What are the COVID symptoms?

What do I do if I, my child, or anyone in my household has COVID symptoms?

The government promised testing kits for schools, have you received them?

Yes. 10. We have asked for more testing kits, but these are only to be used by people with symptoms if no other testing is available. Please apply for your own tests in the first instance.

Can we have more specific information about which child is ill or tests positive for Covid?

The government guidelines remind us not to give out the names of students who test positive; to do so would be a gross breach of privacy and a violation of the Data Protection Act. You will be informed by the school as to whether your child is a contact at school. What we cannot police is your child’s contacts outside of school; it is therefore essential that parents whose children socialise outside of school inform each other if their child tests positive.

Do both/all of my children have to stay off school if one of them has symptoms?

Yes, and you and the rest of your household, and any support bubble of which you are a member, is expected to self-isolate.

Do both/all of my children have to stay off school if one of them is a contact of a confirmed case?

No, you and the rest of your household can carry on as normal; only the contact needs to self-isolate. If anyone displays symptoms during this period, please see above.

Would testing everyone in school help solve the problem

Mass testing on a city-wide, county-wide, or even national level would certainly provide useful data in controlling the spread of the virus, provided the data could be processed quickly enough. On a smaller scale it would only be helpful in self-contained communities with limited contact with the outside world, such as boarding schools or campus universities. In a day school, where pupils have contacts outside of school, travel on public transport, and live in households with their own web of contacts, such an attempt would be futile as well as prohibitively expensive.

The government guidelines are also very clear that we cannot ask to see proof of a negative test result; we think this is because it probably violates the European Declaration of Human Rights.

Can we get an alert by text message of any future school closure?

We are looking into this now. We had been told that the government’s app for informing contacts would be up and running for the start of term but that clearly hasn’t happened so we will have to find our own system.

Remote Teaching

Will the schedule for remote teaching be the same next time?

As this first switch to remote teaching happened so early in the term, the schedule for this week was simpler in Years 5 & 6 than it would be in future. We did not want to overcommit so early in the term by jumping into a full schedule only for the whole thing to fail because it was too complicated. We were very conscious that new students and all of Y5 were new to having school email accounts and not yet used to Google Classroom.

Please see Remote Learning Timetables.

What can be done to support parents in supporting their children?

We understand that this is a very difficult time for parents and carers. We know that you have your own work commitments and cannot drop everything to help your children access on-line lessons, print resources for them, or help them with the work set. Secondary-aged students are significantly more able to work independently.

Children in the Lower Years, in general, are not going to be able to manage these things for themselves, which is one reason we have to keep the lower years’ schedules simpler and communicated to parents daily by the form teacher with everything they need for the day.

Years 5 and 6 sit somewhere in between. We would like to offer them a wider timetable than Year 4 with their specialist teachers, but to do so will require them to be able to access the lessons and resources independently, which we felt that many would not be ready to do this time. We will try to ensure that they are ready for the next one.

What resources and equipment do the students need at home?

What type of computer set up is best for accessing lessons through Zoom?

We have found that the Zoom lessons are most useful when students have working headphones with a microphone and a webcam. If the teacher cannot see or hear the student, it becomes challenging to gauge their concentration and progress. We ask that you ensure your child does have access to a working webcam and headphones with a microphone.

Please note that devices used to participate in lessons need to be able to multitask which most mobile phones and older iPads can’t do. This means your child would not be able to be on a webcam and use the Google suite simultaneously. So if your child is to use a phone/iPad, then you will still need a secondary device for the webcam.

    Here are a few example set ups, ranging from the best to the least ideal but still functional:

  1. Good Laptop, external headphones
  2. Desktop computer with a USB webcam, external headphones
  3. Tablet with headphones
  4. Mobile phone on loudspeaker
  5. Where headphones are used, a microphone on the headphones is ideal. Please note that whilst gaming headsets can serve as headphones, they can get hot and uncomfortable after a while.

Can an older computer be reconditioned for remote learning?

A basic laptop, that is no longer useful for work purposes, could still be used for a child to access the G-Suite programmes and lessons by Zoom.
If you have an older laptop at home that is running slowly, consider conerting it to a Chromebook using this software: CloudReady by Neverware (now part of Google).

Will the pupils receive more preparation for their next switch to remote teaching?

Initially, we had to focus the pupils on social distancing in the classroom and around school, to ensure we could safely teach them and keep them in school as much as possible.

The next step is to ensure that Year 5 and up are able to use the G-Suite, in particular, GMail, Google Classroom, Google Drive and Google Docs, as independently as possible.

Following on from that they will be shown how to use apps like Office Lens to submit handwritten work in a digital format.

Will we get more warning next time our children have to stay home?

There are two reasons the school might need to switch to on-line teaching: a local lockdown or similar, in which case you usually would get some period of notice, or because of a confirmed case, in which case we will notify you as soon as we can and tell you not to bring in your child the next day.

We understand that making arrangements so that your child can self-isolate with little notice presents many challenges for parents and we will always do our very best to provide as much notice as possible.

Why not replace lessons on Zoom with recorded lessons so that pupils can watch them again and again?

Interaction is an essential part of efficient teaching and learning. Teachers deliver the content more effectively when they can see the reactions from their audience, and students learn more efficiently from a live performance.

Watching a recorded lesson is less efficient as a tool for learning because as you know it is recorded, and know you can watch it back again, you pay slightly less attention and are more easily distracted. Pressing deeper in the subconscious level, one of the frustrating efficiencies the brain makes in determining what it does and does not convert to long-term memory is that it is less likely to store information that is readily available. This phenomenon is most commonly observed when you Google something you want to know. Your brain is very unlikely to retain that information as a long term memory, because you know you can look it up very quickly any time you like.

There are certainly advantages to recorded lessons, particularly in terms of the flexibility over the time at which you watch them. However, the best estimates say that it typically takes four times as long to create a recorded lesson that is as effective as one delivered live. That is a worthwhile investment of time for those who want to deliver that content to a wider audience time and time again, but in the context of our school it is not practical given that switching to remote teaching could happen at any point in the curriculum.

There has been a national drive to create a bank of high quality recorded lessons through Oak National Academy, but despite the expense and effort involved, its success has been limited, possibly due to the reasons listed above. There are a few teachers trialling recording lessons, particularly in Sport and Computing, but we don’t intend to encourage other teachers to do the same at this stage.

Support for children who are self-isolating

What support is there for children who are self-isolating?

So far we have liaised directly with the students who are self-isolating, or their parents, to discuss how we can best support them, since their circumstances have differed, ranging from those who simply needed to quarantine following a return to the country through to students who are needing to shield longer term.

Secondary pupils and sixth formers who are self-isolating will be set the work they should do through Google Classroom and their teachers and form tutor will communicate with them directly through their school email accounts; Lower Years will have work sent to parents through their form tutors each day. We want to get Year 5 and Year 6 students up to speed with accessing work through Google Classroom and GMail to get them working independently as much as possible.

These are new skills to develop for many children in the Middle Years, so the Computer Science department has also adapted their curriculum this term to help students become confident users of G-Suite and more autonomous with remote learning.

Are children who are self-isolating able to access the lessons at school through Zoom?

The basic answer to this question is “no”. It is something we considered and have briefly trialled but our experience and feedback from other schools indicate that trying to manage both is very disruptive to the lesson and compromises the learning for both the students at home and in the classroom. We have to prioritise teaching the very best lessons we can to the children who are in the classroom, whilst we are able to have them in the classroom.