Featured Whole School Home Learning — 05 January 2021

Following the news yesterday, I wanted to share a message of support for all of our Skyswood children and families for this second period of national lockdown.

Having prepared a ‘welcome back’ assembly we now find ourselves in this position where our children will not be returning to school for at least half a term. We were genuinely anxious about the prospect of children returning to school, with local infection rates rising alongside the wider national concerns and the extreme pressures on our NHS.

Throughout this period I am mindful of everybody’s well-being. We will provide as much structure and support as possible throughout the lockdown period and please feel free to e-mail myself, or one of our senior leaders at any time if you feel it would help to discuss the situation or if you would like to share ideas of any other ways in which we could help or support.

REMOTE LEARNING

The biggest difference in ‘remote learning’ between now and the first period of lockdown is that the DfE require that schools replicate the learning that would take place if the children were in school (rather than just set a series of ‘home learning activities’ as was the case with many schools.) We did indeed base our summer term activities on the respective plans for each year group, but we recognize that it is actually not possible for anybody to genuinely replicate the school environment at home and realise that many parents and children may feel under pressure when faced with the prospect of another half term of home learning.

Our staff have planned for this eventuality and they will support the home learning with some opportunities through Google Meet; where the teachers can deliver recorded ‘lessons’ or instructions to support the children’s learning.

We were extremely proud of our children’s levels of engagement during the first lockdown period and would once again urge the children to take the opportunity to read regularly. We recognize that many of you may have days where it’s a bit of a struggle to motivate your children to complete home learning, but hopefully we can make it as much fun as possible and our children will receive plenty of encouragement from their teachers, so we hope that we can provide the best possible continuity of education and can encourage your children to engage positively with the remote learning tasks that we set.

WE ARE NOT FALLING BEHIND!

Your children’s health, safety and emotional well-being, along with you and your family, are the most important factors throughout this second lockdown period. We know it’s not the same as being at school, but we want our children to retain a positive mindset throughout. They are not ‘falling behind’ because every school in the country is in exactly the same position. We can spin this on its head and encourage our children that far from falling behind, there is an opportunity for them to make great progress and make a real success of the situation if they engage positively with the home learning. We had several children who came back in June or September having made exceptional progress with their reading because they had found extra time to really enjoy a range of fantastic books! We did find that many of our children had increased in reading fluency but our findings also echoed the national picture, where teachers were finding gaps in ‘reading comprehension’ despite the positive feedback on fluency; Especially for our younger children, do seize opportunities to discuss books; if children get the chance to retell or recount events, discuss characters, share their ideas, reflect upon text, sequence events or predict what might happen next, then this will really help them to develop those higher order reading skills and embed their understanding and enthusiasm for texts.

‘Whisper Reading’ is also a great strategy if you’re reading together with a younger child. This worked well with my own daughter when she was back in her reception and infant years, but also works very well with lower juniors. The idea is that the parent/adult reads alongside the child but in ‘a whisper’ and ‘slightly slower than your child.’ The child then effectively ‘leads’ the reading but, if they stumble on a complicated word, the parent/adult fills in where the child hesitates and this ensures fluency of text. The parent/adult then continues to read in a whisper and follows the child by once again being ‘slightly behind’ in the reading. If you’re finding there are far too many ‘hesitations’ and difficult words then maybe the level of the book isn’t quite matching the needs of your child. Maybe you could read this book to your child and choose a slightly easier text when you whisper read together.

I am going to organise a Headteacher’s recorded message for each Monday. This will be in a remote assembly-style form and will be called The Skyswood News. As part of this feature I would love to share some of the children’s recommended books. Please encourage children to share their recommendations for favourite books and tell me WHY they would recommend them and WHO they might appeal to. (eg age group/genre). Please e-mail any recommended books that you would like to mention to head@skyswood.herts.sch.uk.

WEBSITE CHALLENGES

During the first lockdown period I posted some additional ‘voluntary’ activities on the website. Many children contributed to our fantastic ‘Poems for our Grandparents’ Poetry Book, we found some fabulous cooks through our School Master Chef Competition and several children sent us cartoons of fruit and vegetables for the school kitchen, or historical drawings for our wonderful History Timeline in the library.

Over the next half-term I am going to post some different activities that will hopefully engage and support our children. I will post The Skyswood News every Monday. I would love this to feature the children’s stories or news, as well as sharing some of their home learning. We will include the Recommended Reading feature (where we share some good recommendations for books- from teachers and children). I will finish the post with a piece of music and encourage the children to send me ideas/requests for a piece of music of their choice. It may simply be their favourite pop song, or it may be a request for a member of their family or a close friend. The children can e-mail me their requests, it would help if they let me know WHY they’ve requested the song; even if it’s just as simple as saying this is my favourite band or singer!

On Tuesday’s I will start a Lockdown Art Club, giving some ideas for art activities that will hopefully appeal and be accessible across a wide age range. I will put the first Art Lockdown Club post up later today, children can then send me pictures of their own artwork and we share these on the website.

I will continue with a Lockdown Quiz (every Wednesday) as I received some positive feedback from the quizzes back in the summer. I’ll try to keep them varied.

On Fridays I will post our Star of the Week Assembly and send out certificates remotely. We want to keep Star of the Week going as it can be a big incentive to support our children with their remote learning.

THANK YOU TO OUR COMMUNITY!

I’d like to finish this post by re-iterating how proud we all are of our school community. Just looking back at the Christmas newsletter; many schools stated that it wouldn’t be possible to organize Christmas performances as audiences would be out of the question. Our children performed brilliantly in their plays and carol concerts. Year 6 also performed for the Park Side View Care home. Our Pen-Pal Scheme was wonderfully successful, and a big thank you must go to children and parents for their wonderful generosity and amazing Christmas boxes. FOSS organized a fabulous ‘bubble disco’, and thank you to all the families who decorated a window for our exceptional Advent Trail. And, of course, the staff willingly engaged in a socially distanced Pantomime (although there have been no forthcoming Oscar nominations to date!) All of these activities reflect our vibrant and supportive school community. We are blessed to have parents and staff who always go ‘the extra mile’ and, although the next couple of months will be a challenge to us all, we must keep our ‘can do’ attitude and positive mindset with the thought that we can hopefully come back to a safer world and, with the current roll out of vaccinations, look forward to a brighter picture in the long term.

Please let me know if there any other ways that you feel our school could help or support you throughout the next couple of months.

Bob Bridle (Head Teacher)

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