Our School, like many schools locally, nationally and internationally was uncharacteristically quiet on Monday morning. With over a week until the start of the Easter holidays, the COVID-19 crisis closed our gates, but not the School itself. It has ‘dispersed’ and moved into the new territory of remote teaching. Teachers have been delivering lessons from home offices, kitchens, and spare bedrooms all around Oswestry in order to ensure continuity of education. Pupils have connected to these lessons from all around the world: Thailand, Serbia, Georgia, Montenegro (some whilst in government isolation), Hong Kong, Germany, and Spain to name just a few.
5th Form and Upper Sixth are not resting on their laurels with the prospect of using predicted grades and are pleasingly engaging in continued preparation to support teacher judgment of their grades. Past papers are being completed and revision continues. Teachers are planning to introduce new enrichment topics, which will prepare for the next stages of education - Sixth form, university, apprenticeship, whatever - after Easter. ‘We learn not for school, but for life’ is, appropriately, our motto.
So, how is this all being delivered? Alison Sefton, Deputy Head (Academic), shared this feedback, “We felt that introducing new technology in a rush at this time was not appropriate and so have focused on using the tools we already have in different ways.
“For a number of years, we have been a Google School using their wide suite of apps to support classroom teaching and learning. It was a natural step to add in their video conferencing app (Google Hangout Meets) and required limited additional training for pupils and teachers.
“The use of Google Classroom was already embedded in what we do as it allows sharing of resources, online marking, as well as class discussions. Adding in the ability for teachers to engage with pupils in a live lesson remotely through Google Hangout Meets was a natural step.
“Pupils have been able to engage in lessons with limited support from parents, allowing them to further develop their independent learning skills. Our aim is continuity of education through what is a challenging time for our whole global community. It has been heartwarming to see how quickly the pupils have settled into this new way of working”.
Claire Belk, Head of Bellan House, said, “The prep department has also seen the benefits of having the children skilled in the use of the Google suite of apps. A graduated approach to online learning has ensured that children from Reception through to Year 6 are able to engage with activities that continue to give breadth and depth within an appropriately tailored learning plan.
“In addition, being able to communicate and receive feedback from their teachers via video links, live lessons, or the safe chat ‘Hangouts’, has helped children to overcome problems, support progress, and challenge the sense of isolation.
“The activities also have a fun element as we are mindful of the pressures upon parents during this time. Our usual availability for parents to contact us at all times aims to be a source of support for them, and together we will do the best for our children through this difficult time.”
A unified approach in Bellan House and the Senior School means that a daily form time, via video link, enables teachers to check on the wellbeing of the children and supports them to feel they are still part of an active school community even though they are ‘dispersed’. The feedback from children and parents alike has been incredibly appreciative and overwhelmingly positive.
‘Coronavirus has presented the school with challenges it seems impossible to plan for, and the way in which you have adapted so quickly, and with such positivity, is beyond remarkable.’
‘We are incredibly impressed with the way you have not just handled this unprecedented situation, but also how you have changed the life of our daughter; she has turned from a very unhappy child hating school to absolutely loving school. She is upset to be spending time away from her friends. Your dedication and commitment influences your brilliant staff who are a credit to you.’
‘I would like to thank the staff for the outstanding support they have all given to the pupils and parents at this very bizarre time in our lives! You have all gone far and beyond expectations. What an amazing community my daughter is a part of.’
‘Our little family would like to express our thanks to you and all the staff, especially those who are staying in school to care for the children of critical workers. You are all doing an amazing job and we are very proud to be part of Oswestry School.’
‘School’ went brilliantly today! All three children were up, ready and excited for school, first thing this morning. This must be so hard... but you are making it seem so easy to the children. We are so very grateful.’