From an online wellbeing alert button to lessons for parents in how to help their children use online classrooms – these are just some of the ways schools responded when they had to shut down temporarily or teach remotely during the pandemic.
A number of schools are highlighted in the Chief Inspector’s Report out this week from education watchdog Estyn.
Chief Inspector Claire Morgan praised educators for their adaptability and work in what has been a disrupted time.
These are some of the schools that have been highlighted for their response in the pandemic in her report.
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Ysgol Llangwyryfon, Ceredigion
Daily wellbeing activities included frequent exercise periods outside, additional circle times and opportunities for pupils to create class murals that reflected impressions and feelings.
All pupils in Years 5 and 6 received a book to use as a feelings diary. A member of staff monitored the contents of the diaries before each day. In the event of a concern, staff intervened.
Ysgol Llanfairpwll, Anglesey
Virtual ‘cuppa and a biscuit’ sessions were held with Year 5 and Year 6 pupils during the spring lockdown period. In these sessions, pupils were divided into small groups and given the opportunity to chat with their friends under the guidance of a teacher to support their emotional wellbeing.
Each session included an opportunity to have fun in the form of a quiz or a game, and to discuss feelings and any concerns.
Ysgol Gyfun Y Strade, Carmarthenshire
The school has added a ‘Botwm Becso’ (Concern Button) to its website for pupils to use at any time of day or night to report their concerns or worries. The information is confidential and goes straight to the assistant headteacher responsible for wellbeing who then contacts the pupil and decides how best to support them.
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Stacey Primary School, Cardiff
Identified that pupils required support to improve their oracy skills, particularly those pupils with English as an additional language who had only heard their home language during lockdown.
During the second national lockdown, teachers integrated regular opportunities for pupils to use and develop their listening and speaking skills through their distance learning . Teachers encouraged pupils to provide verbal responses, such as posting audio and videos of their talks.
During the first national lockdown only very few pupils regularly engaged with the tasks set for them. The headteacher understood that several factors contributed to this, including the school’s rural location with many pupils living and helping out on their family farm or having parents who were busy with their own work.
During the autumn term, the school had to close for a short period due to an outbreak of Covid. The headteacher introduced regular, live wellbeing sessions that gave the staff confidence to use remote learning technology.
As a result, staff were ready to include live sessions in the provision offered to all pupils during the second national lockdown period in spring 2021. The headteacher devised a weekly tracking form for each class where staff recorded pupil engagement and intervened as necessary.
This helped engagement rise from 10% during the first lockdown to 90% during the second lockdown.
Archbishop Rowan WilliamsSchool, Monmouthshire,
Leaders took account of staff feedback that constantly being on-call online was having an adverse effect on their own wellbeing. In addition, there were concerns from parents about the amount of time their children were spending on screen.
Leaders decided to use Wednesdays for staff planning, preparation and assessment time. While tasks were still set, there were no live-streamed lessons or ICT dependent learning on that day and teachers did not monitor messages. There was always a dedicated member of staff ‘on duty’ for each class to pick up wellbeing or safeguarding issues that occurred on a Wednesday.
This provided staff with protected time to consider their pupils’ learning for the following week and to analyse patterns of engagement during the previous week. There was immediate positive feedback from pupils and families, and staff wellbeing improved greatly.
At Ysgol Eifion Wyn, Gwynedd
Leaders and staff evaluated their delivery of remote learning regularly, but informally. Leaders liaised with parents to seek their views of their children’s learning experiences and considered their responses. As a result, staff used live learning sessions that were short and stimulating to keep pupils interested and encourage them to engage.
Llandrillo yn Rhos Primary School, Conwy
Set up a professional learning chat group so that colleagues could keep in touch when the school was closed.
Provided mini learning zones for each year group. This enabled pupils with ALN to access specialist support safely, gain respite and, if necessary, gradually transition to school whilst remaining in their bubble.
Coedcae Comprehensive School
Established a successful partnership with the local authority to support vulnerable families. The school identified vulnerable families, who were not on the free school meals register but were facing increasing financial pressures due to job losses or because of the furlough scheme.
