Remote Learning, Insight & Advice from
St. George’s School, Windsor Castle
Article written by
Head of Pre-Prep
“Remote learning is new to us all, but it’s an opportunity for our teachers to engage with families in ways that we may never have had the opportunity to do before.”
It is widely known that the learning children do between the ages of three and seven forms by far the most important stage of their education. It is in these years that the most fundamental building blocks supporting their future learning and educational success are laid. Young children learn through hands-on experiences guided by knowledgeable teachers, and even the best educational technology cannot replicate this personal and important human process that is so central to the St George’s ethos.
The progress made between three and seven is rapid and transforms children from toddlerhood, when they are heavily reliant on adult supervision, to the brink of their primary school years when the majority of our children are becoming responsible and independent. Reading, writing, social skills and interaction, a love of making things and learning how to harness their imagination are all skills and talents which we aim to nurture in the Pre-Prep at St George’s.
Back in lockdown
But for now, once again, almost all of our pupils (except for the children of key workers) are at home with their parents. For many of them, this is a difficult and confusing time. For some of our younger children, there is a very real concern that they will quickly forget about school and the familiar faces of their teachers and friends, while many of our older children are concerned about missing out on vital preparation for the next stage of their learning journey.
So what have we done at St George’s to find a successful and stimulating way to nurture and educate our children and ensure their wellbeing during these stressful and unusual times? Our young children need to continue to learn through touching, feeling, doing and exploring concepts for themselves but facilitation and support are necessary for them to continue to do this at home. A challenge for our teachers has therefore been to shift their mind-set from teaching our children to teaching both our children and their families. Remote learning is new to us all, but it’s an opportunity for our teachers to engage with families in ways that we may never have had the opportunity to do before.
First – the basics. Setting out a routine and some standardised rules for the children in the Pre-Prep was an important step. Every morning starts with an assembly and then every class teacher live meets using the Google platform with all of their children. The register is taken, news and good mornings exchanged and then it is down to work with teachers setting out what is expected for the day and what their pupils will be covering. Time with the teacher at the beginning and end of the day provides an essential link to school and helps the children prepare for the day ahead. For the older children, it helps them to be more independent as they are encouraged to consider and plan their own resources.
Maintaining a sense of normality
For our younger Pre-Prep age group, it was important to foster play-based learning at home and to maintain as much of a sense of normality as possible. Although the children in our Kindergarten are in general too young to follow formal live lessons via our remote platform, we are able to involve them by filming messages from their class teachers as well as giving them the opportunity to take part in weekly ‘show and tell’ sessions with the rest of their group. Reading stories, phonic and numerical fun and singing songs with parents and carers over live meets is also an excellent way to help them stay connected; children respond well to singing and dancing online and for a young child, participating in a song or dance is an easy way to engage with a screen because they can follow the leader.
We carefully put together a draft timetable for parents, which mirrors the learning their children have been doing in school, with suggested themes and activities. We also ask these young children to set up a desk at home just like they do at school and it helps some children if they pick a few rules to share with their parents. Setting their own rules helps to give them ownership of their ‘school day’ and develop a sense of justice when the rules are broken.
During the first lockdown we very quickly learnt that there was a demand for live learning from our older pupils, so now our Years 1 and 2 follow a core live learning programme with a number of live lessons a day. Our Reception classes also have many opportunities for live learning.
Pupils and parents are supported with individual live calls if they are required to motivate the children and reinforce behaviour expectations. We believe one of the most helpful things we can do for parents is to set out our expectations and learning goals for their children very clearly. This helps to take pressure off parents as it is still the school and the class teacher who are setting the boundaries!
Supporting school learning is a huge ask for parents, almost all of whom have no formal teacher training. Instead of expecting them to be faced with mammoth learning responsibilities, we concentrate on looking at specific learning intentions for the week and suggesting they focus on achieving these. All of these expectations are clearly laid out in a live meet by the class teacher and reinforced through the use of Google Classroom.
To promote and normalise family engagement, we always provide positive feedback about the children’s work and praise and encourage families’ efforts in facilitating their child’s learning. We aim to support and encourage activities that allow children’s open-ended and rigorous learning, and offer examples of ways to push their child’s thinking even further, through additional questions and activities. Providing feedback and individual next steps to keep the learning interesting and the children motivated.
Children have faced the new challenges with remarkable resilience, and I am in awe of the effort and dedication of our parents, often both of whom who are balancing their own work and the stresses and strains of working from home with looking after their children. We have found it is more important than anything for the Early Years children to socially interact with their peers and their class teacher as far as possible, while the older children enjoy a more structured day, live teaching and the responsibility of learning independently.
We continue to collaborate as a community and parents are invited to share their child’s learning by posting photos and videos, whether taken during lessons, at play, with their pets, cooking, achieving some important milestone or simply enjoying a walk in the park. These are made into a joyful ‘Friday Feeling’ video which is sent out to all our families at the end of the week. It has been a tremendously popular way of keeping children and families in touch with each other; we have heard that it is sometimes watched several times over during the course of the weekend!
With an outstretched hand from school to home, we continue to empower our children and families with the confidence, skills, and knowledge to sustain our children’s learning and wellbeing until they are able to return to their classrooms. We will emerge from this time with new skills, new ways of working and an increased sense of community.
The next virtual open event will be on Tuesday, 23 March at 11am. Families can register to attend via the link below:
For more information on the school, please contact Mrs Aileen De Vally-King
email email@example.com or visit www.stgwindsor.org