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How 4 primary schools are making excellent use of G Suite for Education or Office 365 Education
These schools and trusts are using digital education platforms in different ways to keep pupils and teachers connected during school closures and support children to learn at home. See whether one of these approaches would work for you, whether you're new to using these platforms or looking to do more.
As of 4 January 2021, all schools have closed to all pupils except children of critical workers and vulnerable children.
The DfE now expects schools to use a digital education platform, like G Suite for Education or Office 365 Education, to deliver remote learning. Stay up to date on the full list of expectations (pages 46 to 50 of Restricting attendance during the national lockdown: schools).
Google Classroom for older children, Google Sites for younger learners
Windsor Academy Trust, which includes 5 primary schools, was already using Google Classroom (part of G Suite for Education) before schools had to close, so moving to remote learning was relatively easy. The trust plans to continue using the platform when schools reopen.
Years 5 and 6 use Google Classroom
The trust feels that this platform works best for pupils who can work independently. Teachers use it to:
- Assign lesson activities to pupils to complete each day (in the 'Classwork' section), for:
- Punctuation and grammar
- Set pupils questions to answer (you can set these to be self-marking). Pupils tick ‘Hand in’ or ‘Done’ when they have completed an activity, and the teacher gets a notification
- Schedule work for pupils in advance, to appear in the 'Classwork' section on a specific date, so pupils don't finish all their work too quickly. The schools expect pupils to log in daily, and complete their directed learning during the timetabled lesson time
- Link to pre-recorded video lessons: teachers use Screencastify to record teaching videos so pupils can hear their teacher's voice and see their screen, but not see them. (This trust has decided to pre-record lessons, rather than stream them 'live', for safeguarding reasons)
Take a look at year 6 timetables and the trust's 'cheat-sheet' on 'how to access the Google Classroom' to get a sense of how this works.
Google Sites for early years through to year 4
For these younger pupils, the trust uses Google Sites (also part of G Suite for Education) to create simple websites from which families can download home learning resources and suggested timetables.
You can see some examples of its sites for different year groups here (scroll to the 'Home learning' section).
Fully collaborative video-call lessons, with Microsoft Teams
These live lessons are more than just a one-way stream, they’re a collaborative video call
Broadclyst Community Primary School (part of the Cornerstone Academy Trust) was already using Office 365 Education with its year 6 pupils before schools closed, and already provided many pupils with their own tablet to use in school. It has now rolled this approach out to the rest of the school. The school plans to continue to use aspects of this approach when they reopen.
Staff use Microsoft Teams (part of Office 365 Education) to:
- Deliver 5 live lessons each day to every year group: teachers broadcast lessons in which they share their screen with pupils to show PowerPoint slides. Pupils watch from home, via the Microsoft Teams app on their school tablet or home device (smartphones are fine)
- Allow pupils to participate in lessons: these live lessons are more than just a one-way stream, they’re a collaborative video call. Pupils can ask and answer questions, and can fully participate as though they were at school
- Record all lessons and make them available to be watched again: this particularly benefits siblings in different classes who have to share 1 device at home. Children in the same home can alternate between live attendance and watching catch-up videos during gaps in the day
- Create personalised calendars (like a timetable) for pupils: pupils can then join their lessons directly from their calendar
- Live-stream a daily assembly
- Mentor pupils in years 4, 5 and 6: teachers hold 1-to-1 or group video calls during the afternoon to chat through children’s learning and support them individually
- Set a range of independent tasks as assignments throughout the week, in addition to live teaching. For children in the early years, teachers set activities that reflect the ‘learning through play’ approach of the early years curriculum
See what a typical daily and weekly timetable looks like, and read more about the trust's approach, here.
Attend free webinars to learn more from the trust on getting the most out of your tech
As part of the DfE's Edtech Demonstrator programme - Cornerstone Academy Trust are running a number of webinars over the coming weeks. See the full list. They're recorded so if you miss any you can replay them.
Yet to decide which digital education platform to use? Use this feature comparison to see how G Suite for Education and Office 365 Education can serve your needs.
Or, ready to apply for DfE-funded support with setting up your chosen platform? Apply directly via our digital education platform hub.
