Preparing for a successful September start back for schools and colleges

At the end of the Summer Term 2020, two Think Tank events focused on sharing advice about Preparing for a Successful September start back for Schools and Colleges.

Chaired by the programme Regional Leads, the events featured insights from the Demonstrator Schools and Colleges from their own preparations and offered advice for all settings.

Key themes emerged from all three sessions:

The need to focus on teaching and learning and the appropriate use technology, is key in all contexts

Contingency planning for September can be more effective when technology is effectively embedded into everyday teaching and learning

Quantifying progress during lockdown is difficult but allowing a broad range of ways that students can express their own understanding helps

  • Ideas to support senior leaders and educators as schools manage social distancing in school/college learning context.

  • Consolidating online support for those students unable to return to schools and colleges

  • Building on progress made with remote learning

  • Ensuring the momentum for strategic change in the use of technology is maintained in the autumn term and beyond


London Think Tank: Preparing for a successful September return

In this Live Q&A session the London EdTech Demonstrator schools: Heronsgate Primary School, Shacklewell Primary School, Cheam Common Junior School and Reach Academy Feltham offered advice from London-based school leaders about their plans to fully reopen school after the summer holidays and how teaching and learning will be supported through the use of technology.

Event Summary video (2 mins 17secs)

East of England Think Tank: Preparing for a successful September return

In this Live Q&A session the East of England Edtech Demonstrator schools: Harlow College, West Suffolk College, Barrow Primary School, Sandringham School, Coupals Primary Academy and Thomas Gainsborough School will offer their thoughts and feelings about the current hybrid learning scenarios playing out in education today.

East of England based school/college leaders about their plans to reopen school/college after the the summer holidays and how teaching and learning will likely be affected or empowered through the use of technology. Audience members will have the opportunity to pose questions to the panel, for example; the challenges they faced when first setting their digital strategies, what it took to get leadership buy in, and how their teachers have adjusted to the disruptions over the recent months.

Keeping it simple to encourage confidence and engagement

‘Many of us have been 'Zoomed' and 'Teamed' out this term! I've been on some webinars when I've come off and thought I am never going to get that hour back again! So, you must think about what CPD you're delivering and how. Teachers are tough to train, so you must think about meeting their needs. I've learnt that it about short sessions where people want to try what you've just showed and shared with them; aim for ‘Purposeful Practice’ which relies on the member of staff being motivated and then nudging them to do what I need to do.’

Kelly Edwards – Harlow College

Rebuilding school as a community

'How are we going to maintain the fabric, the culture and ethos of a school without it feeling different during what is actually a very different time? How can we bring some normality back to our school in September? A priority for us is rethinking summative assessment. In the summer term, with our online learning curriculum, we found that engagement was quite easy to track. Students were signing into a lessons via Google Meet that was fairly easy to track student’s attendance but we have had to rely on other sources of evidence to really track progress. Assessing the mental health of our students has been much harder' Mark Allday - Assistant Headteacher, Sandringham School

Using technology effectively to reduce workload in September 2020

'Our teachers use of technology has reduced the amount of time that they spent preparing through ‘digital distribution’ where most of the learning content through is distributed through online platforms to devices.

Verbal feedback is powerful but can be hard to recall sometimes. We use online platforms to attach a verbal comment which stays attached to the child's piece of work so they can revisit that feedback over and over again. Staff can record an or comment and feedback to each other much quicker than they can write. For example, if you've ever marked a set of English books for a class in a primary school, chances are you'll have written the same comment ten times throughout the books. So teachers can record or write a particular comment and then push it to ten different children without writing it ten times. Now, in a time where teachers have got so much to do at a time where they are already working huge amounts of hours and far more than they probably should be able to distribute that feedback in a streamlined way to multiple children has saved us huge amount of time.’

David Maguire – Headteacher Coupals Primary Academy

Effective use of Technology to support learning anytime / anywhere

‘Over the last few months we've had a really successful asynchronous program in place where we've managed to continue to deliver a school curriculum with huge parental satisfaction; it's really kept momentum with the curriculum going. The children have been very familiar with the teaching style that that's continued to be delivered through a range of technology. Our preparations for September include ensuring that every year group has had days of teaching by their new class teacher next September’

Helen Ashe – Headteacher – Barrow Primary School

Ensuring that change is well through through in September

'In September, it's important to think about what the most important teaching and learning strategies are for you and your students and then work out how technology help. If you've got staff that aren't very confident, you need to speak language of pedagogy, of teaching and learning and not the language of technology. We know that high quality teaching is one of the most important things in making accelerated progress, so focus on that and how technology can help rather than expecting the technology itself to make that improvement for the learner.'

Christian Turton – Sandringham School

Contingency Planning for September

'Don't just view your contingency plan as a one off event that you want to put in place in September. Keep teaching at the heart of what you're doing. Ensure that purposeful practice includes the power of feedback to your learners, making sure that the teaching and how you're supporting the students learning is at the heart of the use of technology. In September, effective communication with your learners and their families is key.

You might be in an environment where some of your students are testing positive to the coronavirus. It’s about making sure that you can quickly move to home learning support which will be possible if you have done the communication in advance. So communicate ahead of time and try to view this is an ongoing change.'

Chris Ryall - Deputy Headteacher - Thomas Gainsborough School

Developing Digital Strategy for September and beyond

‘We're asking staff and managers to consider and managers to consider the ‘why’? What is the intent in terms of the use of that technology and how does that link to the learning objectives? When using technology, we ask our staff to go back to those fundamentals of pedagogy to set out those clear expectations and the establishment of the rules within the classroom and whether or not their planning has allowed that to take place.’

Nadine Payne – Director of STEM and External Partnerships – West Suffolk College

One of the major things for me is capturing what we've gained over the last six months and feeding that into our school development plans, whether things move normally in September or not with an eye to our contingency planning. So a normal review of development priorities, but always with that technology thinking at the back of our minds eg what will we need moving forward to implement our curriculum to the best of our ability, but also to make sure that we can hit the ground running with any bumps and changes along the way.’

Helen Ashe – Headteacher – Barrow CEVC Primary School

'It has to be good teaching to start with before you think about taking it online. Bad teaching remotely using a learning platform won't make it better. For example, I've seen schools where they are using blended learning where the children watch a short video clip, then they have a task to do and then they respond remotely with their answers directly and online to the task. In the worst case, I've seen schools send a worksheet out that children have to print out,write on, take a photograph and send it back.'

Nick Templeton - West Suffolk College

Advancing Further Education EdTech & Blended Learning

A factsheet from Heart of Worcester College with advice about preparing for a successful September.