Head's Blog

HEADMISTRESS’ BLOG: RAISING THE BAR - VIRTUAL WEBBER #3

01 February 2021

We were fast to react and aimed high in the first lockdown moving with surprising agility to full online live learning for all our year groups following a ‘normal timetable’ from 23rd March 2020.

The challenge this time round in Lockdown #3 is how to continue to raise the bar higher in virtual learning. How to keep our learners of all ages engaged and how to ensure continued challenge, progress and quality of teaching and learning.

But at the same time, we are facing the double challenge of balancing the quality of online learning whilst simultaneously reducing the quantity of screen time. Less screen time but with more choice of blended learning activities and a variety of teacher content delivery.

Without a doubt Virtual Webber in 2021 looks and feels very different. As a school we have sought and listened to the feedback from our children ,our parents and our staff on their experiences of Virtual Webber so far, what they enjoy and want more of, what irritates them, what they plead for less of. A Bellevue group wide survey of online learning will also be rolled out to all stakeholders in the coming week.

Also a clear plea from exhausted students for us to look at how to reduce home learning screen time on top of a 6 hour day online and I wonder if ‘parent fatigue’ is also setting in? We will be discussing this in our staff meeting this week.

Screen breaks, movement time between classes, more individual choice, offline projects, ‘pick n mix challenges’, student led learning and flip learning are the ways we hear most engage our learners.

It is harder this time in the winter darkness and cold too, with less time to play outside, exercise and relax in the daylight - fewer endorphins and mood enhancing activities to help ‘detox’ and press the reset button after the extended screen time. Last Sunday’s snow day was an exhilarating blessing!

Student voice was loud through Student Council, Form Class Focus Group feedback and one to one pastural sessions - student fatigue, isolation and lack of social contact were issued raised time and time again from our children as the main concerns across all ages and stages.

We are listening! We hear you!

As a Bellevue group, staff from across 25 schools have met in online clusters as subject and year groups to discuss these varied challenges and share best practise, new tools and apps and steal each other’s good ideas. To pool our collective synergy and open our pedagogic toolboxes to see how we can, across the Bellevue group, make Lockdown #3 Better Together. So that less really does mean more for our young learners. Screens on does not need to mean being on screen all the time.

The game changer has been the introduction of the ‘breakout’ room where children can be virtually sent out into a cyber side room to discuss, think, create, debate, collaborate, hypothesis, chat, giggle, laugh, have fun, catch up and learn together in a small working group which the teacher can oversee and dip into, pulling all groups back in together and then mixing them up and re grouping them in another break out.

From our original pilot groups in PE, we have had strong positive results and we will be using this new `breakout` technique across a wide range of 10 subjects and all year groups in the coming weeks. Keeping it fresh and fun, engaging and challenging whilst facilitating essential child to child direct contact to keep those social connections strong and a sense of belonging, community and being part of The Webber Family.

This week is Children’s National Mental Health Week (1st – 7th Feb) please do look at the resources we have shared with families. Encourage your child to take part in the Daily Acts of Kindness Challenge or to “Sort Your Life Out” in 14 stages for the older ones.

We are pressing the pause button on home learning for the week, none at all in all subjects across all year groups (even the GCSE Year 11s? - especially the GCSE Year 11s!) Log off, switch off, get up, get out and have fun! Please do share your photos with us on social media, remember to tag us and use the hashtag #Webberfamily – banana bread anyone? “Walkies Ollie!!” (Our new Labrador pup’s ears have just pricked up)!

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