For parents, making sure their children continue to get an education during the Coronavirus restrictions is vital. And for one Aberdeen school the transition to working online has gone well.
When it became apparent that the outbreak could lead to school closures, headteacher of St Margaret’s School for Girls Anna Tomlinson and her team started working on a plan.
“We had a lot of late nights as we put new procedures in place,” she explained. “And we had to do intensive training with pupils and staff before we moved to the virtual classrooms.”
Google Classrooms had already been used in small ways at the school, so it meant rolling out existing knowledge and skills to everyone at the school. The school also created two websites – a pupil hub and a teachers’ hub – where messages and information is shared.
“We want not just to put up lessons and teaching information, but also inspirational material, wellness guides and tips for pupils and their families and apps for pupils to use outwith the school day.”
By putting the plans in place, it meant that when pupils started learning at home on Monday, March 23, it was a smooth switchover.
“We do registration and assemblies in the morning, including songs and hymns, like we always have,” Anna said, “and we are following the school day as normal.
“Our senior pupils are following their exact class timetable, while our nursery and junior pupils are getting tasks allocated to them, that are both on the computer and offline, so they aren’t staring at a screen all day.”
Pupils are even managing to continue practical classes, such as drama and PE, by recording themselves performing and uploading them to the virtual classroom for teachers to give feedback.
“It’s been great to see how teachers are adapting and to see how engaged pupils have been with the new way of working.”
Anna and the St Margaret’s staff are continuing to develop how they teach pupils in this unique situation.
“We are getting great feedback from pupils’ families and we are using that to develop and evolve our plans.
“But I have to say that my colleagues have just been amazing and the level of enthusiasm and dedication they have is unbelievable.
“It’s been a situation of ‘so far, so good’ and I’ve been using the messages of support we’ve had to help keep spirits up by showing that what we are all doing is working.”
Anna is keeping in regular contact with members of staff, by phone, emails, chats and video calls, to ensure that they continue to feel supported.
“I’m going to operate as I normally do, in that I’ll have a schedule of meetings but I’ll
be available in a less formal way, similar to people popping into my office at school.”
She added: “As a school we believe it’s important for the children to do what we normally do, as everything is already so unsettled.
“We appreciate that it will not be easy for our parents to balance their own work with supporting their children and we are really grateful for their collaboration with us at this time.”
Find out more about the school at the St Margaret’s website.