With schools across the country closed for the time being, parents have had to adapt to their new roles as home teachers and transform their living rooms and kitchens into classrooms.
With no news on the horizon about a return to school for pupils in Scotland, here’s how one school has been staying connected and keeping pupils motivated through the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.
In this blog, Mark Becher, headteacher of The Compass School in East Lothian, explains how the school has been working to help pupils, parents and teachers stay connected.
How our close-knit school adjusted to a ‘new normal’
We pride ourselves on our small class sizes – we are a close-knit school of just 128 pupils, with our largest class size being only 20 pupils.
The adjustment to home schooling has been difficult for everyone, but particularly for those juggling other responsibilities such as parents working from home. Our teachers were never trained to teach in these new ways, but now almost two months on we are not only surviving, but many are relishing this new way of teaching.
It is undoubtedly an uncertain time for pupils aged 3 – 12 years old. We are supporting all individual pupils so that they don’t flounder and we are mindful of the great challenge of supporting our Primary 7 pupils, who are preparing for the big transition from primary to secondary school.
To maintain a sense of structure and solidarity for pupils, I’ve been starting the week with a whole-school assembly as I normally would – I don my suit, speak from the lectern and upload the assembly to YouTube for all the children and teachers to watch.
Our teachers now work with parents to help motivate them and plan for the week ahead so they can cover key parts of the curriculum and manage tasks and assignments, as well as ensuring everyone feels supported and is able to cope.
Throughout this whole period, I have been striving to emphasise that no child is ahead or behind, but they are exactly where they need to be.
Being creative with our communications
Luckily, The Compass School were well-positioned for navigating our communications during lock down. We have always used social media to maintain a link between pupils, parents and teachers, and now we’ve added a range of new apps to help us stay connected.
We are communicating more updates on our activities on social media and are working closely with parents using a variety of apps that work very well for helping to manage pupils’ workloads.
We’re using the Showbie and Seesaw apps to integrate home learning. Showbie is great – teachers can film video instructions and send assignments to pupils, who can then photograph their jotter and send it back, before the teacher marks it and leaves voice notes for feedback!
To keep our teachers feeling connected, we have created a YouTube channel where they can record and publish videos for our pupils, including bedtime stories they have been reading for the younger children. We’ve had a great response to these new methods of communication, with parents seeming more engaged with their child’s schoolwork than ever before.
Complementing learning with fun
Of course, we’ve been keeping up a range of fun activities too, just like we’d usually be doing in school. For example, we celebrated the start of the Easter holidays by singing a song together and encouraging pupils to send in photos and videos of their own to maintain a sense of camaraderie.
We’ve also been running ‘Fun Fridays’ - our Rainbow Fun Day saw us all dress up in all the colours of the rainbow to raise over £2000 for CHAS! Our enterprising pupils have been amazing in their charitable activities – one child even ran a marathon over 9 days to raise money for the RNLI.
It’s so essential that fun is still mixed in with learning while at home, as there can be a tendency to focus too much on schoolwork and not enough on the more playful activities we’d usually be doing.
Supporting those on the frontline
It’s been really important to us to remain open in order to support those families whose members are on the frontline as key workers. We’ve had a small number of these children attending school every day and our teachers have instrumental in helping with this.
A communications success
As a parent, Mark is also juggling responsibility for his three-year-old and one-year-old children whilst also looking after over 100 pupils at The Compass School. This experience has been invaluable in understanding the needs and challenges of parents and carers faced with home schooling children for the first time.
Although the school has faced its fair share of challenges during the pandemic, they have adapted and thrived with their new systems of communication. They have succeeded in keeping their pupils on track by fostering a sense of community while apart and ensuring they keep including a bit of fun every day to keep the spirits of staff, pupils and parents high.
Many thanks to Mark Becher, Headteacher at The Compass School for his contribution to this blog.