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Littlecoates in Lockdown

25 Jun 2020   |   Nigel Lowther, on behalf of Littlecoates Primary Academy   |   Littlecoates Primary Academy

Lockdown at Littlecoates has “brought the best out of a wonderful team of dedicated professionals” said its Principal Neville Wilkinson.

New skills have been learned, challenges met and friendships forged through an extraordinary time. Throughout it all, there has been a focus on the best interests of the children and their families. After health and safety, Neville’s biggest priority was to ensure communication with stakeholder groups was as good as possible.

“We’ve used every means available to ensure messages have got through to parents, We have drafted staff in to support the office team with making phone calls to parents. We have gone the extra-mile to keep them informed of all of our decisions, to be there to answer their questions and to give them support and reassurance. Similarly, keeping staff involved, supported and informed during this time apart has helped to maintain morale and a sense of togetherness.”

Teachers Kate Cowdroy, Tom Cadman and Dan Birkett were appointed as the online learning team at the onset of lockdown. They got to grips with Bug Club, TT Rockstars and Numbots and launched Google Classroom to pupils within a week. They established weekly links with the ConnectED team across Wellspring, sharing ideas and resources. Virtual staff meetings were held through Google Meet and CPD organised to ensure staff were confident with the Google apps. The online offer has been continually improved and teachers given more responsibility for creating resources while the online team looked at marking and providing feedback to the children. They worked on Screencastify and filmed further videos to make the Google Classroom more engaging, including assemblies. Video lessons are being taught across Maths, guided reading, phonics and writing every day. Topic and science are being introduced. A whole staff quiz for the children offered a prize for the winner.

Kate felt they had built a “fantastic offer” for their children learning from home. “Collaboration is key in these unprecedented times and it
is fantastic to have the support from my own team and the Wellspring community too,” she said

Computing lead Tom said: “We had to make huge steps very quickly to ensure we could offer our pupils quality and consistent home learning. I have had a tremendous amount of support from the staff at Littlecoates, particularly Kate and Dan, to make this possible. I feel confidence among the staff team in that Google suite has come on leaps and bounds during this period.”

Dan was proud of what had been created as a team and a school. He said: “We have an active core of children who rely on the online platform for their education and school-interactions (with their peers and teachers) that we have built up in a short period of time. Members of staff have been very supportive to each other, with weekly and adhoc meetings to tackle any issues, problems and to check-in with each other as we are mostly working from home.”

In the actual, rather than virtual, classroom, Annette Sapsed kicked off the teaching rota, leading a mixed group of Nursery, Reception and Year 1 children.

“We had to make quick decisions about how we would shape the days ahead, so that the children were busily involved, actively learning, but finding lots of time for much-needed fun. We decided to start the day with half an hour of exercise and soon became devotees of Joe Wicks. Over time, this has evolved and, now involves a mixture of action songs and dances. Thanks to Go Noodle and Just Dance, amongst others.”

They had made the most of warm weather, with daily walks or runs around the school field. “As an Early Years teacher, initially I felt deflated by the sudden withdrawal of resources key to our everyday provision, such as sand and playdough. Since those first days, I feel much calmer about the classroom environment as it stands, although I, like everyone, would like ‘normal’ to return. The main reason has been the children’s capacity to cope.”

Teaching assistants have contributed to Google Classroom, paper work packs, and working in school. One of them, Julie Hacking, said support from the online team had been “amazing”.

“One of our main tasks from home has been to keep in touch with children on Google Classroom and via telephone to offer support and
encouragement,” she said. Not all children have access to the internet, so it’s been our job to put together the weekly work packs ready for
distribution.” Being in school once a week as part of a rota to support the children attending on site has been really important.

“Of course, the best thing has been seeing the children. One of the accidental benefits of the rota has been the opportunity to work closely
with other members of staff you wouldn’t normally work with. No one has been put under pressure to do more than they are able to, and I think that approach has got the best out of people. Everyone has kept in touch and support for each other has made me realise what a great team I work with. I’ve really appreciated being able to see everyone altogether and have a catch-up at our weekly briefing on Google Meet. We all look forward to the Principal’s light-hearted emails each evening rounding up everything that’s been going on.”

The Academy’s had public support from its parents. Comments have included:

“Thank you Mr Wilkinson and all Littlecoates staff. You all doing wonderful job.”

“I hope that you Mrs Howes, Mrs Morgan, and all of the other wonderful teachers and staff at Littlecoates, are all taking care of yourselves. The girls are all, very much, missing you all.”

“Our daughter’s loving your Year 6 offer. Thank you for this.”

“How lovely you all are. Thank you for taking care of our children.”

“Well done to everybody there who’s done incredibly well during this pandemic.”

“Thank you for helping out my son and checking on him when you can, it’s much appreciated.”

Neville said: “I am incredibly proud of all the staff,for their indefatigable spirit throughout this crisis, and I believe we will emerge from it even stronger than before.”

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