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A reflection on pupils' return to learning

Posted on: 16/10/2020

As I write I am looking out of my office window at St Birinus across the top of the 6th form block and out to the field. It is absolutely bucketing down with rain and, not for the first time today, I'm grateful that it's an INSET day with teachers working remotely doing online training and virtual performance development meetings.  A perfect opportunity to take stock and reflect on what we have achieved over the last year and particularly on the changes that COVID 19 has made, and continues to make, to the life of the school. 

There has been a steep learning curve for everyone since we first transferred to online learning back in March. Teachers have had to get to grips with new technology, students have needed to be more independent and Heads of Department have had a crash course in leading from their living rooms. Just as challenging was the planning for the start of this term.  We are very fortunate at St Birinus School to be a part of the Ridgeway Education Trust which enabled leaders across the trust schools to collaborate and support one another with the logistics of health and safety and risk assessments ensuring that both staff and students felt confident to return. 

As school leaders, our biggest fear was that the building momentum from the first half of the year would be lost. At the point of lockdown, the Ofsted report from our February inspection had just been released. It describes our school as 'a vibrant and inspiring place for pupils to learn' and we were determined not to let COVID monopolise our attention or compromise standards. We have  pushed ahead with extending registration time to introduce a programme of Ethos lessons and a tutor group reading programme; the boys are powering through the diverse books we have chosen, with some groups onto their second novel already. One way to make up for lost time from lockdown, but also a chance to give all students a calm and focused start to their day with a trusted teacher, to re-establish relationships, and expectations. 

One month in, changes big and small already seem routine. The introduction of masks was universally accepted by staff and students alike. The one-way system has reduced congestion in corridors and staggered lunchtimes serve the same purpose in the canteen. Briefings and assemblies have gone virtual so during morning registration the Headteacher's voice can be heard echoing down every corridor as the classroom doors are propped open for ventilation. In the classroom,  teachers are adapting to confinement inside their marked area, using skilful questioning and sharp explanations instead of being able to circulate the room. 

So what next? The government have asked us to prepare for four tiers of potential restrictions, and we have our contingency plans in place to continue remote learning should that be required.  But for now, teachers are doing what they do best: delivering great lessons to young people in classrooms with enthusiasm and expertise. Despite the one-way system, and the year group bubbles and the masks, St Birinus school is alive with a renewed sense of passion and purpose for learning.


Mrs Bowers

Deputy Head

St Birinus School, Didcot

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