'Flipped classroom' and blended learning, using Google Classroom
Hanover Primary School is quite new to Google Classroom, having rolled it out on 30 March. "It's so intuitive that it can be picked up by most who use it" says Paul Beeton, the assistant headteacher and Key Stage 2 leader who set it up.
The school uses it for all year groups to:
- Assign work every day that consolidates existing learning: teachers use the 'Assignments' feature to create and assign a document to each child each day. Activities focus on reviewing and revising concepts that pupils have already learned about
- Set open-ended, problem-solving activities which encourage independent learning as much as possible, to prepare pupils for their assignments (a form of 'flipped classroom' learning)
- Point pupils to videos and other resources to facilitate blended learning: teachers share links to learning sites, such as Times Tables Rock Stars
- Give personalised feedback: pupils submit their work and teachers add comments. This is mostly to encourage engagement: there's no expectation that every piece of work is 'marked'
- Share messages and assignments with multiple classes to save on workload: teachers can do this in any classroom that they're an 'administrator' for, at the time of posting. Year-group teams post to all pupils in their year, and class teachers still look at and comment on the work of pupils in their own class (although another teacher could do this instead if the teacher was absent)
- Make sure pupils are engaging with remote learning: if a pupil hasn't been active on the platform, the 'administrator' can see this and a member of staff will phone home. They'll find out what's stopping the child from engaging and give parents technical support if needed
Children have their cameras off and microphones on mute until the very end when they all turn them on so they can see and say "hello"
Team teaching and video calls with friendship groups, via Microsoft Teams
Danesfield School was using Microsoft Teams already, so it wasn't too hard to get everyone set up. Before closure, the school allowed parents to borrow its devices if they needed to.
"Teams has enabled us to have a connection with all the children and keep school life going on as normal - it also gives purpose to the work they’re doing at home" says headteacher Sarah Dawkins. She plans to continue to use the platform when the school reopens.
The school uses Microsoft Teams to:
- Teach whole year groups together once a day: the 2-form entry school holds a daily video call with each year group, teachers and pupils. In Key Stage 2, the 2 teachers 'team teach'. In Key Stage 1, the teachers usually take turns, to make it clearer for the children (for example, one teacher reads a story and then says "now passing over to Miss Wilson to show you how to write your own"). This call usually takes place in the morning, for about 20 to 40 minutes. Children have their cameras off and microphones on mute until the very end when they all turn them on so they can see and say "hello". Teachers blur their background so children can't see their homes
- Facilitate smaller group work: throughout the afternoon, teachers run smaller group sessions with children in their class (usually with a ratio of about 1:4) to work through specific activities, give feedback on work, and generally 'check-in' with the children
- Engage children in the early years, with even smaller groups: for reception pupils, teachers carry out short video calls, 1 teacher to 3 pupils, via Teams throughout the day. They may use these to do a simple counting activity, read a story, or sing 'happy birthday' to a child - the focus is more social and emotional. Parents stay with children on the call and take care of the technology. Teachers notify parents in advance when these are taking place and parents can sign up for a time slot that suits them
- Arrange calls between pupil friendship groups: teachers arrange these for pupils to keep the social side of school life alive. Pupils can socialise and the teacher is just there in the background to moderate, like they would at playtime
- Give pupils the opportunity to ask questions, within school hours: pupils can ask their teachers any question between 8.40am and 3pm every day, via the channel function in Teams, and teachers respond within school hours, to keep healthy work/life boundaries in place
- Get teaching assistants involved, too: teaching assistants take part in video calls and give pupils feedback on their assignments via the platform, as they would in class
Watch the school's tutorial videos for parents and pupils about remote learning using Microsoft Teams, on its YouTube channel.
Many thanks to the following for sharing their approaches with us so we could share them with you:
- Dawn Haywood, deputy CEO, and the team at Windsor Academy Trust
- Anthony Lees, deputy headteacher, Westclyst Community Primary School - part of the Cornerstone Academy Trust alongside Broadclyst Community Primary School
- Paul Beeton, assistant headteacher and Key Stage 2 leader, Hanover Primary School
- Sarah Dawkins, headteacher at Danesfield School
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