I like to look on the bright side of life, but even I’ll admit that 2021 feels like it’s being directed by Quentin Tarantino. We’ve seen an attempted coup across the pond, alarming COVID-19 statistics over here, and most notably for school leaders - an announcement to partially close all schools with less than 12 hours notice.
Of course, school leaders took the announcement in their stride - which is admirable, given that they probably still have whiplash from the many other sharp government U-turns over the past year. Nonetheless, they’ve still been expected to pick up where they left off and deliver quality remote provision, and at a moment's warning. If this rings true for you, take a look at this advice from our colleagues over at The Key, and their practical examples from the school leaders within their network.
1. Review little and often using video
Every school will be at a different point in their remote learning journey - with some still getting up to speed with online education platforms, and others looking to evolve their approach to the next stage.
Regardless, at some point, you’ll be reviewing remote lessons and when you do, The Key recommends a “little and often” approach, and that this repetition will help staff to embed new skills. Instead of physically or virtually observing an entire lesson, you or someone in your SLT could briefly sit in on a live lesson, or watch a pre-recorded lesson and feed back afterwards. At The Cornerstone Academy Trust, for example, the SLT gives staff a couple of lines of feedback after each session. Staff receive some goals to aim for in their next session, and the SLT follows up on those goals in subsequent lessons.
2. Establish peer-to-peer learning and share best practice
The SLT at The Cornerstone Academy Trust also look for examples of best practice when dropping into remote lessons, feeding them into a weekly 1-hour session with teaching staff. This session then discusses these examples, plus the principles of remote pedagogy and what good remote teaching looks like.
Similarly, at Hanover Primary School, teachers within a Key Stage meet regularly to critique a successful lesson and discuss tips and ideas. If you adopt this approach, The Key suggests recording a live lesson (e.g. on Zoom or Google Meet) or sharing lesson plans via Google or Microsoft cloud-based drives. Your teaching staff could then discuss:
Why they think the lesson was so successful
How they've approached the same topic or lesson, but in a different way
Anything that teachers could do to make the next lesson even better
3. Get the most from your digitally-savvy teachers
As I mentioned, some of your teaching staff may be more proficient when it comes to online learning than others, especially if some aren’t as digitally literate.
Encouraging the sharing of best practice is one way to get more from these members of staff, and The Key also suggest you organise a separate group for any staff who've got to grips with remote teaching especially quickly. You could also try giving these staff more advanced resources that go beyond basic expectations. This way, you can try new methods with this group before evolving your approach and establishing higher levels of best practice.
4. Assign a remote learning lead
In that vein, The Key advises that you assign a remote learning lead to oversee both this group of digitally-savvy staff, as well as your remote learning approach as a whole. At Cramlington Learning Village, for example, this is an assistant head who was already quite comfortable with remote learning tools and platforms.
The Key suggests that this lead could also be responsible for organising “best practice” discussions, guiding department leaders to cater development for their teams and gathering insights from across the school. This person should also stay up to date with the latest best practice principles and share suitable resources with your staff - which takes me neatly onto my final point.
5. Create a cloud-based library of resources
Lastly, have a cloud-based shared drive that’s populated with resources for your teams, including your recordings of any great lessons, plus any external resources. If you're using a platform like Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams, you could create a class (Google Classroom) or a team (Microsoft Teams) and post resources to the main timeline - meaning that staff will be able to comment on these with any questions they have.
It’s also worth pointing to some of the free resources out there, in case you haven’t come across these yet, including the DfE's example lessons for remote teaching, and these webinars for primary school leaders. As part of the DfE's Edtech Demonstrator programme - Cornerstone Academy Trust are also running a number of webinars over the coming weeks, you can see the full list here. They're recorded too, so if you miss any you can replay them.
It really has been quite the school year already, and we’re only two weeks in! But no doubt you’re working with the tools at your disposal to do the best you can for your school community, and hopefully the above makes you feel somewhat more supported in doing so.
We’ll be back in a couple of weeks with more remote learning guidance from across the sector. In the meantime, the team at ScholarPack thank you for everything you’re doing, both on the front line and behind the scenes, to keep your communities afloat.
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