Our Covid-19 story and Recovery Strategy
Brixham College, along with all schools in England, closed on 20 March 2020, other than for vulnerable pupils and children of key workers, and national exams were cancelled. These events represent an unprecedented disruption to the education of children and young people. The College were unable to carry out their normal activities to support children’s learning, wellbeing and to prepare them for transition, and instead we attempted to provide learning activities for students at home. By identifying, the most effective approaches we took we can inform future action plans and by identifying, those that could not be satisfactorily overcome we can also inform future planning.
At the time challenges facing the College were to:
- Provide remote support for students, including those at risk of falling behind
- Providing a provision for vulnerable children and children of key workers, within school and remotely
- Provide support for teachers, variations in workload and job satisfaction
- Plans for reopening during or after the crisis
In this challenging time, the College came together as a community to help both students, staff and parents in what proved to be a prolonged unprecedented time for the College.
Looking back there were numerous individual successes and positive stories to tell, many acknowledged and celebrated in our Lockdown Heroes initiative. However overall it is worth celebrating that the College remained open for those students who were able to attend. A skeleton staff ensured vulnerable and key worker’s children attended during term time and over the holiday periods. Not only Brixham College students attended but also children from other secondary schools and primary phased children. The College’s key stage school model enabled students to continue with their learning and personal development in a safe supportive environment and was expanded on to include year 10 children when allowed to do so.
Safeguarding our students was paramount and always at the forefront of our minds. Face-to-face physical checks made by staff was well received and provided security in that we knew where are most vulnerable children were and they were safe if they were not able to attend our onsite provision. Equally, the safeguarding of our most vulnerable families was enhanced by staff’s efforts to provide free school meals to those that needed it most. Whether that be through collection onsite or delivered to the home…
In the fluid situation, the ability to provide clear, timely up to date information was vital. Communication in terms of providing updates for students and parents on government announcements was well received as was our initiatives to keep staff informed on how life was at College when we were all geographically dispersed. This played a valuable tool in helping to maintain a degree of community and individual well-being for staff and students. As a College grounded on relationships and community, we were determined to maintain the bonds that tie us together.
As the lockdown became prolonged transition for students from Y6-Y7 and Y11-Y12 became increasingly important to us. Initially a virtual model of transition was successful in helping to bridge gaps and familiarise students with the College. However, through developing and adhering to social distancing measures we were able to provide new Y6 students and parent’s face-to-face sessions with tutors and provided an onsite Y6 Summer School experience. All other students experienced a virtual summer school experience. These actions were extremely well received and valued by our community.
The successes were only made possible by a determined, resolute and resilient staff body. A staff body that had to balance their commitment to the College and our students with their personal challenges.
Regardless of our successes, there remained some challenges both national and local.
Nationally the information coming from central government was often unhelpful in terms of clarity and timing. Information concerning the impact of lockdown on public examinations was prioritised for Y11 and Y13. In hindsight at the expense of pastoral support that would have been welcomed by our students in terms of maintaining their sense of community. The focus was clearly on remote learning for other year groups.
As with the vast majority of schools nationally we entered lockdown without a cohesive strategy for remote learning. Although staff quickly gained confidence and expertise in the use of technology, the continuation of learning was a challenge. It became quickly apparent that there was a tangible digital divide for both students and staff in terms of access to hardware, experience and confidence. This resulted in an unsustainable reliance on paper-based packs for students. Unsustainable in terms of staffing hours, with a skeleton staff on site, and in cost. Disseminating laptops to vulnerable students made some difference but not for all. It could be argued that the distribution of laptops to vulnerable children added to the inequality of the digital divide. Equally, it became apparent that some parents also lacked confidence and knowledge in how to engage with technology and support their children in learning.
For a College grounded in its values and belief in the importance of positive relationships and community a significant challenge we found was the inability to engage and interact with our students. Several teachers and tutors made the extra effort to reach out to their students with virtual tutor time and visiting tutees at home to make a socially distant delivery of stationery and equipment. Although this went some way in continuing positive links with students and families it became increasingly difficult as time progressed.
In recent years, there has been an increased recognition of the value of lived experience, and how this can shape and influence development and improvement. As The College begins to look towards the recovery phase and consider how our developments and improvements may be structured and delivered, it is essential that organisational and personal experience is part of the voice that shapes our recovery phase.
The pandemic has been traumatising for many and for many different reasons. It is important to capture that experience in a way that is sensitive to individual’s experience, not to re-traumatise the individual but at the same time not losing the essence of the experiences that will help to shape the future of the College and in turn our young people and community.
Overcoming the Impact of Lost Teaching
Brixham College teachers and staff supported by our families have provided extraordinary support to help our students learn at home during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, for some students, the disruption caused by the College closure will have had a negative impact on learning and wellbeing. While every school will have been affected by Covid-19 differently, we have considered the needs of our community to design a recovery plan for our students, staff and College. The right way to support learners will differ between schools and must be informed by the professional judgement of teachers and school leaders – so what we are doing might be different to other schools; there isn’t just one way to do this. As always, our strategies will be kept under review and we may modify things to make them better as we go.
Our prevailing recovery principle is about how we plan to tackle the impact of lost teaching time rather than specifically focusing on catching up on the individual tasks that were set during the partial closure.
While curriculum catch-up is something we will address, for many children, simply returning to school will be what they need to re-socialise and to reacquaint with the routines and habits of effective learning. In lessons, the identification and addressing of misconceptions arising
from home learning will be a priority. Low-stakes assessment, including teacher questioning, will help teachers to plan next steps.
Success in Learning, Success in Life at a Values Led College.