With a weekly grant of £250, the school delivered hygiene packs to those families to help financial pressures where money had to be spent mostly on essentials like food rather than hygiene products. As a result, the school built solid relationships with pupils and their families and helped with the issues and struggles of their school community.
YsgolSyr Hugh Owen, Caernarfon
Identified increased anxiety, self-injury and low mood through their internal systems to monitor pupil wellbeing and welfare.
The school created an online classroom for mental health so that pupils could access information and activities to support them. In addition, the school adapted PSE lessons to respond to pupils’ needs, such as lessons on building mental resilience, improving personal hygiene and promoting the NHS.
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Made distance learning engaging and manageable for pupils and staff. Staff were concerned that too many learning activities were digital, so leaders encouraged teachers to set non-digital tasks like writing in a physical journal or reading a ‘real’ book.
Teachers also discovered that pupils needed to be guided more systematically through their learning than they would in the classroom where a teacher could easily support individuals or pupils may have picked up cues from their peers. Teachers made expectations clearer and signposted pupils throughout the learning.
Pupils worked to a fixed timetable that mirrored the normal timetable. This included a mixture of live lessons, webinars (where teachers introduced a session, and pupils spent most of the time working individually, coming back at the end of the session to discuss their work) and self-study periods.
The strict timetable enabled families to plan their time and access to devices. The school insisted that teachers followed the timetable for this reason. The self-study periods allowed time for staff to plan.
Ysgol y Creuddyn, Llandudno
The mathematics department experimented with approaches to online formative assessment.
During live teaching sessions, they used various pieces of software, such as virtual mini whiteboards, to test pupils’ understanding of concepts. They also used multiple choice to gauge pupils’ understanding so misconceptions did not become embedded.
Ysgol Dyffryn Aman, Ammanford
Started an online parental involvement programme. The programme focused on working with parents to identify strengths and gaps in provision and to plan improvement priorities to support parents. For example, workshops were held on topics such as the use of Hwb and online classrooms, pastoral support and wellbeing, support for pupils with ALN and attitudes to learning.
Cathays High School, Cardiff
Involved all teachers in the monitoring of provision. Within subject area teams, teachers looked at the books and online learning of sample group of pupils in different year groups. This enabled them to compare the quality of provision. There were one-to-one reviews of online learning.
Ysgol Idris Davies, Tredegar
Provision for more able and talented (MAT) pupils included the ‘Brilliant Club’ Year 6 transition programme to develop a MAT network of Year 6 pupils across the cluster of schools.
Christ the Word Catholic School, Rhyl
Provided targeted intervention for literacy and numeracy by using Recruit, recover and raise standards (RRRS) funding to appoint two new teachers, one for primary and the other for secondary. They appointed an ex-primary headteacher to support Year 3 and Year 4 pupils in small groups and on individual basis. This helped to improve the literacy and numeracy of pupils in these years.
Ysgol Bro Idris,Dolgellau
The all-age school is situated on five different sites. The distance between the sites ranges from one mile to 10 miles from the central secondary site. To ensure consistency and a common approach to the curriculum, staff on the primary sites worked together on their planning. During the pandemic, teachers planned the provision and adapted their curriculum together for their pupils whilst they were learning from home.
Maesgwyn Special School, Cwmdare
The curriculum has been adapted to consider the results of an assessment of pupils’ wellbeing.
Ysgol Crug Glas Special School, Swansea
School nurses at Ysgol Crug Glas continued to provide a much-valued service to parents as they cared for their children at home. Regular contact with families was made using online platforms where parents were able see nurses and talk through their concerns.
Meadowbank Special School , Cardiff
The school provided guidance for parents on cooking, storytelling, and doing other practical activities with their children. The school got a grant from a charitable foundation. These funds were used to provide various items such as playdough, wooden jigsaws and playing cards.
Ysgol Bryn Derw Special School, Newport
Became increasingly important during national lockdowns. The engagement worker provided an alternative approach for parents and carers to communicate their support needs.
Maes Derw PRU, Swansea
For the autumn local restrictions and second national lockdown, all pupils had a key worker to provide them with stronger wellbeing support.
Made frequent contact with pupils that were not attending the PRU, door step visits and remote wellbeing activities, followed by structured wellbeing sessions when pupils attended the PRU.
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