Home Schooling Success: 4 Lessons for the Future
When home schooling became widespread at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, many schools felt an immediate urgency to try to replicate the school timetable at home and to provide the best online teaching. We learnt many valuable lessons in the period of innovation that followed which have informed our online provision during this second school shutdown.
The idea of online schooling was daunting for everyone; juggling working from home with childcare and home schooling, learning to use technology and share resources, and for our international pupils – across different time zones too.
So, we re-wrote the timetable. We deliver academic lessons in the mornings via live online teaching, video lessons, and interactive sessions and activities. In the afternoons, we focus on sport-based activities and sessions to promote well-being or develop additional ‘soft’ skills. Lessons and activities are recorded so international pupils (or those with shared access to technology) are able to take part at a time that suited them.
Traditional lesson plans do not necessarily translate digitally as keeping pupils engaged and participating online presents a whole new set of challenges. It’s also exhausting being on screens all day long, but pupils are able to break up the sessions with offline work and practical experiments at home. We are delighted that the changes we introduced produced such positive results.
94% of parents said their child is motivated and engaged in their online learning
HIGHFIELD PARENT SURVEY
Teachers found that to be most effective, the best online lessons were between 15 to 30 minutes long, and while we have always preferred a more creative, child-led teaching approach from our Pre-Prep onwards, this has been particularly beneficial when teaching remotely. We give children the tools to investigate the world around them, rather than the answers to learn, so our pupils are used to being encouraged to follow their interests, to ask questions and to work and learn independently.
It wasn’t long into the last lockdown that we uncovered another major challenge; how to maintain our wonderful, diverse and warm sense of community. How could we recreate those daily moments of social interaction and connection – especially with some of our families being on the other side of the world? During these times whole school assemblies and events (live streamed and recorded) become even more important for creating a sense of ‘oneness’, as well as interactive form times and daily check-ins to provide the opportunity to reconnect with peers and regain a sense of normality. Many wonderful activities such as the ‘Great Highfield Bake Off’ and the global trek from ‘Hampshire to Hong Kong’ provide opportunities for whole school participation and fun.
It’s heart-breaking never knowing when you’ll next teach a child face to face.
For teachers, being able to see pupils makes a big difference. They are used to observing how a child walks into their class, or interacts within the lesson, which can provide vital feedback as to how a child is feeling about their learning. With some children however, remote teaching actually made it easier to unpick reasons for a lack of progress in the classroom, as there are less variables when teaching online. Others benefit from being able to work at their own pace, setting their own schedule.
Of course, we are acutely aware of the correlation between teacher quality and pupil achievement, which is why we employ specialist, and qualified, experienced teachers. However, despite the fact that technology has been integral to our teaching for many years, most notably since iPads became a normal part of lessons, the introduction of a whole range of new technologies overnight, still caused anxiety for some staff. The success of our online programme really highlights the courage and creativity they modelled throughout their own steep learning curve.
Seeing a colleague go from utter fear of video lessons to delivering amongst the best – that journey has been really special.
And it’s not just the teachers who faced such a sudden transition - parents also found themselves suddenly part of the new virtual teaching team, playing an even more pivotal supporting role in their child’s learning success, and from all around the world. Parents have gained a far deeper understanding of teaching, and a real appreciation of the level of care teachers have for their children.
Our teachers have always gone above and beyond, but now it’s become tangible. Parents are one step closer to us now, and I hope this stays.
We were undoubtedly better placed to respond to the sudden switch to remote schooling, second time round. But what are the bigger lessons we can take from this remote schooling experience? What have we learned as teachers, parents and families that can benefit us in the longer term?
To have confidence in our own resilience and adaptability
If we were able to overhaul teaching and learning overnight to ensure our pupils stayed focussed, engaged and challenged during the pandemic, we are also able to adapt quickly and successfully to other changes, whether they be changes at Common Entrance (or looking at alternatives), developing more flexible, child-centred learning, or even the introduction of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence.
The importance of collaboration
While the partnership between teachers, pupils and parents has always been fundamental to the success of education, remote schooling has equipped teachers with greater access and understanding of new technology that has also provided parents greater insight into teaching. This closer connection and collaboration presents a real opportunity for progress; to provide the wrap-around support necessary for children to become independent and courageous learners, both inside and outside of the classroom.
We can all become ‘courageous learners’
Emboldened by our own courage in rising to meet recent challenges, we can feel more confident in encouraging our children to equip themselves with the skills they need for their future. We can empower them to become children who seek to define problems and solve them for themselves; who are undaunted by setbacks; who are willing to articulate their point of view but also to listen to others; to be ready and able to collaborate with, and encourage their peers.
To cherish simple, human qualities
A final lesson of schooling during the pandemic, is to strike the right balance between maintaining academic and co-curricular rigour, and freeing pupils to take advantage of the increased opportunity for family time. Virtual schooling has accelerated the long overdue uptake of new technologies in education, but perhaps most importantly, it has also increased our appreciation of the essentially human qualities that can never be replaced by technology. Our recent Family Well-being Survey found that families who were happiest during lockdown had rediscovered the joy of spending more time with each other, and the ‘enjoyment of more simple living’. As the 21st century begins to resume its previous velocity, what more valuable a lesson is there to remember than that?
To find out more about our non-virtual schooling, do get in touch! Email Caroline at: email@example.com.
Lydia Wetzel, Head of International Development & Strategy