The lockdown put in place at the start of this year unfortunately meant that schools closed. I had really hoped that they could stay open. I empathise with all teachers, parents and children, for having to adapt and adjust to online learning once again. Having discussed it with the Schools Minister, I do know that it was a difficult decision to make and was not taken lightly.
Following the announcement, I reached out to all the head teachers of our local schools to find out how they were getting on. It was also a good opportunity for me to hear their thoughts and feed in to discussions with colleagues. Since the start of the year, I have met more than 15 head teachers over Zoom, with many more in the diary!
It is clear that schools have put a lot of time into planning for remote learning; they seem much more prepared this time around. While I know it is no substitute for the interaction and socialisation children have when they go to school, I am pleased to hear that the remote arrangements seem to be working well. Teachers continue to go above and beyond for their students. It has been great to hear how Glory Farm School, along with many other local primary schools, have been printing and delivering school packs to pupils who struggle to interact online, to ensure that no student is left behind at this time. Sibford Gower School have been providing personalised sheets for students to help target improvement areas, while Cherry Fields School are livestreaming whole school assemblies and show and tell sessions to keep up school spirit. I feel very reassured knowing that, of the schools I have spoken to, all are providing extra one-to-one support for those who need it.
As the parent of a child who should have been sitting her A-Levels this summer, I am very worried about the impact of school closures on those who should have been taking their exams this year. Having spoken to some of our local secondary school head teachers, I have been very impressed to hear about the arrangements for livestreaming lessons. The Warriner are saving all livestream lessons so children can go back and re-watch in their own time, with many other schools adopting a similar model. I was very pleased to hear that The Cooper School are asking students to fill out a daily wellbeing checklist, with teachers contacting students who indicate that they are unhappy. Whitelands – which opened in September – even told me that they have been livestreaming cooking lessons! I have taken on board their comments about arrangements in lieu of exams, and have responded to the Department for Education’s consultation.
I know that fatigue is setting in for many teachers, particularly for those who teach at a small school and cannot rota on and off. It goes without saying that I am incredibly grateful to all those who continue to put their pupils first and work so hard in such unprecedented circumstances.