Delighted to announce this @dunoongrammar1 @dgsdyw 👇 thank you to the institutions & organisations that have already agreed to participate @ucas_online @skillsdevscot @saastweet @EdinburghNapier @UniWestScotland @dundeeuni @GKCollege @QMUniversity #nowrongpath #pathways pic.twitter.com/aheG8LeArQ
— DGS Support Department (@dgs_support) June 2, 2020
I have always viewed Dalintober PS & ELC as a ‘community’ school, in its truest sense. Our commitment to ensuring that we actively communicate with parents and partners and include them in our curriculum and social planning and implementation is essential to our schools’ & ELC ethos. This has grown to include the second school that I recently became Head Teacher of – Glenbarr PS.
We have always had very solid foundations and relationships with our parents and communities, but I can truly say that the ‘lockdown’ period has only strengthened these connections. Engagement and discussion has been a constant feature of our overall strategy during lockdown.
We had intended to investigate Google Classrooms as part of our 3 year School Improvement Plan – but ‘lockdown’ certainly expedited this! The commitment and energy of staff, pupils and parents in taking forward our new digital learning systems has been, quite simply, outstanding. We have worked together to find ways to offer devices and support, including phone consultations – and with the help of partner agencies in the Children & Families Team and the Kintyre Community Resilience Group.
We have very successful school Facebook Pages, including a closed ELC Parent/Carer & Staff Group, and these have continued to be the main vehicle in recognising and celebrating achievements, sharing good news stories and information. Parents are incredibly supportive of our social media pages and there are lovely interactions on a daily basis. We have ensured that we have a ‘virtual’ final term, keeping many of the events and activities that would normally occur at this point in the school year – this has included ‘Virtual’ Assemblies, ‘Virtual’ School Photo Day, ‘Virtual’ Sports Day, ‘Virtual’ School Trips and Music Festival Week and on-going transition activities. Posting and sharing photos, as we normally would, has helped us maintain a positive and feel-good link with the community and parents at this unprecedented time.
We have also continued to work alongside local partners and businesses – this has included Shopper-Aide, the Great Lockdown Quarantine Quiz, Roots of Empathy, and Glen Scotia & Springbank Distilleries and may others – including upcoming interviews with ‘noted Campbeltonians’ such as best-selling author, Denzil Meyrick and musician/composer, Lorne MacDougall.
I very much believe in being open, honest and approachable to parents and the school communities. There is nothing more powerful than human connection and maintaining that connection ‘virtually’ has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of my working week – both prior to, and during lockdown.
Our school buildings may be closed; but our schools’ & ELC ethos continue to thrive.
We thank everyone involved in helping us achieve and sustain this.
Dalintober PS & ELC and Glenbarr PS
After receiving CLPL funding from the Education Scotland STEM Nation grant this year, training was offered across the Islay cluster in digital skills. One of the key developments implemented in Port Ellen and Bowmore primary was to train staff in the use of Seesaw as a digital PLP tool to replace cumbersome and time–consuming learning logs. Under a joint headship both schools decided to invest in the paid for Seesaw for school’s version of the App. This version allowed us to have continuity of progression throughout a child’s time in school and also to track the Es and Os across subjects with its skills tracking tool. It was great to be able to include video, audio and photos into a body of evidence for achievement across a level, as well as comments and feedback from teachers and students on their learning and next steps. And parents had access to their children’s learning through the family app and could leave comments as well.
Then Coronavirus happened and schools were going to close. We quickly handed out home learning codes to pupils and parents and got them to download the class app at home, enabling them to continue their learning remotely. Ipads were provided for families without technology. Suddenly Seesaw was not just a PLP, but a home learning tool, one that could be used by children from ELC to P7 to learn remotely.
Teachers from P1 up plan and provide a weekly grid of learning activities for pupils to work with that have a good balance across literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing, STEAM and other curricular areas; the emphasis is on spending as much learning time offline as on a device, by taking advantage of our fantastic environment here on Islay. We have seen some examples of truly outstanding pupil learning happening at home and share it on our Twitter feeds. We even had a retweet from NASA for one of our rocket building STEAM activities!
Pupil engagement is something we have worked hard to maintain in the move to remote learning. One of the key benefits of Seesaw is the ability to track engagement across the school; school admins can access a spreadsheet each week that shows how often children have posted and which activities have been completed, so we can quickly identify children whose engagement suddenly falls off and intervene. Staff have regular Google Meet discussions where they share their personal success stories with engagement; we quickly realised that regular video messages from teachers and audio feedback helped engagement- one parent said it was like having the teacher in their home. This is particularly successful with early years. Staff have also developed their digital skills to improve engagement, with some creating virtual Classrooms using Google slides and personalised Bitmojis. Here children can click on items in the class to link them to a video message from their teacher, a learning activity, video or document online. We have also used physical means to engage; early years sent sunflower seeds through the post for their children to plant. Finally, we share successful learning stories that aim to inspire other learners through shared Seesaw posts to all the students and parents, Seesaw blogs and Twitter.
