Week 14: I am still learning (Michelangelo)

It has been an interesting week in school with teachers learning how to deliver lessons in a way that is completely different for them. I think it’s fair to say that it has been an up-and-down (but mostly positive) experience. There have been a few technical issues and Mrs Valleley (Assistant Headteacher) fielded over 40 emails on Monday morning from parents and carers, all of which she dealt with quickly. Next week (fingers crossed) will be much smoother.

Most Hampshire schools have not adopted live lessons and there is no real evidence that these are any more effective than other forms of online learning, such as presentations with pre-recorded explanations to accompany them. The key reason for moving to these live lessons has been to raise engagement over the last half-term. Nationally, students’ engagement with online learning has dipped and we were keen to address this. Pleasingly, this is not the case at The Hamble School- the overwhelming feedback from parents and students since Tuesday is that they have really valued the contact with staff. Staff have also really enjoyed being able to see the children again.

Live lessons are more difficult to organise for teaching staff, virtually all of whom have never delivered content in this way before. They are also, as some families have discovered this week, more difficult in the short-term because you need to plan all of your independent learning around the live lessons. It’s been a learning curve for all of us. We have listened to the feedback from parents and I would ask you to read this week’s Home Learning Newsletter which explains the new simpler format. Thank you for your helpful comments and kind words in reshaping all of this. There are 6 main points:

  1. Work will now be set on a Sunday and we will guarantee that every subject will be uploaded for the week by 5pm that day. This means that families can plan before Monday morning. The due date will still be the Friday of each week.
  2. We have asked staff to reduce the number of core independent learning tasks they are setting next week as some students have felt overwhelmed.
  3. Staff will now put the live lesson details (day, time, and Zoom link) in the assignment box on Show My Homework as well as on the Weekly Learning Plans so it is more obvious for students.
  4. We will try to reduce the number of resources attached to each assignment post on Show My Homework and ensure the Weekly Learning Plan is saved as Weekly Learning Plan so you can instantly download this.
  5. We want students to be able to work flexibly around the live lessons but we also know that structure helps our families. This week we are therefore publishing a suggested timetable. The live lessons are all highlighted in green and we have provided a timetable of when the independent learning tacks could be completed around this. We hope this helps with organisation.
  6. Staff will not let students into the lesson unless they are using their full name (first name and surname) due to safeguarding.

I really hope that students continue to value these experiences and that it gets them fired up for a fresh, positive start in September. I know that the staff have enjoyed the experience of seeing the children more and, as with all things, we will learn valuable lessons along the way that will help us develop out teaching and learning next year.

I’ve fielded a few questions this week about what is happening in September, including what the school intends to do about uniform, social distancing, transition for Year 7 students, and catch-up. The answer is I do not know. That’s not an entirely true answer- I have scribbled down a number of different scenarios and how we might address these- but until the government publishes updated guidance for September all I really have are guesses.

Let’s take social distancing as an example. If the guidance for September is 1m+ social-distancing, then some of our older classrooms will only hold about 10-12 students at a time. I know because the site team have been around the school and begun the measuring process. That’s about half a class in Key Stage 4 and much less in Key Stage 3. In this scenario, I will not have enough classrooms to teach the children (and nowhere near enough teachers either) so a ‘blended’ approach of in-school and online will be necessary, with the online provision being limited because most of the staff will be in school teaching the 50% of students who are in attendance. It’s not a great scenario for anyone, including the government who I image are struggling to make the right decision for something that is still over two months away.

Last week, schools were promised that we would receive guidance for September by the end of next week. Hopefully, this guidance will come out then and I will be able to begin planning for the new academic year. My guess (I’m back to guesses again) is that we will need to plan for a small number of scenarios and I hope that guidance is provided for the most likely ones. As always, as soon as I know I will write to all of you immediately to explain what we will be doing. This will definitely come out before the end of term!

I hope that you all have a good weekend and enjoy the beautiful weather.


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