Focus on education: How schools moved the classroom online during lockdown

The coronavirus pandemic has brought an unprecedented strain upon all of our lives. Shops shutting, pubs closing, and schools only open for a select few. For secondary school pupils in Maidenhead, they have had to adapt to a new way of learning, with some students potentially not returning until September at the earliest. So, how are youngsters being taught during lockdown? Reporter Kieran Bell spoke to schools in Maidenhead to find out.

Claires Court School

The mixed independent school has been using popular online resources but is also encouraging children away from the screen.

The combined Claires Court schools have about 1,000 pupils ranging from three years old to 18.

Pupils are taught using the Google Classroom suite and other subscription software, which allow teachers to set tasks, host virtual classrooms, and share activities.

A typical day for older pupils include mornings of ‘live’ lessons and tasks, interaction with teachers, and video linked with a series of questions and document-making.

With younger pupils, there is an emphasis on more teacher time and less independent learning.

Hugh Wilding, administrative principal, said: “As we prepared for distance learning, we ensured we had safeguarding in the use of online software, and wellbeing with appropriate screen time and workload, as top priorities.”

Youngsters are set work and challenges at home that do not mean more 'screen-time', like music making, drama and sport.

Sailors are racing in real time in a sponsored challenge series and rowers are undertaking joint training three times a week, racing static bikes and running across 5km using Google Maps.

Furze Platt Senior School

The Furze Platt Road school caters for children from years seven up to year 13, and has different instructions for each.

Years seven to 10 have one piece of work set per subject a week, with those in year 10 benefitting from one weekly online seminar for English and Maths and fortnightly in other subjects.

Year 12s, meanwhile, have one compulsory seminar a week per subject, aimed at targeting common misunderstandings.

Both year 11 and year 13 have not been set any work due to the Ofqual guidance regarding GCSEs and A-Level exams this year, however Furze Platt has provided guidance for them about transitioning to their next phase.

There has also been regular contact between teachers and pupils – all tutors telephone tutees once a fortnight, with students in year ten expecting at least fortnightly emails or phone calls from subject teachers to check on their GCSE progress.

Additional activities such as cooking and quizzes have gone down well.

Altwood School

The team at Altwood has been making use of its own app to help students learn during the lockdown.

“We are aware that not every family has multiple devices and that they are managing home learning around parent(s) who may be working, and so our lessons can be accessed at any time,” the school said.

Staff are using technology, for example, voice-over and recording on PowerPoints to support deeper understanding.

Altwood is also on Microsoft Teams and other resources like the online classroom, Oak National Academy.

The school added: “We value the personal touch and every student has been routinely contacted to ensure that they are getting on with their school work and that they and their families are well.”

Desborough College

The boys’ school in Shoppenhangers Road has adopted a ‘flexible and supportive’ approach to teaching.

All students are in regular contact with their tutor through email, Microsoft Teams and live sessions.

Desborough has also been making use of other established online-based platforms, such as Class Charts and GCSE Pod.

Principal, Maggie Callaghan, provides a fortnightly video update for parents.

The school said: “Our prime objective has been to stay connected with our community, continue to support their well-being and to provide a flexible learning experience.”

The Berkshire College of Agriculture (BCA)

The Burchetts Green Road institute has been award-winning in its use of technology during the lockdown.

Google Meet has been chosen as the college’s preferred platform, and BCA has provided students in need with devices and prepared them for distance learning with a week’s practice before lockdown.

Assistant principal Dan Fairbairn said: “The college has seen fantastic examples of online teaching, including live streams from the horticulture team on planting perennials, to business students delivering video conferences online, and motor vehicle students studying the new electric vehicle qualifications from their phones.

“BCA was also recently shortlisted for the prestigious TES ‘Outstanding use of Technology to Improve Teaching and Learning’ award.”



Cox Green School

Each year group has a Microsoft Teams timetable so that online classes can continue.

Learning tasks are set for submission on both Teams and the school’s online platform ‘Doddle’.

The school said: “We ensure that hard copies of work are sent out regularly to ensure that these students are not disadvantaged and continue to have access to learning.

“Our students have been incredible in their commitment towards moving forward with learning. It has been and continues to be a fantastic team effort.”

Staff are regularly checking in with students, ensuring that they are coping mentally and academically, it added.

A weekly newsletter, headteacher update and regular social media posts have also helped to ensure families are kept abreast of information.

Stock photo
(stock photo)

Newlands Girls’ School

Learning is ‘continuing in earnest’ at Newlands – from the Suffragettes to ecosystems.

Subject specific tasks are being set across three learning platforms to ensure access for all.

The pastoral team are also providing a listening ear, albeit virtually, and motivational bulletins and the ‘community connect’ newsletter encourage students to embrace their extra time at home by trying a new skill or hobby.

In addition, the Student Focus Centre shines a spotlight on supporting mental health and wellbeing with daily tips and tricks.

Headteacher Dr Louise Ceska said: “We are continuing to explore methods to engage and enthuse our students in these difficult times, including trialling interactive form tutor sessions, and we are looking forward to face-to-face support with our Year 10 and 12 students in the future.”

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