900 pupils | Years 7-11
Mixed demographics – rural, but pulling from main towns
During lockdown, how did you manage remote learning?
We didn't start with live lessons when lockdown was first implemented; when it was first announced, we were uploading resources to our remote homework software. The idea was that the work would mirror pupils’ timetables and they would be expected to do work within the same timeframe each day as their usual class schedule so we could be available on email for each class during that time.
As pupils already know the platform we use well, it made it easier for us to send work home. We would upload the work in a format that would make it a bit more accessible – so our PowerPoints became streamlined, we used lots of YouTube links and worksheets they could fill in. I would upload the answers so they could self assess, taking pictures of their work to send back for us to look at. With any pupils that weren’t engaging, we would contact home.
The longer lockdown went on, the more we got onboard with the live aspect of learning, which had lots of pros and cons. We used Microsoft Teams which pupils already had accounts on. We could do a whole lesson over Teams with a class using a visualiser from home, or intervention with smaller groups.
If somebody was stuck, sometimes it was easier for them to ring me on Teams than to write a long email question. Some members of staff pre-recorded things as well. So our approach was a bit of a mixture.
Engagement was, on the whole, okay. Some groups engaged better than others. With disadvantaged students, there was little engagement at points and weekly emails home did not always yield results. But on the whole, our kids were quite good with completing what we’d set. In some cases, contacting parents was enough to get them onboard. Heads of Years monitored year groups and called home for patterns of disengagement.
What are your plans for remote learning for the coming term?
Some departments recorded all of their lessons before the summer. We didn't do that as a Science department, because by then we had discovered Oak National Academy. We’ve decided that Oak will be our plan for remote learning, so we now post links to the Oak lessons that match up with what we are teaching in class, so that pupils can access appropriate and complete lessons without us spending hours recreating the same.
There’s no need for us to, as it fits in very well with our plans. If a whole year group bubble goes off, the school’s expectation is that we would teach that lessons live over the VLE - in that case, we can still be teaching in our classrooms for that hour and the pupils can access it from home. But if a member of staff is off ill, then Oak is ideal to plan for that too. The lessons are of a level of quality that a non-specialist could still take the class through, so I fully intend to plan to use them to save us having to create large volumes of cover work at short notice.
What sort of issues do you face around remote learning?
Some of our pupils have issues with internet access and are sometimes not able to watch the videos, which is, of course, an issue. When you move to online learning you need to consider the practicalities of pupils having the technology to access it, which is something we need to be conscious of.
How are you getting pupils and parents ready for potential remote learning?
We haven't had too much time before remote learning arrived upon us as we already have pupils that are self-isolating only two weeks into the new term, so we have already had pupils accessing Oak from home through the established platform as parents are already familiar with how that works. It’s been a level of consistency that has made the process easier for us.
And staff, how are you preparing them for remote learning?
When it was announced that we were going to have to provide a remote curriculum as well as teaching in the classroom, it was challenging. It was going to be taking up an extra hour at least of our time each day. As the leader of my department, I know by doing it through Oak Academy we are going to minimise the generated teacher workload, as i'm not asking them to create anything new. Our only issue is uploading it. It still takes time, but less of it if we use Oak.
Some schools are using Oak in other ways – are you?
We haven't used it any further so far than using the lessons for pupils that are self isolating or to set cover if the teacher is self-isolating.
I think I would probably guide students towards Oak to use independently for revision. I think a lot of students struggle to revise, so having options like this that are really structured is really good.
What have you learned from lockdown that will help you with remote learning this term?
The work we were pitching online has really improved teaching and learning within the school. Staff have had to think really carefully about the format of the work and what was going onto powerpoint slides simply because they were unable to be there to explain it.
I think remote teaching has also helped with differentiation. I think my department has improved their ability to differentiate well since lockdown because removing you physically from teaching a lesson in person means how you pitch a task has to be adapted and carefully considered. I think that's a positive that’s come out of it - you get to know your pupils a little better based on what you’re seeing them send back every time.
And what would you say about Oak to other teachers?
I think it’s great. It’s saved us so much time. It’s been brilliant - the fact that we’ve not had to produce all of these resources ourselves has been a lifesaver. So I'm pro-Oak! It’s good. The quality of what’s gone up in such a short space of time is really impressive.