraction (and phone-free in the case of teenagers, no matter how much they say it is “needed” for geography) and all equipment is on hand. This organisation extends to technology with file organisation, passwords for additional resources, and checking emails and Google Classroom for teacher messages and updates.
- Cameras on: A pupil who is engaged, attentive and participates in a lesson with a camera on will gain more from it, so encourage involvement in the online environment. This will also enhance understanding, and mean that he or she will be able to tackle independently away from the screen, the tasks that accompany a well-structured online lesson.
- Ask for help: Bellevue schools deliver true personalised learning, so pupils, communicate with your teachers – whether it is not understanding a particular point or part of a lesson, or you are struggling with remote learning. Each lesson will provide an opportunity for you to report back on your learning, and tutor and pastoral time is there for you check in and say how you feel. Parents should be open and honest when they attend an online briefing or review session with a teacher.
- Take your breaks: As with all of us in lockdown, routine is vital for a sense of meaning and to give a balance to your day. Establishing a sense of purpose without the journey to and from school can be a challenge. Schools will aim to replicate the stimulation and challenge of a “normal” school day, including the extra-curricular activities that form part of our provision, but we must not forget the incidental interactions with each other to be found at break or lunchtimes or moving around school. This may be tough but, as busy parents, we can also enjoy this new opportunity to spend lunchtimes or snack-time with our children before returning to our monitors.
Judging by our findings from our governance visits in the autumn term, our schools did an excellent job in providing a full and stimulating remote learning experience. We are determined that it will be even better this time. This is of course no substitute for the real thing and, as was the case last year, we will be working hard with school leaders to be ready for when we welcome pupils back into our classrooms.