A second national lockdown for schools has seen teaching staff at Hensingham embracing the value of live lessons.
Experience from the initial lockdown and special training sessions mean the Whitehaven primary school was able to tailor its offer to children from Reception to Year 6 when remote learning returned in January.
Teaching staff have put an emphasis on live classes as they feel it benefits children to communicate with classmates and it takes some strain away from parents and carers. The aim is for children to have live lessons in English, a topic and story time, supported at other points with work being set online.
Headteacher Faye Eldon said: “We think it’s really important for the children’s well-being that they are able to see their friends and teachers.
“With live lessons they can have a conversation, discuss their learning and share ideas. For instance, if they’re writing a story, they can use online breakout rooms for discussion or do some small group work and feed back to the class.
“It also means we are not relying on parents so much. Parents have work, so if they know the child is taking part in a live lesson then once they are set up, they know they are busy. We also timetable lessons so there are minimal clashes for our families who have several children with us, and we’ve made it easier to upload work.”
The 260-pupil school has invested in laptops and in different programmes the children can access from home. Where connectivity is an issue, they have distributed internet dongles.
Mrs Eldon added: “It’s testament to the hard work of the teachers and staff. They’ve really had to adapt their teaching to be able to facilitate the remote learning. They’ve taken part in Microsoft Teams training and they’re supporting each other.
“They have taken on the challenge which is brilliant. As a headteacher I’m so proud because the challenge of being in front of a computer screen for teachers and children is quite difficult. But they have looked at our curriculum as it would have been in school and worked out how they can deliver that as closely as possible.
“Parent feedback has been very positive in relation to the amount and quality of the work set as well as about the extra work that the teachers and staff are completing in order to support families, such as being at the end of a phone or answering messages.”
While most children are learning remotely, staff are on a rota to be in school for key worker and vulnerable children on site each day who join the same classes online.
The school is also keen to incorporate some non-computer based activities. While lockdown restrictions make it difficult for families to spend time away from home, the school is looking to bring in sessions where siblings can make things together or enjoy a nature walk.
Mrs Eldon added: “We really promote independent learning in school, so with the activities we are setting we hope to continue that.”