Lessons in home schooling for Isle of Wight schools

Island schools have been working creatively to minimise the impact of having to close to most pupils, due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, on their pupils’ education.

Schools have developed home learning packs, kept timetables of lessons running virtually online and incorporated fun and engaging learning activities for children and young people to do at home.

Councillor Paul Brading, the council’s Cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, said: “Distance learning has taken on a whole new meaning for me.

“I have been so impressed with the ingenuity and resourcefulness of schools all over the Island in maintaining an interesting curriculum of learning, both at primary and secondary level, for the majority of children and young people who are undertaking their school work at home while we live through lockdown conditions.”

Gurnard Primary School is one of many schools that has adopted a flexible approach to supporting home learning.

Headteacher Vanessa Hicks explained: “For the youngest children, the teachers pre-record lessons and stories and then model short, practical activities for the children to complete.

“Our focus has been on shared activities for parents to do with their children such as reading together or playing phonics or maths games.

“For the older children who are generally able to work more independently, the teachers set work using an online platform called Google Classroom.

“Lessons are posted online on a daily basis and include pre-recorded videos with explanations, demonstrations and online links.

“The children then complete linked tasks through quizzes and shared documents and even work collaboratively. Teachers are then able to answer the children’s questions, mark their work and provide personalised feedback online.

“Through our Facebook page we share videos of teachers reading stories, have a weekly virtual assembly, share photos of home learning and even have a virtual quiz every Friday.”

From the start of lock down, Hunnyhill Primary School’s approach has been to support the well-being and mental health of the school community.

The main school entrance now houses a temporary library with paper and exercise books for families to use. There are also positive thinking journals for the children to fill in.

Headteacher Lisa Steedman said: “Our aim is for our children and their families to spend time talking, playing and engaging in learning activities that support our skills based curriculum.

“Through this approach, our children have accessed core English and maths learning, but additionally a wealth of foundation subjects such as design and technology, music, art and geography.

“We have not put pressure on families to complete tasks, but asked them to do what is right for their family.

“Teachers have provided tasks that are not only web-based but also practical too allowing all children to access learning.

“Via our teacher/parent messaging app and website, we have communicated with families, shared resources, hosted live story sessions and recorded teachers demonstrating activities.

“More importantly, we have celebrated learning by showing photographs of children cooking, gardening, sewing, exercising, fundraising and supporting their vulnerable neighbours.”

With many students starting A-levels in September, Cowes Enterprise College has developed a dedicated online information site to support the transition to Year 12.

The resources include guidance, support and high-quality and engaging A-level tasters, as well as bridging lessons to help students with that jump from GCSEs to A-levels.

Year 11 student Ben said: “It’s been really fun to get stuck into my subjects for next year.

“I needed that extra motivation now my GCSEs aren’t happening, and the transition materials have definitely made me much more excited about starting my A-levels.

“The teachers have been really supportive and are giving me loads of information, and my group of friends has been having lots of chats about the courses. It’s really good to look forwards at this difficult time.”

Teachers at The Bay CE Primary School are setting daily activities covering maths, English, science, music, PE or French.

Headteacher, Duncan Mills, said: “Wherever possible, we have loaned ICT equipment to pupils who require it and also produce weekly printed packs of work for those who prefer this method/don’t have internet access.

“Drop off and pick up times are carefully coordinated through the office so that social distancing guidelines are adhered to. In addition, we have dedicated supported ‘work slots’ slots for the children of key workers, who are attending our daily childcare provision.

“Teachers and support staff are working tirelessly to provide daily feedback online, including some ‘live’ online mentoring and coaching slots, and we have been delighted with how well our families are engaging in this new way of learning.

“We are also using our new way of remote learning to host ‘virtual celebrations’ including our first ever virtual Easter bonnet parade and our VE Day virtual choir.”