After weeks spent away from the classroom, children and teachers are now adjusting to a ‘back-to-school’ like no other.
CAS teachers have reflected on the experience in our weekly #CASChat, held on Tuesday evenings on Twitter.
For young children, the shift back to the classroom has been a real adjustment with one Y1 teacher telling #CASChat; “About 20 mins into a lesson a boy asked me in a quiet voice, "Can I have a biscuit? Mummy gave me a biscuit after I did some learning when I was at home.”
And a secondary Maths and Computing teacher reported being called ‘Mum’ almost daily.
For many schools, the first days back have meant a focus on well-being and adjustment.
Alan Harrison, Head of Computing at William Hulme's Grammar School in Manchester, said that his school set aside the students’ first day back for well-being exercises with lots of time to talk. He added; “Staff have had lots of support and we've dropped some activities such as reports and data captures to reduce workload.”
Primary teacher Jo Hodge, Leader of CAS Southport Primary Community in Southport, said her school was taking steps to make sure it provided tailored support.
“We have a well-established curriculum of calm set up with daily yoga sessions which have ran throughout lockdown. School has also invested in ELSA to support individual children and we’re doing a short questionnaire to help identify anyone who needs extra support.”
Vanessa Olsen-Dry, who teaches at a secondary school in Cambridge said; “We’ve extended pastoral care with form tutors and well-being and mindfulness activities delivered to students. We’ve also built on the regular phone calls home to families during lockdown to keep connected. My initial reaction was how mentally fatigued students are towards the end of the school day.”
Jo Hodge agreed. “I’ve noticed my children forgetting simple routines and having less resilience in the afternoons.”
Teachers are also having to resurrect lost habits with CAS Outreach Manager and teacher Jon Chippindall observing; “I’ve had to remember all the natural subtle cues you use to manage the class and get them back to being automatic.”
Coping with the range of progress from online education has been a challenge.
Rohini Shah, Leader of CAS Brent Mixed Community said; “The variance in learning online during lockdown across a class is proving to be a challenge, those who did engage in online lessons have made some progress but there are more than half of my exam classes who didn't engage.”
Philippa Strange, Leader of CAS Didcot Mixed Community, agreed; “Students are at different stages due to varying attendance and engagement. We’ve switched to standalone lessons which can be taught alongside fun, settling activities.”
While there has been much discussion of ‘lost learning’ and catch-up in the media, there have also been positive experiences of lockdown learning.
Pete Dring, co-leader of CAS York Secondary Community, said: “Most students have worked their socks off. Some have really enjoyed the space to be creative. Sure, some have struggled, and we need to support them individually but the main narrative should be of celebration of achievement not on 'lost learning.”
Indeed, online learning has enabled some students to shine in a way they may not have in the classroom.
William Lau, Head of KS4 Computing at Central Foundation Boys’ School in London said; "Some students have achieved more progress than they would have in a traditional face-to-face classroom. The safety-net of anonymity, the solitude of working at home and the ability to work on their own device for extended hours has meant that some students have really excelled too. I think the narrative of lost learning is harmful because it sets everyone up for more "loss" and creates misconceptions about remote learning and remote working."
Alan Harrison agreed; “Some of mine have come forward and asked questions in the chat, or emailed me and got one-to-one support that would have been difficult in the classroom. Going to encourage this to continue, hence we will be doing blended learning going forward.”
He added that there have been other ‘positives’ from the experience.
“The whole school, not just the Computing department, is now ‘Teams-savvy’ and will continue to use Microsoft Teams for homework, and we may ditch the paper homework diaries. I've "trained" my middle leaders to support their departments and I get way fewer queries now. Everyone is a teacher of computer literacy" is the phrase I've got them all saying now.”
Claire Buckler who teaches at Devonport High School for Boys and is Leader of CAS Plymouth Secondary Community, said; “We’ve seen more focus on one-to-one support for schools, and online platforms seen as the norm and not only the remit of the CS department.”
Jon Chippendall added that a blended approach will be the way forward, using physical workbooks and MS Teams. “All students pretty much now have laptops. We do need to think about reducing screen time where possible.”
It’s that face-to-face contact which everyone, teachers and staff are grateful for.
“The interaction with my lovely colleagues and students is what I missed most. Things are so much easier when you can just have a face-to-face conversation,” said Rohini Shah.
Phillippa Strange agreed; “I’ve missed corridor chats, staff room Fridays, the sound of laughter, and conversely the quiet after a noisy lesson!”
- Join in the conversation! #CASChat, @caschat_uk, takes place every Tuesday 8pm on Twitter. Join the conversation with #caschat
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