Approx. 1000 pupils | 8 form-entry | Y7-Y11
Rural location; mixed demographics | Some areas of high deprivation.
During lockdown, how did you manage remote learning?
I was in a different school and we did everything from scratch. It was utterly exhausting. We approached it with a mixture of being in school on a rota, recording lessons for Y7-Y13 and live lessons. I don’t know how I got through it, especially with my own children at home. We split the planning, but an RE department is typically quite small and there were just three of us. I knew that when I moved schools, I just was not going to do that again.
We didn’t begin live lessons until June and by the end of term I felt like I was still learning to do it. I felt a lot of my mental capacity went on worrying about the technicality of it instead of the craft of my teaching.
What are your plans for remote learning for the coming term?
Before the summer, the leadership team suggested that we go through Oak’s curriculum plans and cross reference them with our own, suggesting we might want to use Oak in case we are faced with a local lockdown. They are keen to make sure we won’t be overloaded with planning, especially if some groups remain in school while others isolate.
Being in school is intensive and it’s really tiring. I’d hate the thought of any RE teachers across our trust trying to teach in the classroom, navigate all of the new rules in place in school and then going home to record lessons. It’s not sustainable and you risk ending up with more staff absent due to stress.
So we went through all the Oak materials, pulled up what we thought was relevant, identified gaps between the two curriculums and filmed lessons to fill those gaps. It works for us as an approach because they’ll keep hearing us teach as well. In most of the units, the pupils have three or four Oak lessons, then one or two of me, then three or four more from Oak. It means that we can pull it right back to our curriculum at times when we’d usually use different examples within a topic. I also think pupils benefit from knowing their actual teacher is checking in with them regularly.
How are you preparing pupils and parents for potential remote learning?
We as teachers recorded videos of ourselves accessing and logging into the VLE platform we use to demonstrate how. Letters were sent home as well to try and alleviate concerns and maximise engagement.
It caught us by surprise last time. We’re more prepared now; people are mostly expecting it so more groundwork has been laid in and out of school.
And staff, how are you preparing them for remote learning?
Before I joined the school I contacted my team and told them the approach we were going to take. Staff offered to help map the curriculum with me, but I am committed to staying aware that as a curriculum leader I have the time afforded to me to establish plans. I’m putting the planning in place as I don’t want them making resources individually during this time.
Most conversations with staff have been centred around explaining the importance of central resources - a much more sensible response than reinventing the wheel. There is something in teachers that compels us to want to do our own thing, but in times like this you have to pull together. I'm very much doing the realistic thing rather than the perfect thing.
Sure enough, it’s already hugely helped with teacher workload. It’s made such a difference compared to the stress of last term.
Some schools are using Oak in other ways - are you?
In a subject like RE you tend to find quite a bit of non-specialist teaching. One idea I’ve had is to give staff training time over to watching some of the lessons. To say to a teacher, ‘If you’re unconfident in an area, then why don’t you watch how this subject specialist explains this difficult concept’ is great CPD. It doesn’t mean you ‘parrot’ that word-for-word back to a class, but we all benefit from observing other teachers and at the moment we can't.
I also think Oak is a really useful tool for teachers recording materials themselves. I’ve spent a lot of time watching how to build a lesson within the circumstances. I really believe there’s useful training to be found there, not simply subject related, but also in learning how you put a remote lesson together. There’s a solid structure to every lesson I’ve seen.
What have you learned from lockdown that will help you with remote learning this term?
I've learnt to not try to do it all myself. I also now know that it doesn't all have to be perfect. A lot of teachers want things to be perfect because we care. I think that’s why some have or will struggle on without seeking out resources such as Oak and establishing a plan from there. There are lessons and resources within Oak drawn from experts and subject associations, so using it is absolutely not a sign of weakness. If you're using other materials, it's a sign that you're well prepared and you're well researched.
And what would you say about Oak to other teachers?
We need to be in work and to be functioning and it's not possible, in my opinion, to be in school with a full timetable and also be putting together quality remote learning. Reaching out to something like Oak - it's not a sign of weakness. It's a sign that you're doing the right thing so that remaining classes stay in school as long as they can and those students that can’t are getting quality resources. It's a quality, planned resource, so why not use it?
What else would you like to tell us?
One of my tips to pass on is to put your topic into the Teacher Hub search bar and don’t just go straight to your subject. There was an RE unit I was due to plan where I was going to have to film a lot of lessons myself, so I kept putting it off. When I finally had a proper look through Oak, it resourced over half the unit within History. It meant the lessons that I did need to film could be so much better. And it gave me a bit of my life back.