While research from University College London has found that engagement between pupils and teachers in Wales is among the lowest in the UK, Christ College Brecon has been bucking the trend and providing 60-70% of the usual timetabled lessons to all pupils.
Christ College quickly adapted to remote learning. Initially offering the whole school provision of learning materials through Office 365, the school progressed to using Microsoft Teams for live lessons, Google Forms for creating interactive quizzes and assessments and Assignments for uploading and marking work. Music students have collaboratively created melodies in their virtual studios utilising the software Soundtrap, as well as partnering with The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD) to offer instrumental provision.
Speaking about new teaching methods and the imminent return of pupils on Monday June, 29, Head of Christ College Gareth Pearson said: “We only had a week after the announcement to set up a viable remote learning programme. Early on, we took the decision to adopt an incremental approach, gradually building up pupil and staff confidence and familiarity with online learning. We made no attempt to recreate the whole school timetable, but rather to focus on what was achievable and deliverable.”
Acknowledging the possibility of wellbeing issues, Christ College developed a standard five lesson day rather than the usual eight to avoid possible screen fatigue and allow time for pupils to exercise, practise musical instruments and socialise with family. Pastoral support systems were also introduced such as weekly tutor meetings and access to second curriculum resources and activities on line.
Gareth continued: “We also recognised that pupils with additional learning needs were particularly vulnerable with online learning, so provided ALN drop-in sessions twice a week supported by three teachers in each session.
“Pupils are now in a rhythm with online learning and teachers are becoming more confident and innovative in what we offer. We are marking and returning work with valuable feedback to support and encourage pupils. We are adapting examinations week and renaming it assessments week where pupils will be assessed based on skills and research rather than relying on factual recall. More excitingly, we are now able to provide meaningful feedback on these assessments when the pupils return to school at the end of the month.”
With all schools in Wales reopening on 29 June, Christ College admits its remote learning success cannot replace face-to-face teaching. Gareth said: “The online learning measures we implemented proved a huge success under difficult circumstances. We were able to continue to engage and educate pupils in all year groups in all subjects, however, being apart reinforces the importance of direct interactions between pupils and teachers which is inevitably missed to an extent in remote learning.”
Also quick to praise the virtual learning model are parents stating it was ‘very clear that a considerable amount of time, effort, preparation and thought has gone into the lessons’ and that the ‘quality of the remote learning offered by Christ College has been on a completely different level’ to other schools.
Praising the faculty, pupils and parents for their adaptation during the past three months, Gareth said: “Christ College is more than just a school, and during these unprecedented times, our community spirit has really shone through. Teachers have completely altered their teaching methods and tailored the technology available to meet theirs and their pupils’ needs. Pupils and parents have incorporated home-learning into their daily lives and allowed teachers ‘virtually’ into their homes. We thank everyone for their support and look forward to the next chapter.”
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