What we learned during lockdown
By Vicky Duggan
30 Jul

As we head towards the start of the new school year, we have time to reflect on the last few months of teaching through lockdown, both at school and from home. As a profession, we have learnt so much from this highly unusual experience and now we have had the time to consider how this will impact our practice in the future.

The Power of Technology

The benefits of using technology in the classroom have long been evident, but the past few months have opened up many new pathways. Technology can never replace the expertise and individualised attention that teachers can give, however I now find myself considering which aspects of the software we used during remote learning might be here to stay. Instructional videos could make excellent revision tools, platforms such as Microsoft Teams could be very valuable for setting holiday homework or for children absent from school for long periods of time. There are a number of superb online programmes that could be used for homework or cover work. I will certainly be able to be more creative with work I set for my classes while I am away from school on CPD or residential trips. I think the summer term has also made us braver with our forays into the world of ICT and I am sure teachers of Computing would be delighted to see a more cross-curricular approach to the subject - after all, our world is increasingly reliant on using technology in every aspect of life.

You can teach an old dog new tricks

Adaptability is something our profession has demonstrated in spades this year. Most of us would have scoffed at the idea of a teacher working from home, but look at us now! Team-spirit, a willingness to experiment, to learn and to collaborate have always been features of the teaching community but we really brought out the big guns this year. The media has argued over whether we are ‘heroes’ or not, but that doesn’t matter. We care. We do the best by the children in our charge and we model the resilience we hope to nurture in our pupils. Our job is always evolving with new initiatives or ‘new’ old initiatives but ultimately we share a common goal to care for and educate children, however that may look, in the circumstances we are dealt. We can cope with whatever is thrown our way.

What is the purpose of school?

In an increasingly results-driven society, we could be at risk of seeing school as a purely academic vehicle, driving our children onto excellent senior schools and eventually universities. However, it’s far more than that. It is a place of social and community education, a support network for families, a place to belong, a place to relax, a place to share the highs and the lows with peers and teachers. Lockdown has drawn huge focus to these key aspects of school life that do not fit neatly into a curriculum box. It has made us reassess our priorities and look at our wellbeing strategies. Consider whether we want to return to ‘normal’ school or whether that ‘normal’ now needs to look a little different. It also allowed us the chance to take pride in our students and to recognise the important pastoral job we had already done as we saw them demonstrate their resilience, ask for help when needed and to share their emotions about missing their friends or feeling overwhelmed. School is not just an exam factory - it has an infinitely broader remit than that and one that we have had a clear reminder of over the past few months. Schools do not lose their purpose once the exams are cancelled - in fact they gain an even greater one.

Resilience of children

Although I have already alluded to this, one thing that hugely impressed me throughout remote learning was the capacity of young people, suddenly thrown into a completely unfamiliar situation, to cope and more than that, to thrive. Their use of technology was excellent, their ability to absorb new skills was superb, their willingness to try and to help each other was outstanding. Our pupils have continued to learn successfully throughout lockdown, not only from the prescribed programme of study, but in countless other ways. They have gained independence and organisational skills, they have formed new and stronger relationships, learned to communicate effectively, to persevere and to take breaks when they need them. What superb preparation for their lives ahead.

Dear parent...

I am lucky to work in a setting where the school-parent partnership is strong, and now I value it more than ever. Lockdown showed us more than ever the power of having parents on board and the importance of an effective dialogue between home and school. I think it has helped parents to understand the challenges of our job and vice versa. I feel like we are emerging from lockdown with a stronger and more honest relationship and a better mutual understanding. Long may that continue.

I love school

Finally, we have all, pupils, parents and teachers, seen how much our pupils love and value their school. The cries of joy when the first children were allowed to return, the disappointment of those who could not return straight away, and the unending smiles of all our pupils who returned before the summer (even when asked to take practice exam papers) is testament to the power of school and of all those who contribute to making it the formative and memorable experience that it is. Of this, we should all be very proud.

Vicky Duggan is Director of Studies and Head of English at The Granville School, and author of our 11+/Key Stage 2 English resources. Read more about Vicky here.

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