Independent schools begin first week of remote learning

“We are defined by our indefatigable spirit in rising to a challenge,” said one headmaster

Many schools have begun their first week of remote learning after the government shut schools on 20 March in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

A number of independent schools responded quickly when closures looked likely, with advanced digital training for teachers.

Royal Hospital School (RHS), one of the top EdTech 50 schools in the UK, is an Apple Training Centre. Pupils have been using school-provided iPads to access resources in lessons for the past five years.

Now at home, pupils are logging on for lessons and interacting with teachers through audio or messaging, with Microsoft Teams also being used to deliver the usual timetable, bar PE lessons.

Lessons are also being recorded for children in different time zones. The school said this week 108 of its teachers will teach 750 pupils in 138 countries online.

remote learning
Bede’s’ online learning platform

Keeping to a ‘normal’ school day routine

At Bede’s, remote lessons are being delivered with a similar structure to the school day, accounting for breaks and lunchtimes. Director of IT Steve Blake told IE no one technology has been used for remote learning but rather a “coordinated approach has been developed using the best features from a range of options”.

He said: “Our approach allows for real-time intervention and guidance as pupils work on documents or resources and personalised digital feedback following pupil submission.

“Pupils have a range of Bede’s created video content (science experiments for example) available catering for a range of learning styles and pastoral care continues using a range of digital media.

“Teachers can use online whiteboard technology to mimic the classroom experience with the added benefit of being able to save anything created for future reference.”

The school said this week 108 of its teachers will teach 750 pupils in 138 countries online

The school’s online learning platform helps pupils and teachers organise, distribute, collect and feed back, but Blake said the teaching staff have proved to be a “creative powerhouse” in using technology to deliver a rich experience for pupils.

A remote learning guide for parents has also been shared on the school’s website.

Tips include keeping to a ‘normal’ school day routine, with task deadlines and regular breaks away from screens; encouraging your child to interact with their friends via video chats; and communicating with your child throughout the day about their school work to help keep them on track.

Watch how Canford School is getting to grips with remote learning

‘As little interruption as possible’

Wellington School are using Firefly as their learning platform, as well as Microsoft Stream to film lessons and Microsoft Teams for online chat. Pupils log on every morning at 8:30am for a tutor meeting, whilst the school remains open for children of key workers, providing care from 8am-6pm.

The school said it is proving “hugely successful”, with some pupils even putting on suits for online lessons.

“Wherever possible, the timetable and curriculum will remain unchanged, just a little flexible,” said headmaster Eugene du Toit.

“The intended outcome is that the learning of our students progresses with as little interruption as possible. Where they have a PE lesson, they should be out in the garden kicking a football, where they have music, they continue to practice as normal.”

He added: “Wellington School is not defined by whether or not we are all in one place at the same time. We are defined by our sense of community, the lengths we go to in supporting one another, our indefatigable spirit in rising to a challenge.

“We are in this together and we will get through this together.”

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