Since the start of the original lockdown in March, I have often referred to #teamwhitehill in various tweets and website posts. To me, #teamwhitehill covers staff, pupils and parents – the whole Whitehill School community. This week, I have once again found the need to use this very hashtag as we celebrate the way we have risen to the challenge of blended learning for some of our classes and pupils. Blended learning is the term we have given to the ability to ensure pupils and staff are able to engage in the teaching and learning in their classroom if they have to remain at home and isolate for any reason.
This week we have had both Miss McGurk and Mrs Davies teaching their classes from home at different times. I popped into both classes and it was obvious that the pupils enjoyed and were actually excited to see their teacher wanting to be part of the lesson. Our support staff team facilitated the learning in the classroom whilst the teachers led from the interactive boards.
In addition, we have had pupils joining in lessons from the comfort of their own home whilst they have been unable to come to school. Mr Denney had two pupils in some of his lessons fully engaged with him and then having the opportunity to chat with their peers in some collaborative learning. This was repeated in both Mrs Bryan’s class and Mrs Bailey’s and as I was in Kahlo class on Thursday morning, I supported three pupils in a maths activity. Marcelina and Fred in class and Thomas via video link at home. It was great fun but more importantly a great and productive use of time.
Over the coming months, given the current Covid situation, the need to provide blended learning in some way is going to become a regular feature at Whitehill and I have written to parents today to outline our proposals as to how this will continue. I have no doubt it will evolve but our skill (staff and pupils) at using Google Classroom will no doubt make it easy to adapt and engage. I look forward to joining in some future opportunities.
We have already been using this blended approach of a combination of live and video-linked communication in our weekly Achievers’ Assemblies. Last week, as well as having the Year 6s in the hall with me and the other six classes watching from their classrooms, we also had individuals joining from home.
Today was the turn of the Year 3s to be with me in the hall. Music at the start and the end was provided by Keya (Year 5) who played the flute. The House Cup was presented to Fire and Mayan Class won Class of the Week. Once again, there were many positive comments from the class teachers, including:
‘This week has shown how supportive each [member of the class] is.’
‘What a week! Every lesson has been dynamic – all the class are contributing.’
‘Outstanding effort this week! They have all excellent biographies… What a lovely bunch!’
We are still able to celebrate individual achievements too and this week we enjoyed sharing in the success of Bella (Year 4) who showed off a rather impressive football trophy presented to her by Hitchin Belles. I have no doubt Miss Gooderham will be keeping an eye on her for our school teams.
As we try to ensure as much normality as possible in school, it is wonderful to see live music return to school through the peripatetic lessons and also class music lessons. A creative approach is needed at times as well as flexibility but it is imperative we continue to provide these opportunities to our pupils. As one parent wrote on twitter this week, ‘…hearing my daughter say ‘we were so happy, we forgot about COVID’ is just what we want to hear and what we are trying to achieve.
It’s not only music which is ensuring a sense of normality but also the fact that we are now able to offer some extra-curricular opportunities. Of course, each club can only be for a single year group (or bubble) but we have staff delivering football, lacrosse, multi-sports and netball. As the term progresses, I have no doubt there will be further clubs for pupils to take part in and enjoy.
The new school lunch system was fully integrated this week and by Wednesday was working efficiently and effectively. As with all new systems, there were a few teething problems at the start but I hope the new tab we put on the school website, including some FAQs has ensured early confusion has reduced. I know for a fact, Mrs Stokes and Mrs Lanni really like the system as it has reduced unnecessary paperwork and also food waste. Mrs Lanni is the expert should you not be able to find what you are looking for on the website. As a little reminder, at the time of writing, it looks like we have about 20 pupils who have not selected their choices for next week. Please have a look and make sure this is done by Monday morning.
I have missed playing marbles with the pupils who came up with the club when they were in Year 3. Now in Year 4, some of them attend Cookie Club after school and so on Wednesday we turned the carpeted area around my office and the main entrance into our playing area. Fynley was too good for me again and beat me convincingly. We also introduced a few new pupils to this traditional playground game. I have no doubt (and hope) Fynley will be up for another game one day next week. I continue to be impressed with Cookie Club and the feedback from the pupils who attend and their parents is very positive. If you need access to wrap-around care, details can be found on the school website.
Other highlights this week include some great computer work by our Year 5s in Apollo Class as they were programming Probots to draw regular shapes. They worked together to work out the angle the cars would need to turn through in order to accurately draw a variety of polygons. Aztec Class made the most of the last nice weather (It had certainly changed by Thursday) to take their maths outside. It was science in Year 4 when pupils explored the function of the different types of teeth by using kitchen implements to replicate each one.
Next week, I will open our consultation evening booking platform. This term’s meetings will all be held virtually but will still provide you with the opportunity to chat with your child’s class teacher about the way they have started this new academic year. Any problems booking an appointment, please get in touch.
My diary looks reasonably quiet at the moment for next week. I have no doubt it will fill up a little but it also might give me the opportunity to catch up on a bit of paperwork. I also have the opportunity to touch base with a fellow Headteacher from Nottingham (virtually, of course), who I have collaborated with over several projects since I have been at Whitehill. Like me, he puts ‘why’ at the heart of all he does.
Again, I should get a ‘moan free’ evening given the length of this week’s blog. Should keep my dad happy for another seven days!
Have a great weekend.