When there are issues with engagement, we have implemented a variety of measures to help. We send encouraging messages to parents and pupils, have made phone calls home and have provided Ipads and dongles where needed so access is not a barrier. For some parents physical materials in the form of textbooks and worksheets have provided extra support that makes them less anxious. One of our key aims once schools are back is to find a way to provide more extensive training for parents so they are more confident in what will be a model of blended learning. All of the school community are glad that we chose to implement Seesaw in schools before the crisis, a versatile tool that has helped us continue to engage children and support them and their families at this time.
Interactive virtual class
Screenshot of engagement spreadsheet.
PORT ELLEN TWEETS
Link to video about making bread
link to giant bubbles tweet with vid
Link to weather forecast in Gaelic, retweeted by Sean Batty
Creepy crawly maths tweet
Teddy bears picnic
Sharing music talent
Evaluating parachute video clip
Gaelic 1-3 birdwatching
Our school community are, on the whole, fairly confident and upbeat just now. To understand why I receive such positive views from across the parents, pupils and staff, I have to give a bit of background “pre-Covid”. Argyll and Bute Council have a great IT Team that have been promoting the use of G-Suite (Google Apps through Glow) for a few years now. We in Oban High School had a number of really enthusiastic staff who saw the potential of Google, ran with the training and led peer CLPL.
Around the same time we built a new school and added a Promethean Board to every classroom and gave every teacher an iPad, which they were trained to use alongside the Google Apps. This led to an explosion of online learning via Google Classroom.
The necessity to use the new technology and Google apps, along with regular training, ensured some of our staff were ready for the next step on our journey: live learning and teaching between two schools. As I lead both Oban and Tiree High Schools, it was fairly easy to merge the timetables to allow for the delivery of live lessons to and from each school. This increased the level of subject choice available to senior pupils and ensured effective leadership across the sea; consistent curriculum development and a wealth of shared CLPL.
Admin; Art; Biology; Business Management; Computing; Computer Games Design; Geography; Music Technology; Physics; and PE. Yes, PE! Theses subjects have all been delivered between our schools as part of the merged timetable or, as in the case of PE, to cover a staffing issue.
How does it work? Well, the experience gained by staff in Oban as a result of the introduction of the new technology and mainstream use of G-Suite certainly helped reduce much apprehension. All our teachers were used to setting up and using Google Classrooms (GCs), how to uploading assignments, marking work and conversing through GCs. Colleagues were used to creating Google Docs, Slides or Sheets and to saving and organising onto Google Drive. The only add-on was the move to live learning through Google Meet.
The “new normal” our teachers faced was that some of the children’s smiling faces were now on a screen; their voices on a speaker. A class is still a class though. The exposition, the tasks, the Q&A and the plenaries are all shared experiences. When doing group work, the Tiree pupils can join an Oban group on the screen using a smaller speaker or vice versa. When they wish to ask a question, the teacher responds one-to-one over their headset. The cameras and screens allow the teacher to see every child in their (expanded) class at all times.
Concern with anything new is natural; safeguarding is a must. To begin with, we only used this with S4-6 classes. No class can exceed its SNCT maximum. IT support is on tap; a line manager is only a call away in the event of a behavioural issue; the office for a medical issue. We have now expanded this across the whole school at our teachers’ request.
What makes it work?
- Investment by the Local Authority.
- A core of experienced staff, keen to support colleagues and provide on-going training.
- The purchase of good cameras, teacher headsets and pupil speakers to capture the whole class “look and feel” to make the pupils in the remote location feel genuinely part of the class.
- The consistent and coherent use of one software suite of Apps: Google or Microsoft,
- A safeguarding protocol to give confidence to staff engaging in live delivery.
- Pupil buy-in – achieved by capturing the essence and experience of being in a larger traditional class environment, leading to an increased feeling of belonging to that class.
Learning and teaching from home has proved remarkably similar to what we already deliver, with the caveat that it has still been a very steep learning curve. The key difference is the need for safeguarding guidance to both staff and pupils; and a relaxation of accepted norms. We must be professional at all times in the way in which we interact with our pupils; we must have support in place for when the rules are not followed and we must keep stressing that we’re all in a “class” when on online… but we also have to accept our four-legged friends may still appear on screen at times.
Equity for children? A recurring theme in this discussion but just as important for our staff. If there is not a device available or there are not enough devices in the home, every child, and every member of staff, is given an iPad, Chromebook and/or data Dongle. IT support is available to ensure every child can access the devices; teachers take children through getting onto Glow, Google Classroom or how to use any of the Apps. Each child is in a Clan (House system) and a pastoral team member liaises weekly with every vulnerable family or any pupil or parent who asks for help. We do Welfare and Engagement checks weekly. Those not engaging receive a call or a visit to the house where we offer pastoral, IT or curricular support for those who are reluctant to ask but need support; whether online, over the phone or on the door step – two meters distant. We’re here to help.
Delivering a virtual learning experience is not easy for anyone but it will get easier. As each day goes by we learn from our experiences and accept that change is good; or at least necessary. The “new normal” of remote learning in the future will not be new; just normal: the normality a consequence of us investing in both technology; from supporting and training our colleagues; and from teaching our children well in whatever manner we can. It works now; it will work even better with practice.
All support materials are uploaded and shared on the school website below,
This year we received an Education Scotland CLPL grant to train staff in digital skills; for part of the project we have been learning computer science and technology to do with robotics. A grant from the DigitalXtra fund has also allowed us to purchase robotics equipment from early years up for the cluster, and has …