Good afternoon everyone,
I hope that you all enjoyed a safe and happy weekend.
Please may I say thank you for all the feedback you have given us and also for the manner in which you have engaged wholeheartedly in our online learning. I understand how this has been frustrating at times and am grateful for your patience as we work through the challenges together.
Over the course of the week we have received many question about remote learning. As a result we have put together a quick Frequently Asked Questions response to address your queries.
Frequently Asked Questions:
I have seen that other schools are doing 'live' lessons. Why is this not the case at St. Peter's?
At St. Peter’s, our aim is to ensure as far as is possible that no child is disadvantaged in their education due to lockdown. In the autumn term, in anticipation of a bubble or school closure, we undertook a parental survey to ascertain what the access to internet and online learning was in the context of our school. This was in line with Government advice. From our analysis of the survey, it was evident that although the majority of our pupils had some access to online provision, this was limited by factors such as number of devices, Wi-Fi access and data capacity. The survey also raised the issue that many families have a number of siblings who would be required to attend live lessons at the same time. We were also aware that often devices may be needed by parents for their work. This created a dilemma for us in terms of how to facilitate ‘live’ provision. Live provision in this context would only be accessible to all pupils if they all had the same access to the same resources.
Further limitations to ‘live’ lessons would be that technology might malfunction; video calls can often ‘drop out’ due to issues with broadband and connectivity. If this were the case for some pupils in the middle of a live taught lesson, they would be at risk of missing out vital sections of the lesson. The learning could then become disjointed, unmanageable and frustrating for pupils and teachers and would not be of sufficient quality.
In addition, we were guided by current educational research issued by the Education Endowment Fund (EEF), which clearly stated that schools should take a flexible approach that can be adapted to a broad range of socio-economic, home and family circumstances. Learning activities and support materials should be provided in a range of formats.
As a result, taking into full consideration the context of our school and the resources available to us in school and to pupils at home we took the decision not to offer ‘live’ real time lessons as this would disadvantage a significant number of our pupils.
Instead, we have decided to follow the advice given by the government that a blended learning approach would be the best provision to offer for the benefit of all our pupils in this far from ideal climate. A remote learning plan was prepared by the Senior Leadership Team, which reflected our vision for remote learning for our school. This was shared with all staff and agreed by the Governing Body.
From Monday 11th January, learning for children at home will move to the Microsoft Teams platform where there will be a range of video clips, some of teachers and some using resources from the internet, to explain and guide learning. Alongside this will be a clear explanation of how to tackle each task. This may be a recorded message or in the conversation facility. Teachers are available at all teaching times during the normal school day to answer any questions related to the learning from the children working remotely, offer advice and give feedback. Children should use the conversation/ chat facility solely for this purpose.
The Teams platform enables teachers to set work through the assignment functions and pupils to submit work so that teachers can give feedback. Feedback will be given and work always acknowledged.
As a Senior Leadership Team, we are confident that the current provision for remote learning meets the needs of our children, parents and staff in the best way possible. Due to the plan we had in place, we were able to respond quickly following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday evening. Please be mindful that this is a new situation for everyone, and there is no ‘right’ way of doing things. Each primary school has taken a different approach, based on the context of their school. We will continually review and reflect our practice as this current situation evolves and will adapt and amend provision if required.
The online provision is monitored continually by members of the Senior Leadership Team and evaluated daily to address any improvements necessary.
Why are there only 15 minute check-ins daily and what is the purpose of them?
The purpose of the daily check in is to provide an opportunity for regular pastoral, social and learning support. This is one of the principles of effective distance learning recommended by the EEF. The daily check in will mean that each teacher has sight of pupils daily and can ensure that everyone is safe and well. During the last lockdown, it was noted that children felt the loss of daily contact with their peers and with their teachers as the greatest disadvantage of learning from home. In order to ensure the wellbeing of pupils the daily check-ins have been introduced. They also allow teachers to give praise and feedback for the work that has been submitted and to address any common misconceptions.
