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updated on 7 October 2020
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School types: All · School phases: All

During lockdown school communities across the country found new ways to communicate and hold on to what makes them special, even when forced to stay apart – and here’s how. Doing something different? Share your idea too.

You must offer immediate remote education if:

  • Individual pupils or groups of pupils need to self-isolate, but the rest of the school is still open; or
  • There are local or national restrictions that mean most pupils need to stay at home, like during the initial school closures in March

You're expected to have a contingency plan for providing remote education in place by the end of September.

Reflect on each day with a laid-back Twitter live-stream

David Sammels, headteacher at Mayflower Community Academy, Plymouth

For Mayflower, remote learning is "about the connection, not just the learning". So, David keeps parents up to date with an informal, daily Twitter live-stream called 'Tea at Two'. It's a chance to share reflections from the day, answer questions, and feel as connected as ever.

In David's words: "some days it'll be light-hearted and very quick. Other days I'll chat with people who have something useful and interesting to share."

Catch him live at @davidsammels at 2pm every week day. Parents can comment and ask questions directly. And each live-stream is saved to Twitter, so parents can view them at any time.

To do this yourself, create a Twitter account, then follow these steps. It's easiest to do via a mobile device (Android or iOS).

Let pupils chat on a supervised video call

Graham Macaulay, director of computing and technology for learning at LEO Academy Trust

These calls aren't focused on learning. We wanted to facilitate the opportunity for children to socialise, stay in touch and reduce any sadness about being at home. 

Most classes in Key Stage 2 within LEO Academy Trust have a call at least weekly, and the trust is considering rolling the calls out to Key Stage 1 too.

Staff set up a Google Meet conference call and send parents an email link in advance. Parents decide whether or not their child takes part.

Pupils can join the call on any smartphone, tablet, or computer with a microphone. Google Meet records the call, and saves the text chat. This means that staff will be able to refer to the recordings if anyone raises any complaints or concerns.

Staff also organised an end-of-term disco for pupils in the same way.

LEO chose Google Meet because "it was already set up, very easy to use and we were reassured that it could be used in a fun but also safe manner."

For safeguarding purposes, LEO asks staff and families to follow these rules whenever using video calling:

  • Pupils must be on the call in groups, with no 1-to-1 calls
  • At least 2 staff members must be on each call
  • Staff must always wear their trust lanyard
  • Staff, pupils and anyone else in their households must wear appropriate clothes
  • Calls must not be held in bedrooms, and should take surroundings into account
  • Language must be professional and appropriate – this includes family members in the background
  • Staff must only use Google Meet, so lessons are always recorded (except for certain subjects using other conferencing platforms)
  • Staff must keep calls to a reasonable length so families can get on with their day

Note: recording video and audio are premium features of Google Meet, but they’re free until 30 September 2020. You’ll need G Suite for Education, which you can set up with our guide.

Keep spirits up with a daily or weekly newsletter

David Sammels, headteacher at Mayflower Community Academy, Plymouth

The team at Mayflower thought carefully about choosing low-tech solutions that can reach as many people as possible. Parents are used to reading newsletters, so Mayflower "supercharged" this approach.

Parents on the mailing list get a daily newsletter ('Made in Mayflower') that's full of inspirational messages, information, and extra activities for pupils and families to get on with. The school uses Mailchimp to create this.

Take a look at this snippet from the newsletter on 30 March (see the full newsletter here):

Mayflower weekly newsletter.PNG
Source: Mayflower Community Academy, Plymouth

Celebrate pupils' success with recorded assemblies

Dr Kulvarn Atwal, headteacher at Highlands Primary School, Ilford

Our pupils were upset during the final assembly before closing, so we promised to continue running assemblies and posting them on the website. Parents are really grateful – some told us they're watching the assembly with their children. Staff love it too – especially those self-isolating.

Every week, teachers at Highlands call families to find out what their pupils have been learning. Then, the headteacher and associate headteacher pick out pupils and commend them in the weekly assembly. The school posts commendation letters to these pupils afterwards.

A staff member records the assembly on a smartphone, uploads it to YouTube, and then embeds it in the school website.

Here's the assembly from 30 March:

Video source: Highlands Primary School, via YouTube

 

If you want to try this yourself, download our guide below and follow the steps to help you record and upload your first video assembly.

For parents: Q&As, video messages, discussion threads and more

These are just some of the many ways that schools are keeping a dialogue going with parents specifically. Read more about these, and see more ideas shared by schools in our community call-out, here.

Tell us how you're keeping your community connected

Get in touch at communityideas@thekeysupport.com and tell us what you're doing to maintain your sense of school community even while you're remote. We'll let you know if we share the idea with other schools across the country.

Sources

Please note: any reference to a commercial product or service in this article does not constitute an endorsement from The Key.

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