• 380 pupils | Two-form entry | Reception-Year 6

  • Average school demographics | National average SEND, EAL, PP

Swallowdale Primary School

During lockdown, how did you manage remote learning?

When lockdown first occurred, teachers would upload a task sheet each day to our website. Initially we focused on recapping recent learning.

As the closure became longer term, introducing new learning or anything past just setting work was difficult. We began to use a VLE, but trying to get parents to sign up while the children weren’t in school was hard. So we ended up managing the classroom app, website and printed work.

Then all of a sudden, there were lots of free resources available, at which point teachers became a little bit too hung up on searching through a mass of resources and not really knowing how to plan efficiently.

What are your plans for remote learning for the coming term?

We’re in a bit of a tricky place this year as we were due to change our curriculum. When I started as Head the curriculum wasn’t right but we’re not at the stage we wanted to be because of the time we lost in lockdown so we’re trying to manage moving our curriculum and setting up remote learning concurrently. That’s where we’ve started looking at Oak quite a bit to help support the mapping out of the curriculum longer term.

We’re finding it’s really helpful, particularly for English and Maths. We’ve decided that for the writing aspect of English to completely use Oak as our basis on which to map our own curriculum. Our Maths leaders had already constructed a long term plan, but we’re finding that Oak complements it.

We’re very mindful of teacher workload. The trickiest scenario is having only a few pupils out. If a whole bubble is off, the teacher has time to plan learning in more detail. However, being in a classroom for six hours a day and then providing learning for pupils at home has a massive impact on workload. We’re avoiding that by planning for the year ahead. We want to map as much as we can against Oak so teachers don't reinvent the wheel.

We’re finding it a little trickier with subjects where there are fewer resources so far on Oak, such as Primary History, so we’re bringing in resources from elsewhere to complement this. We want to have a full year’s plan in place; we don't want to be managing this term by term.

How are you getting pupils and parents ready for potential remote learning?

The VLE was brought in during lockdown so at least some parents and pupils have had time to get used to it. We’re focusing this term on working with pupils on the platform in school as well. We’re keen it’s not just there for home learning in case we need it and it’s something we’re using a lot. Teachers will start introducing it into their lessons to familiarise pupils.

The feedback we were getting from parents during lockdown who were still working was they didn’t have the time to support their children to the extent they needed to. So, we want the children to be as independent as they possibly can be at accessing home learning. It’s great to have the videos and visuals there to support. Parents should only have to support minimally this time around which is great, as that was a real cause of frustration and upset for a few of our parents at home.

And staff, how are you preparing them for remote learning?

The staff are getting there! We’re going to have a staff meeting to share what tips and tricks can save other people time. They're all on board and certainly they are keen to use Oak not only for home learning but are looking at how they can use it in school too. We’re looking at how we can use the video lessons to support intervention groups, particularly with staffing as we’re not allowed to mix adults across bubbles of pupils.

Some schools are using Oak in other ways - are you?

Some of the teachers are using Oak videos and resources in their whole class teaching as well within school, because it’s supporting a reduction in their workload. Oak won't just be used for home learning; we’re going to run our curriculum for the whole school around a lot of the Oak resources to ensure children at home will be getting very similar to those in school.

The other thing we’re using it for is staff development. I started here last year as Head and was keen to quickly ensure the curriculum was well developed and robust. One of the areas we’re working on as a team is how we should create our curriculum so it builds and progresses.

Being able to use some of the Oak resources to embed that and being able to easily demonstrate to staff the progression and sequencing of the units is actually helping - so we’re using it as part of the staff CPD programme which is unexpected and a nice surprise.

What have you learned from lockdown that will help you with remote learning this term?

We were a little bit too short-term with our thinking during lockdown; I think we’ve got to be much more focused with our use of time now.

In the early stages, we had quite a lot of parents telling us that children were struggling, so we told them well-being comes first. That would still be the message, but we’ve learned that we need to give pupils more skills here so that when they get home they’re more prepared to work independently.

We’re still getting our heads around supporting all children. We had staff sending out work to students with different needs, but that's unsustainable with partial closures. Some extra thinking needs to go into their experience.

And what would you say about Oak to other teachers?

We’re impressed with the quality of the resources. My deputy is very passionate about literacy and wouldn't ever let anything slip by that wasn't good enough - and she's been very impressed with the things she’s seeing.

Our plan is to use Oak as much as we can. I don't see why you wouldn't. It’s there, it’s free, and from what we’ve seen, it's quality.

What else would you like to tell us?

There isn't enough for some subjects to plan for the whole year at the moment but we appreciate that some subjects are yet to be added.

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