Dear parent and carers,
I’d like to begin by thanking you and your children at home for being patient with us, as we have reacted and created systems in response to an ever changing landscape. As you’ll know there have been many changes we have had to get to grips with in a limited space of time, including reacting to an ever-changing landscape.
We have a significantly increased number of children who are accessing our onsite provision compared to last time, which was at that time high compared to other schools. The impact of this is that we have had to redesign the whole organisation of our onsite provision. This took a great deal of time last week to plan, set up, trial and then tweak. Despite staffing anxiety due to the ongoing COVID news in the press, as well as managing and organising their own childcare, our staff worked together exceptionally hard as a team to enable Critical Workers to be able to get into work, as well as supporting some identified children to be supported in school.
Impact of onsite provision on remote learning
Every single available member of staff is in school every single day working with children. This is due to the high number of children we have in school in small bubbles. Sadly Miss Osueke is very poorly in hospital and will be there for some time (not COVID related). Mrs Imray is working remotely as her husband recently had a kidney transplant.
This means that while staff are able to set remote learning for every single child at home, they are not available to either undertake live lessons or in most cases, mark work until a bit later in the day.
We are not prioritising children who are physically in school, it is simply the practical reality and the huge challenge that our staff are facing, having to do both onsite provision and remote learning, without staff being on a rota. We have no staff ‘sitting at home’ as all are in school working with our children.
We have more children of critical workers onsite than any other primary school in North Tyneside that we are aware of. This is placing HUGE demands on our staffing team to be able to deliver the curriculum to all of our children. But we will absolutely do our very best for all.
Our approach to remote learning
Following a review of remote learning in the Autumn term, we have made some changes. Children will be set an increased amount of work than in the initial lockdown and we have also purchased access to a number of online packages.
- An online reading scheme for early reading.
- A phonics package for all children at that stage of their learning.
- Access to two online maths portals (My Maths and Doodle Maths).
- Spelling Shed.
This week and next staff are trialling some new approaches to help and support your children at home. These will differ across year groups as younger and older children have different needs. This will include staff talking over powerpoints, pre-recording a video with introductions for the school day and sharing high quality ‘White Rose Maths’ videos and resources. Our youngest children in Reception class have also been given a paper pack to use alongside their online learning, to support them with developing their basic skills.
Zoom or online learning
At the current time we will not be delivering live lessons. But we will review our remote learning as the weeks go on. This is for a range of reasons.
- Unlike most schools around us, every single member of staff bar one, is in school working with bubble groups of children. This means they are not able to deliver live lessons and be onsite at the same time.
- Working parents may be unable to ensure their child has access to a device if they are using it during work hours themselves. Many working families will be supporting their child with learning, but will need to do so later in the day once their own work is complete.
- Not all families have devices and even families that do, siblings may often have to share devices. This would make it impossible for many children to access live lessons.
- The quality of home wifi means that many families would struggle to have strong enough wifi for siblings and working parents to access video calls at the same time.
- Safeguarding challenges mean that live lessons to young children have a number of factors.
The latest research on remote learning
Just this week OfSted and the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) have shared detailed research into remote learning. We will be reflecting on the findings in both documents this week. However neither supports live streaming of video lessons as the panacea some families may believe them to be.
OfSted states the following. “Some think that a live lesson is the ‘gold standard’ of remote education. It can be hard to build in interaction and flexibility. This means that giving feedback can actually be less effective than when we use recorded segments…….. tasks and feedback. Using recorded lessons, including produced externally, can allow you to easily draw on high-quality lessons.”
This week the EEF published its findings. “Teaching quality is more important than how lessons are delivered. Pupils can learn through remote teaching. Ensuring the elements of effective teaching are present – for example clear explanations, scaffolding and feedback – is more important than how or when they are provided. There was no clear difference between teaching in real time (“synchronous teaching”) and alternatives (“asynchronous teaching”). For example, teachers might explain a new idea live or in a prerecorded video.”
Keeping in touch with children and families
During this lockdown all children and families working off site will receive regular calls, around once a week. Where possible staff will talk to both parents/carers and also your child. You and your child can also email staff any time with any questions or queries.
Due to all staff being involved in onsite provision, it may not be possible to reply as quickly as during the first lockdown, when staff were on a rota. However, staff will respond.
Staff will endeavour to mark and respond to children’s learning on the day it is submitted where possible. However please be mindful that staff are also juggling their own family life and accessing critical worker provision themselves. This is a challenging time for absolutely everyone. We really appreciate your support and understanding as staff try and deliver provision for every child under these exceptionally difficult circumstances. The significant number of children onsite compared to most other schools means staff have an even greater challenge in the many, many weeks ahead of us all. We have reviewed our remote learning and are trialling some approaches this week and next in various year groups, but despite staff being wholly committed to our children on and offsite, the job which is being asked of us is beyond that which has been asked of us at any other time.
Will children across different year groups get the same type of remote learning?
- Absolutely not. Children of different year groups will access learning in different ways due to differences in both their learning styles and their levels of independence.
- Staff are trialling and testing some new approaches this week and next, before sharing these with the staff team. After that you may see some increased consistency across a Key Stage in school. But we want to use the EEF and OfSted findings as a basis to trial some new approaches first.
Why are schools all doing different things?
There are significant differences in the number of children onsite from school to school. This impacts on whether or not staff are on a rota or onsite. On top of that each school needs to consider its school community, access to devices and any staffing challenges. As well as any usual sickness absence or COVID related absence!
We are hugely missing all of our children who are not able to be in school. We are looking to continue class dojo points and to award them certificates as if they were here on a Friday for assembly. We will do the very best that we can for all of our children, given the immense challenges of the task we face. Please tell them that we miss them and that staff will be beginning to make calls home this week.
Thank you for all of your support and the overwhelming comments of kindness from so many of you. They and your children are keeping us going. They mean a lot.