Despite the current challenges around the majority of our pupils learning from home, we have started the term on a high by ensuring children both at home and in school experience the same quality-first teaching and learning they would get in the classroom.
This is as a result of the extensive planning and preparation we had done before the start of the year. We took the findings and insights we gained during the first period of lockdown last spring and summer, and with other Paradigm Trust schools built a robust plan of action which we could apply should we need to close and engage in remote learning again.
Our preparation continued when children were back in school. As you will know, all year groups apart from Y6 and EYFS had a period of isolation in the autumn term when they were remote learning from home using devices. This helped children get used to the new blended learning system, and our staff become adept at teaching remotely.
So when, with barely twelve hours’ notice, the official notification that schools would be closed to all children (apart from vulnerable and key worker children) was received, we were able to move swiftly to remote learning with a minimum of disruption. Now around 75% of our remote lessons are taught live, including daily for Reading, English and Maths plus twice a day for registration. To ensure pupils have access to as broad a curriculum as possible we offer live lessons in Spanish and Music too.
Other lessons, including Science, Geography, Computing, Art and Design, DT and PE, are taught using bespoke video lessons created by curriculum leads from across the Trust.
One of the major challenges during the first lockdown was the digital divide, with many families unable to access the online resources available due to a lack of appropriate devices and/or a reliable internet connection with sufficient data allowance. To overcome this challenge we have issued school laptops to any children who are learning from home and don’t have access to technology; so far 380 Chromebooks have been allocated. Where families don’t have access to WiFi, we’ve purchased dongles and data for them. Non-digital resources, such as reading books, are also issued to pupils and we have stocked up on extra resources such as glue, paint and materials for Art which can be picked up from school for pupils working from home.
We want to ensure all our pupils continue to get the support they need, so teachers and teaching assistants work together as they would normally to provide bespoke support to small groups of children, using virtual breakout rooms via Google Hangouts as lessons are being taught. Where needed, pupils also receive one to one support.
We are also reaching out to families with phone calls and house visits where necessary, and we offer the voucher scheme for families eligible for free school meals.
Lockdown is a challenge, but one we are meeting head-on. It is an opportunity to adapt and improve our teaching and learning, both in the classroom and remotely online. As we would do in normal circumstances we are seeking the most effective ways to teach, testing different innovations and then sharing those that have been proven to be effective with the rest of the school and the entire Trust. It is our goal to always deliver an effective, challenging and interesting remote learning experience for our pupils, so they can all achieve their best.
Pedagogy may not be an everyday word to most people, but it is simply a technical term which refers to the method and practice of teaching. Having a well-thought-out pedagogy improves the quality of our teaching and the way students learn, helping them gain a deeper grasp of fundamental material. Being mindful of the way we teach also helps us better understand how to help children achieve deeper learning.
At Old Ford Primary Academy, and every other school in Paradigm Trust, our pedagogy is about teaching the right things in the right way, using methods which are clear and uncluttered, cutting right to the heart of the subject. We also ensure everything we do is research-based so we know it has been tried, tested and proven. This is essential as we only have a finite number of hours to educate children, so our pedagogy must be as efficient as possible to maximise this limited time.
In response to this pedagogy we have found the children are more engaged and learn well, reaping the benefits from our style of teaching with better outcomes and more good grades. They are able to retain more knowledge and skills, which ultimately will allow them to go onto higher learning and find gainful, well-paid employment.
Having the same pedagogy across every Old Ford class ensures there is consistency in the way we teach, in the way we behave and in the way we apply our rules, from Early Years right through to Year Six, which hugely benefits both pupils and staff.
However, we understand every class and every child is different, so our pedagogy is designed to be flexible, giving our teachers the tools for each individual situation and the ability to adapt the strategies to fit their circumstances, while still adhering to the underlying rationale of the Paradigm pedagogy.
A consistent pedagogical approach also leads to continuous improvement. We are constantly on the lookout for different practices which we can include, so we trial different things and feedback on how effective they are. Then when one teacher makes an adaptation which proves to be successful it is easy to put it into practice not just across Old Ford but at the other Paradigm Trust schools. In the same way we benefit from improvements made elsewhere in the Trust.
The world of education is constantly changing and so we are always learning, adapting and changing as new research becomes available. In this way we can be sure we are doing the best for every child at Old Ford Primary Academy.