by Laura Appleby of the Kedleston Group
Since the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen our staff teams, time and time again, go above and beyond to support our children and young people during what is undoubtedly the most challenging and unprecedented of times.
The Government has advised that vulnerable children or those with an EHCP should, wherever possible, still attend school every day and our day schools remain open to welcome students.
It has been widely reported in the media that across the UK, not all young people in these categories are attending school daily, for a wide number of reasons, and our schools are playing a vital role in making sure they are supported in the best ways possible.
Many of the young people supported in our schools thrive on the consistency and the daily routine the school day gives them and for some, any disruption to that routine can be unsettling. Providing that on-going consistency, support and encouragement for children – whether they are in the classroom or not – is just one way our schools are going above and beyond to make the children feel included and can have some normality in their day in a situation that is far from normal.
For example, Arc Oakbridge School are working hard to stay in touch with the children and their parents by using an online platform which all of the families are signed up to. The school can post updates, send lessons and learning, post messages to simply say ‘hello’ and send photos and videos.
This brilliant platform gives the opportunity for the children and families to post things back, so there is real two-way communication. This is keeping everyone feeling connected and supported in this really challenging time.
Elsewhere, Arc School Ansley has launched a video lesson timetable which sees teachers and children meet and “check-in” every day.
Many of the young people are also using Google Classroom to complete work, which is another fantastic online platform for sharing of information and videos. Using this technology the staff are able to share important information each day and even run fun competitions to help keep everyone feels positive and happy.
There’s been lots of positive feedback. One parent said:
“Can I just say how wonderful all the staff at Old Arley and Ansley have been?”
“One of my children attends Arc School Ansley and the other attends Arc School Old Arley. They have rung every day to see how they are and if we need anything and are now getting them to do online work.”
Some of the schools are also supporting the health and wellbeing of the children and their families who are isolating at home in very practical ways.
The teams at Brookways School London and Wings School Notts, for example, have been preparing food hampers full of tasty healthy food and some delicious treats and delivering them to the children’s door.
Arc School Napton is our primary school setting which supports children with social, emotional and mental health difficulties.
Teachers from the school have been posting work home to families and are providing online learning links designed to provide a specific remote learning timetable which is personalised for each child.
Children are sent stamped addressed envelopes so they can return their completed work.
To maximise interaction, the team at Napton have also set up virtual morning assemblies and daily challenges via an online platform which have proved to be a lot of fun!
The school is also introducing a themed activity every Thursday so the whole school continues to feel connected and everyone can take part in the same project at the same time.
Parents and children can also upload pictures and videos of their at-home learning to the online platform or they can email these into their teachers for feedback.
Arc School Old Arley is another of our schools which is going the extra mile to ensure their children and young people continue to get the support they need throughout the pandemic.
The team there are supporting children to continue learning at home by delivering homework packs for any families who may not have access to devices and they have sourced laptops which they are hoping to get delivered to the children’s homes this week.
When the lockdown was announced the Old Arley team set up Google Classroom, an online platform where the children can access lessons and resources and then upload their work to be marked.
The school also launched ‘live lessons’ through Microsoft Teams which has allowed children to log into lessons which are on their timetables, along with their teachers and teaching assistants, to be able to discuss their learning and share ideas.
This also gives them the chance to have some regular contact with their friends and the staff team. The children in Key Stage 2 and those in Year 7 are also using a reward chart to help engagement in learning and some of the staff have also been recording themselves reading chapters from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone while dressed in character as part of a new ‘Story Time’ initiative which has been very well received. These are being posted on the Kedleston Group YouTube Channel along with other brilliant and fun video content for young people to access from the staff at Mill School Bury, which is opening really soon.
On a practical level, the team have been offering support to families through a daily phone call along with support in delivering food where families might be isolating or struggling to get supplies.
This, and the examples from across the Group, show a team of staff in all our schools and homes who have gone and continue to go above and beyond to ensure the impact of these challenging times is as minimal as possible on the young people we support, and their families.