Turning teacher was a daunting prospect during lockdown, but Heywood’s remote learning programme kept everyone on track…
When schools across the UK closed their doors under lockdown, it’s fair to say it sent something of a shockwave through the parent community. Many of us were daunted by the thought of home educating our children and anxious that they might feel isolated without their friends and classmates around them. And while we might be highly skilled when it comes to our own day jobs, trained teachers we are not!
So, when Heywood’s remote learning provision was rapidly revealed, the collective sigh of relief was almost audible. At a time when the future seemed so full of uncertainties, we were instantly being given the comfort that our children’s education would be kept on track. And, perhaps more importantly, the reassurance that they would still have regular contact time with the friends and teachers they love.
A familiar timetable
Most children crave routine, and it definitely gives us adults a helping hand too. So, when our children brought home a remote learning timetable on the last day of school, it was gratefully received by all. From exercising their vocal cords with an 8:50am singing assembly on Zoom, through to lessons, break, lunch and daily sports challenges, it quickly became clear that they’d be able to stick to the structure they know and enjoy, albeit from home of course.
Live Form Time kicked things off each morning, giving children the chance to chat to their friends and tutors on Zoom, and share tales from their weekends. Maths and English followed, with pre-recorded lessons led by their teachers and worksheets all supplied, ready to print at home. Live help was always available via video call for anybody who needed it and, once their work was complete, the children proudly uploaded it to online platform, SeeSaw.
This online portfolio not only enabled the children to collate their work, but it also meant teachers could mark it and give verbal and written feedback too. Hearing their constructive comments, advice and praise gave a welcome daily boost, and topped up the enthusiasm for learning each morning. Many children were thrilled to receive handwritten postcards from Headmistress Rebecca Mitchell too, telling them how proud of them she was for putting in so much effort.
After lunch each day, the specialist subjects, including science, sport and Spanish provided a welcome change of pace. From blowing bubbles to investigate refraction, to creating fact files on Spain and testing their agility in the garden, the children were immersed and engaged. Most importantly, they were still learning, developing skills and having fun at a time when the world was in upheaval.
Confidence and community
And while education played a huge part in remote learning, it quickly became clear that, for our children, life at school is about so much more than academics. It’s also about developing their confidence, fostering their emotional wellbeing and connecting them with a community too.
Heywood embraced this in several ways, such as the second daily form time, which involved everything from Zoom Zumba to Fancy Dress Friday and even pet-themed sessions. Fluffy dogs, cats and rabbits were introduced to classmates online, along with the occasional chicken too. And every Thursday, entire families came together on Zoom, when they put their general knowledge to the test for Mr O’Connell’s weekly quiz. Scoring a coveted place on the podium meant hot competition, ideally assisted by a reasonable grasp of Mr Men characters and sports trivia!
Every afternoon, live lessons also gave the children a chance to interact with their teachers, while seeing what their friends were up to too. Mrs Martin’s Art sessions were a huge hit, with children proudly creating colourful 3D bugs, making robots and decorating their own hot air balloons.
The hotly anticipated cookery classes with Mrs Mitchell and Mr O’Connell also produced some delicious results, including scones and jammy buns. And Mr Knight’s Heywood Decathlon gave everyone the chance to hone their athletics skills. Welly boots were used for throwing, and homemade hurdles created using cardboard boxes and garden canes.
When lockdown finally started to ease at the start of June, it was clear just how much Heywood’s hard work had paid off. Thanks to a gargantuan effort from the school, every year group was able to return safely and in plenty of time to make the most of the last few weeks of term. Of course, there were some tweaks to the routine, but life seemed blissfully normal for the children and the small class sizes meant they could be reunited with their familiar form groups too. Despite weeks away, they settled in seamlessly and were thrilled to be back in the happy environment they know and love.