When we were faced with Lockdown, schools were given little time to prepare for the transformation from bricks and mortar to virtual learning environments. At Hilden Grange we rapidly researched what had been learned from experiences abroad where the crisis had impacted a few months earlier than in the UK. We had already been developing a bespoke Homework App which was originally scheduled for release in the summer term. This was now fast-tracked to provide an online learning platform and timetables were constructed for a school day of live online lessons, carefully developed for each year group.
With the children's wellbeing the number one priority, the timetables were specially constructed to ensure that children were not overwhelmed by the number of sessions they should join and they also provided them with time during the day to complete work and catch up if necessary.
The breadth of the curriculum was fully recognised in these timetables; no one was furloughed and this allowed specialist teaching to continue, including all the creative, physical and pastoral elements. All lessons were recorded and were made accessible for a full week before being archived, to allow everyone to be able to watch them back if they couldn't attend when live, or even if they just wanted to go over something again. This, together with close personal email contact and constant transferring of work to and from the home as it was set, completed and marked, allowed us to maintain the pace of our children's learning highly effectively.
Probably our biggest surprise was the success of the provision, too, for our youngest children, from Nursery to Year 2. They were provided with suggested timetables to follow and each class had three sessions of live learning each day. It was clear just how much the pupils enjoyed seeing their teachers on screen each day. They responded to the challenges set with great enthusiasm, producing some wonderful creative work.
School life is about far more than academic pursuits and a core part of the Hilden Grange philosophy is encapsulated in the 'Language of Learning' values of perseverance, positivity, confidence, responsibility, communication and challenge.
Teachers watched in admiration as these values came to the fore during Lockdown. Far from it being a lonely, isolating experience, pupils rose to the occasion, as they thought up ingenious ways to extend their learning, embarked on charitable initiatives to help the vulnerable and unleashed their creative talents through art projects.
Teachers boosted morale, enlisting pet dogs to assist with tutor time, special guests, such as Mme Potato Head to teach a Year 4 French class on parts of the body, and guided pupils to transform family kitchens into science laboratories for live practical lessons.
In the Pre-Prep, children were thrilled to see a film of their teachers acting out 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt' in their gardens. Peripatetic music staff put together virtual singing groups to lift everyone's spirits and PSHE lessons were used to explore feelings.
All year groups returned to school in their 'bubbles' before the end of the summer term and it was, of course, wonderful when timetables returned to relative normality in September. When the January lockdown was announced we were disappointed not to be able to welcome the children back to the classroom, but were able to confidently return to virtual classrooms. Now, once again, we look forward to welcoming all of the children back to school on 8 March, this time hopefully for good!