Monday, 14 June 2021

Parents praise school’s lockdown virtual lessons

Parents praise school’s lockdown virtual lessons

PARENTS have praised the secondary academy school in Sonning Common for its online teaching during the latest coronavirus lockdown.

Maiden Erlegh Chiltern Edge in Reades Lane has been closed since January 5 after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the tighter restrictions.

The school has remained open for children of key workers or who are deemed vulnerable.

Staff are using Google Classroom and Google Meet to teach pupils who are at home and parents say it is “just like being in the classroom”.

Helen Beville, whose son Ben is in year 11, said: “He gets stuck in straight away in the morning — it’s really like he’s at school. He’s motivating himself and, to be honest, he doesn’t need to be working as hard as he is — I’m really pleased.”

Ben would be doing his GCSE exams this year but these have been cancelled by the Government, together with A-levels exams, for the second year in a row. Pupils’ grades will be based on teachers’ assessements instead.

Mrs Beville said this was a disappointment for Ben, adding: “He has missed a lot of education due to the pandemic but he’s getting what is necessary now to help him with the next stages of life. He is still getting good grades, which is a real credit to the school.”

Jenny Holman. whose daughters, Jess, 14, and Amelia, 13, are pupils, also praised the online teaching.

She said: “I wouldn’t know if there were any staff absences as it’s so seamless.

“The school has been quite strict about children needing rest time as well as being online, so they still have a break time and lunch.

“They may not be on for the full hour of the lesson but the kids come back on and show the work that they’ve done — it’s like a normal school day.”

Marion Bourne, whose 14-year-old son Tom is in year 9, said the organisation of the online teaching worked well considering how quickly the lockdown was implemented.

She said: “It’s such a success story — Tom hops out of bed every morning and makes himself look smart for his lessons. Even he says it’s better than being at school as everyone is listening and being engaged.”

The mothers agreed that their children were missing the social interactions from physically being in school but the staff had done well to ensure their mental health of pupils was looked after.

Mrs Beville said: “Ben likes being in the classroom and he has missed that aspect of school as it’s still an important part of life.

“But the mental health support provided by the school has been great as students can get phone calls from their tutors.”

Mrs Holman said: “It’s the after-school clubs, the walks to and from school and the social life which my daughters miss.

“They are now reliant on social media, which is difficult as things get misconstrued, especially with girls.

“But the online teaching has embraced the social aspect of being in school as students can see their friends on the screen and speak to them.

“They’ve been messaging each other as well, which is the same as whispering to each other in class.

“For those who have children that struggle — I have one not so diligent child — there is additional support.”

Staff are also being trained to use Google Notes to provide verbal feedback to students so it’s more personal and efficient.

Headteacher Andy Hartley said: “We were incredibly proud of our efforts in the first lockdown and knew that we had the support of our whole community as we re-entered an extended period of lockdown. We have made some changes to how we are delivering our provision this time and, so far, it is being received very positively.

 “We know students learn best when they have a positive connection to their teachers and feel invested in the work they are completing, so we are determined to try to replicate as much of this as possible over the next few weeks while students can’t physically be in the classroom with us.

“I am indebted to the staff for their commitment, flexibility and solution-focused approach — they are an inspiration to work with and our students are incredibly lucky to be under the charge of such a great group of professionals.”

Meanwhile, the Maiden Erlegh Trust, which Chiltern Edge joined in 2018, is set to be merged with the Berkshire Schools Trust, which is responsible for three primary schools in Reading.

In a joint statement, the trusts said: “We believe that there is a great amount of common ground between the two organisations, both in terms of values and ethos, and our ambitions for our pupils, students and staff.

“It is clear that we both place community at the heart of what we do and that we have a strong moral purpose towards high quality. inclusive education.”

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