The check-ins are time limited so that children in every year group have enough time to access their online learning and to complete it. This is especially true for children in households who have limited access to devices.
What should my child do if they are struggling to understand an activity?
If after reading carefully or listening to the exposition provided your child is uncertain of how to tackle their learning or needs more support they should post their question in the chat facility. Every teacher is in school daily and is monitoring their Teams platform. Once a question has been received, the class teacher will respond. This creates an online conversation similar to a conversation that would be held verbally in class where a child might seek support. The chat facility enables teachers to monitor learning and give full explanations. Please encourage your child to ask questions until they feel confident they understand what is required.
Teachers are also contactable via the class e-mail up to 4pm daily.
I have heard that there are laptops and extra data provided for pupils from the DFE how may I access this?
As a school, we have been allocated a small number of laptops by the DFE that we have only been able to order this week. We have applied for extra data and wireless routers but are awaiting a response from the Department for Education (DFE). In order to be successful in this application, we need to prove eligibility to the DFE where demand is high for the same resources. This has resulted in allocations being very small. To compensate for this shortfall we are attempting to source donations of other devices from local businesses/ benefactors. If you are experiencing difficulty and require a device, please contact the school office with your request to be placed on the waiting list. Devices will be shared out under strict criteria. Please also note that you are able to access Teams through X-box and PlayStation live. The information on how to do this is available on our website at latest news. In addition, some mobile phone companies are increasing data allowance to help families with online learning.
Why are some children in school? Can my child come to school if I am struggling with remote learning?
The government have asked that schools are closed to all pupils except for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children. These are as defined in the DFE guidance document
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement, the Senior Leadership Team identified some children who would be classed as vulnerable under this guidance and offered them a place in school. Not all of the offers were taken up. Parents who were critical workers were invited to apply for a place.
A decision was made by the Senior Leadership Team to limit the number of places in school. This is in line with our statutory duty to support the reduction of the overall number of social contacts within our community. The Prime Minister’s rationale for closing schools was that they had become ‘vectors for transmission’. As an employer, we have a statutory duty to protect people from harm, which includes taking reasonable steps to protect staff, pupils and others from COVID-19 within the education setting. The overarching principle is to reduce the number of contacts between children and staff, and therefore we are trying to keep group sizes as small as possible.
Children of parents who are critical workers are not entitled to a place in school. Parents and carers who are classed as critical workers are asked to comply with national lockdown restrictions and keep their child at home if they can, or make use of their childcare support bubble. They should only apply for a school place if absolutely necessary. This is so that we can minimise the number of people in school and keep everybody as safe as possible.
I don’t have a printer at home. Is this a problem?
As much as possible, the teaching staff are setting work which can be completed electronically or recorded in the exercise books that are available from the school office. Unfortunately, at this stage, we are unable to provide paper copies of work as the set work, nor are we able to reimburse parents for the cost of printer cartridges.
How should I try to facilitate the school timetable if I only have 1 device and more than one child needing to access Teams?
The timetables set by the teachers are as guide for you and your child about the amount of learning expected every day. Government guidance has advised that 3-4 hours’ worth of learning should be available daily. If you have a child in year 2 and year 4 for example the best way to facilitate learning with limited device access is to timetable the use of teams in a staggered fashion and whilst one child is accessing teams encourage your other child to read, practise spellings, handwriting or times tables. The timetabling of the day is at your discretion and can be adapted to suit your family context so that all children are able to complete their learning.
We are acutely aware that remote learning is not a substitute for learning in a school setting in a normal context. Our commitment is to provide the best provision that we can for all our pupils with the resources available to us at this time. We thank you for your support and understanding as we all become accustomed to this new way of learning.
If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact us via the school email or class emails.
Teachers are available during the school day until 4pm to respond to questions regarding learning and teams.