Having now had a couple of days to digest and reflect on the last two terms, my head begins to whirl. Starting a new role in January and two and half months in, before fully getting to know staff, parents or children, we are sent into a whirlwind when a global pandemic becomes a global crisis. It sounds much like the synopsis of a Stephen King novel.
We have had chance to digest, reflect and evaluate now and we have learned some invaluable lessons along the way. The first, and in my mind one of the most important aspects, is that we had to build trust, fast and furiously in each other. The definition of trust is a whole other topic, not for today. However, as a school we had to trust implicitly the guidance given to us by the government, who in turn were having to trust scientists, virologists, professors on what was completely unprecedented data and situation. Closer to home parents had to trust the school, teachers had to trust parents to help them deliver the teaching and pupils had to trust everyone.
Therein lies one of the biggest outcomes of this pandemic from an educational point of view. Children are the most incredible human beings. They adapt, develop and thrive in most situations because ultimately they have trust by the bucket load. They trust their parents, they trust their teachers. At school and at home they are secure, supported and loved.
When we started looking at the design of the curriculum for lockdown we wanted to be mindful that we needed to be diverse in our offering. Some children had parents who both worked, some had a single parent, some had full time parent support. We also wanted to ensure that we kept our core values and our motto at the heart of our plan for the pupils in our care. Over what was supposed to be an Easter holiday teachers created, planned and designed a curriculum which was challenging, exciting and skills based. Added to this it was all to be online! Had the Department for Education decided we were going to create a new learning platform prior to the pandemic it would probably have had an 18 month roll out programme, supported by training. However, the teachers trusted, they trusted the school, the government and more importantly their amazing pupils.
So we launched a programme which I personally feel very proud to have been a part of. We pre-recorded exciting passionate, captivating lessons that the children could watch in their own space and time for English and Maths. These were the input part of the lessons and then children had the opportunity to ‘live drop in’ every morning. Just like a virtual classroom, this meant that small groups were given focus time with their teachers, simulating the experience they would have had at school.
All other subjects provided fantastic opportunities for creative learning too. One of the children designed and labelled his church as part of his PRS lesson, through his Minecraft game which he then presented to his peers. Intervention groups via Teams, provided precision teaching, mentoring groups provided pastoral/ well-being -sometimes this was individualised. So for example some of the boys who needed a little more coaxing had drop ins at the beginning and end of the day from their teacher to help focus their day. PE, humanities, music and French all provided stimulating lessons which the children could partake in. Added to this, and to address our sense of loss of community, there was a Boys’ Prep life online community where there were several opportunities to join as a community and succeed.
Overall our provision was outstanding and we will certainly take on some of the aspects of our offering that have really worked. As for the children, have they suffered in their learning? Not at all. They have matured beyond belief, they have become more and more resilient and this was almost palpable as the time went on. They have come back to school ready for the term ahead but with a greater understanding of their own individual learning environment and how they work best.
All in all, of course we would have much preferred to have them all in school, but we have been blown away with the boys, their commitment, their parents and our staff. We are all a great deal wiser and no one can take that away!
– Tracey Chong, Head of Surbiton High Boys’ PrepCategories: Whole School