Celebrating TWHF Success during the Lockdown
Since the government made the decision to close all schools in England in late March, the world of education has drastically changed. An inability to teach pupils face to face has made the job of an educator incredibly difficult, while widespread confusion and uncertainty has increased the pressure on schools to communicate effectively with their community.
Despite these substantial challenges, our schools, as well as their staff and pupils, have been able to achieve some incredible things. Their determination and persistence, hard work and commitment, has led to our entire community adapting to a new way of learning and being far better connected than before.
And in these difficult times, we need to celebrate instances of success more than ever.
Communicating with Our Communities
As the coronavirus pandemic unfolded, a lot of uncertainty remained. We understood that it was the responsibility of The White Horse Federation and our schools to answer questions from our communities and provide clear and comprehensive information.
In order to do this, we added a live chat feature to each of our schools’ websites, giving our communities somewhere to get the important information they needed. Then, by identifying which questions parents were asking frequently, we wrote and added FAQ pages containing answers to the most common queries to each school’s website.
The response was magnificent. As of 2nd June, we had answered more than 1,390 queries through the live chat features, which was greater than the number of school website enquiries. and the FAQ pages had been viewed more than 11,000 times.
Through these measures, we’ve been able to provide up-to-date, accurate information to our communities despite the national uncertainty caused by the coronavirus.
Making Learning at Home Easier
With schools closed to the majority of children, teachers have had to find new ways of connecting with their pupils. Converting the curriculum from in-class lessons to online teaching has been a huge task, but we are delighted that our primary schools have done an amazing job.
Teachers and staff have been hard at work throughout the lockdown, devising new ways to teach and stay in touch with pupils, and their efforts have paid off. They’ve created a library of fantastic learning resources for our schools’ pupils to use and continue their education and development at home.
In addition to producing these resources, teachers have also been starring in their own homemade videos. The videos offer a more personal feel to the home learning experience, and have proven to be popular with our pupils and their families. In just one week, the videos made by staff at our primary schools had accumulated more than 40,000 views.
Caring for Key Worker Families and Vulnerable Children
While our schools were officially closed, following government guidelines, they remained partially open to accommodate the children of key workers as well as vulnerable and looked-after children.
One challenging aspect of this government ruling was their reluctance to state exactly which occupations were considered ‘key workers’. Some roles, such as doctors and nurses, were clearly eligible, while it was less clear-cut for others, such as supermarket staff and delivery drivers.
To counter this challenge and ensure as many key workers as possible were able to continue in their jobs, we created an application form for parents who wanted their children to still attend school. This made it easy for parents to apply and also gave them a clear response. With clarity in such short supply, this certainty proved to be a great source of comfort for our communities.
Our schools have also continued to provide a safe environment for vulnerable children who may be at risk if they were unable to attend school.
To ensure all our pupils and staff were safe, and prevent any possible spread of the coronavirus, we implemented social distancing measures at every setting. As a result, all our schools have continued to remain open safely without any instances of the virus.
Supporting Disadvantaged Families
Home learning is not just a challenge for our staff, but also for our young people and their families. One area of potential difficulty is accessing home learning resources, as this requires a device capable of using the internet and a reliable internet connection.
Across The White Horse Federation, we have recognised that some families do not currently have a suitable device for their child to use to access online learning resources. That is why we have launched a campaign asking those within and indeed beyond our community to donate computers, laptops, and smartphones for our wonderful pupils and their families.
Recently, our CEO, Dr Nick Capstick OBE, was featured on BBC Points West and the BBC national news discussing the project.
We are overwhelmed by the generosity we have experienced so far, with so many people donating devices to the cause. As a result, many more children across the federation will be able to access learning during this challenging time and continue their education journey.
Continuing with Site Work and Developments
While our schools were closed for all but vulnerable children and the children of key workers, many of our staff were still carrying out important work.
The construction of Whitelands Academy, our brand-new secondary school in Bicester, may have been slowed by the pandemic, but work is continuing nonetheless as we move through the phases of constructing a state-of-the-art centre of excellence.
Elsewhere, site managers, cleaners, and maintenance staff across our schools have been adapting to new ways of working that ensure their safety. In doing so, they have continued to provide safe and hygienic environments for our pupils and staff, minimising any possible risk of the virus spreading. We are so grateful for their hard work and commitment.
Missing Our Staff, Pupils, and Students
At this time of seclusion, it is obvious to us all just how much we care about and enjoy spending time with our pupils, students, and colleagues.
It goes without saying that we miss you all terribly, and we can’t wait until our communities can once again join together, safely, and continue doing what we do best — improving outcomes for everyone.
Thank You, and Stay Safe
This has been a difficult time for us all. Everyone at The White Horse Federation wishes you and your loved ones continued safety and good health.
We’re all pulling together to get through the pandemic and overcome the many obstacles to continue delivering the best possible outcomes for our wonderful pupils, their families, and our fantastic staff.
We’d like to thank our communities for their ongoing support and commitment to their childs’ learning.