Author: Caroline Scott, author and director
Transitioning successfully between extended home and school learning has been the struggle of every affected school, across the globe, since the onset of the pandemic. None of us could have predicted what was about to happen back in January of 2020 and we still struggle to comprehend the enormous scale of the struggle.
School closures, however your school has approached these, have had a huge impact on learner engagement. Even the most prepared schools have struggled to engage learners to the same extent as when learning in the classroom.
While some countries are almost back to normal, others are still in some form of lockdown. With continuing uncertainty, there is a greater appreciation of the need to be prepared and flexible in approaches to learning.
I’d therefore like to share some reflections, after speaking to schools across the world every week. Here are my key take-aways:
There is a lot to be gained from seeing how other schools are managing their programmes of learning during this time. In this article, we look at three different schools – considering their challenges and their successes.
Angie Bridgewater, an intervention teacher at Cauldwell School, has achieved considerable success using the Learning Village in lockdown. She commented on why she feels the resource has been so successful.
“I think the most important point to make is that as a whole staff we have a commitment to embedding the Learning Village for our EAL and some of our SEND learners. This means that although I am the main teacher delivering the Learning Village to our EAL pupil groups, class teachers and LSAs have all received training either in a small group or one-to-one about how they can use the resources to support our learners.
During lockdown, it has not been possible to give children face-to-face sessions, but being able to message them and send rewards for their learning has been a valuable motivator. There have been pupils who we have been unable to make contact with easily or frequently, but staff at Cauldwell have been given time when in school but not on a teaching rota to communicate with families about their home learning. We have sought to ascertain whether families have access to suitable devices and the internet, in order to ensure that they can access at home the learning which has been set for them. In all but a couple of instances, families have been very grateful for this contact, whether it has been via a phone call or an email message.
Over the course of this academic year, as staff have become more familiar with the resources that the Learning Village has to offer, and have understood more about how they can be used to support our learners, we have been developing our capacity to match the programme’s resources with our own creative curriculum topics. Going forward, I think staff will find, in particular, the Sentence Analyser and substitution tables very useful, as they provide a grammatically sound scaffold using the topical/technical curriculum vocabulary we want to teach.
Another element to ensuring success has been the engagement of our EAL families. We have quite a fluid population at Cauldwell, and, prior to lockdown, invited parents into school in small groups and shared the Learning Village with them. This gave them the opportunity to experience a session just as their children would, to explore The Village for themselves and to ask questions about it. This was important in terms of raising the status of the Learning Village with all stakeholders.
It has been encouraging to see our EAL learners continue to use the Learning Village at home during lockdown to consolidate their learning, and even where learning has been limited, it is obviously preferable that they have done some work rather than none. The issue for me going forward is how to re-establish more structured sessions with our learners, bearing in mind the different experiences they will have had during lockdown: some have accessed the Learning Village successfully, some have not engaged due to lack of IT, and some have been away from their own homes or even out of the country.
We would also like to explore ways in which to deliver sessions to learners remotely using Teams or via recorded sessions which could be shared with learners.”
St Joseph’s use of the Learning Village has risen significantly during lockdown. The school decided to use the resource not only for its EAL learners, but for all pupils likely to benefit from a structured, scaffolded approach to literacy and phonics. They therefore enrolled many more children on the programme. Maria Tommy, the EAL lead at the school, commented:
“It was received very well among the parents. They all received Learning Village materials via email (the explanatory booklet, the parents’ presentation, etc.).”
Maria noted that one reason the Learning Village worked well in lockdown is that there has been “constant communication” between teachers, learners and parents.
“As a school, we use SchoolPing app to communicate with parents. I have individual groups set up for Y1 and 2, Y3 and Y4, and Y5 and Y6.
Every week, I do the following:
- I send the parents of learners weekly updates, with the scoreboards, and my short summary of the previous week. I attach the flashcards for the most challenging lessons from the week before.
- I send certificates to individual children based on their results from the previous week. This might. Be for 100% progress on certain lessons or for their time spent practising on the Learning Village. I normally send around 40-50 certificates a week, as attachments via emails to their parents.
- I also send certificates to learners who complete their ‘journeys’.
- I send messages of praise during the week to those learners who are doing great work, or who are very close to achieving 45 minutes of learning per week, so they will not miss out on the ‘gift’ they’re entitled to at that point.
- I message selected learners to say WELL DONE for the previous week – and send a virtual Learning Village gift with the message.
- On Thursdays, I send each year group a set of high frequency words. I ask them to use the words in a sentence and send it to me via the Learning Village messaging facility.”
Maria has been delighted to receive lots of messages from her learners.
“Some of them are just ‘hellos’ or silly comments. Some send me a sentence – some want to say what they have learnt or do not understand. Sometimes parents ask me questions there too – it is all very engaging and interesting.”
Maria sends messages to all the learners, to see how they are doing. She asks them if there is anything they have learnt that they want to share and checks if they have learnt five words that week that they did not know before, and similar. For those learners who are not practising enough, or not at all, she speaks to their class teacher and, if it is appropriate, asks the teacher to contact those learners’ parents. She notes that in these instances, a great deal depends on individual circumstances and that the situation must be handled with care.
Jacqui Holleran, Head of Learning at Great Torrington School, has given us three golden rules to bear in mind when setting remote learning work on the Learning Village.