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Remote Learning in Worcestershire

Our work setting up remote learning in Worcestershire here at RGS has really helped parents and pupils over the last few months. The Government announced school closures in March across England and we saw all parents shudder with fear at the idea of schooling their children, both in terms of functioning on a professional level and not being natural teachers. The potential for humiliation, not being able to answer a Year Six maths question or understand new teaching methods that have changed so much since our day, loomed on the horizon, along with the challenges of balancing their own career and forgoing the routine of life, we all once had.

However, our parents did not need to despair as we had them covered with our remote learning technology, no arduous task of working out ‘chunking’ or the ‘bus stop’ method for them. As an Apple Distinguished School, the only one in the area, and truly digitally focussed remote learning centre we were fast off the blocks to put in place a system that would make them feel as if their children were inside the school gates. We heard a massive sigh of relief. Not to say that transition to remote learning at RGS was pain-free, but it was undoubtedly a smoother and faster process as our teachers and pupils had already embraced the technology. Our big advantage was that we’d already answered the question, ‘how do you teach students remotely?’.

The outcome was that parents could rest easy in the knowledge that our all-encompassing virtual teaching meant our pupils were kept busy all day following their usual lesson plan. They didn’t miss any of their education, ensuring there are no gaps in their learning. When considering how can teachers help remote learning be successful, we knew that it was with a double approach. We kept a level of formality to ensure a focussed and diligent audience and kept to a timetabled approach each school day including Form Time and the occasional assembly.

What is remote learning? 

Remote learning is a way that schools can continue high-quality education while their pupils have to stay at home. Examples from RGS include:

  • Mr Harper invited a tiger into his virtual classroom for pupils at RGS The Grange
  • Mr Morgan went as far as the Arctic to bring a new vibrant way of learning (or at least he sat in his home and ‘teleported’ around the world) and each day his Year Four class at RGS The Grange did not know where he was going to be – a brilliant idea to capture the imagination of his pupils (and parents) in such an exciting and different way
  • Mrs Nichols teaching cookery lessons to the great delight of parents who enjoyed the amazing culinary skills of their children
  • The LitSoc Club reading books and using quotes for inspiration and meaning as well as producing some interesting photos and places where they read
  • German, French and Spanish lessons whereby pupils were given menu selections and tasked with providing video evidence showing the pupils making their creations whilst describing the processes in the required language – again the parents also got to enjoy the spoils, a result for all
  • Daily Maths and English taught in the Prep Schools during an open Google Meet allowing for class participation and the freedom to ask questions in a controlled way

The inventive ways our teachers brought to life virtual learning has been inspiring to us all, going above and beyond merely translating a lesson online, which saw Mr Tanner broadcasting from his shed and Mr Houchin cooking up a storm in the kitchen during a tutorial.

Blended learning 

With our Sixth Form students moving on to university, we had to consider how to teach these students remotely. Our approach was a blended learning programme called ‘upskills’, with remote learning courses in life skills for those who have never ironed or cooked, to independent learning skills and personal finance, with the opportunity to join some socially distanced seminars onsite. We are sure that parents will be taking full advantage of these newfound life skills before they fly the nest. 

Our remote learning ‘bridging’ courses, a virtual introduction to A Level lessons, gave our Year Eleven students a thorough comprehension of expectations. Researching relevant topics within their chosen subject and creating presentations allowed them to feel reassured and interact with their new teachers. We have never had so much positive feedback from students; however, we are trying not to take it personally that they prefer us from a distance. 

Our pupils at RGS Worcester were able to experience their annual examinations remotely, which was a great accomplishment and proved once more that we could overcome challenges using the power of technology.

We have been remotely embedding our Year Seven pupils joining us in September with virtual assemblies and tutorial sessions, enabling them to ‘meet’ their teachers, Head of Year, Head of Lower School and our Director of Innovation. Seeing all our new pupils on-screen almost compensated for not being able to welcome them personally. 

Staff from RGS Dodderhill drove the school minibus to pupils’ homes to deliver much -needed books at the beginning of June and covered many miles, all whilst observing the strict lockdown rules and guidance.

RGS The Grange remained open throughout supporting Key Workers’ children, allowing frontline workers to be able to know their child was being supervised whilst they could continue to work.

Remote learning resources and fun 

The story does not end with lessons. You invited us into your homes and we did the same (after a tidy up!), and we felt connected with you and everything you were doing (although it also made us miss you even more). We all found out the answer to the question ‘How does a virtual classroom work?’

It helped us all to engage socially and feel emotionally supported and took our remote learning resources into every part of your lives, and it gave us all a purpose. We saw fabulous digital ‘jump click challenges’, which made us wonder who filled that dishwasher, we saw more bouncing than a kangaroo, pupils sea-danced for us, floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. You did star jumps and hops and pops, cooked a lot of chocolate delights and created rainbow food, some healthy and some slightly less. You showed us where you were reading from and we felt a tinge of jealousy at seeing your jacuzzi. You were pirates and princesses and the sunshine in our pockets. You danced along with Miss Freeman and made us feel as uncoordinated as when we try the ‘floss’. Mr B’s isometric contraction challenge made us laugh as you pulled a lot of painful faces, and the expectation of Mr Brindley to continue with planks and squats made many a parent wince as they wanted to be part of the exercise regime with their children.

Your video content supplied to us got more and more unique, and our teachers seemed to vie for who had the best remote learning resources set up. Through it all, we shared this unique experience with a million (maybe a slight exaggeration) different competitions, challenges and activities. 

Then we were advised certain year groups could return throughout England, which involved planning, coordination and ensuring we were all ready and safe as we could be. This also meant new challenges of balancing remote teaching, with teaching some children in school, but all schools rose to the challenge and it has been great to see the children who could go into school, socialise with their peers once more.

The best remote learning in Worcestershire

Did we have the best remote learning in Worcestershire? Well, that of course only you can say but are very proud of all we have accomplished. However, we have learnt a great deal from this experience, and surprisingly our virtual world threw up some advantages of a virtual classroom. Sixth Form students have acquired a more autonomous self-motivated way of working, giving them insight into the independent learning techniques that set them in good stead for university life. Our virtual parents’ evenings were a real hit with parents who found it much easier to fit them into their busy lives. We will be taking note of these positive experiences and considering how to implement them in our plans for the future. 

“In a rare positive in these difficult times, we have noticed that our son has really enjoyed this new style of teaching – in fact, all three of us feel that the provision he is currently receiving is preparing him very well for university life and the university style of teaching and independent learning. We would like to feedback in the strongest possible terms that the current remote teaching provision that our son is receiving is superb and totally appropriate for an Upper Sixth Form student.”

Parent of Upper Sixth, RGS Worcester

We have been incredibly grateful to have our remote learning in education achievements acknowledged by organisations we admire and respect. Apple invited all four schools to the Apple Distinguished Schools Virtual Conference in May 2020 to showcase our best practices and solutions to overcoming remote learning difficulties with other schools. On top of this, we were invited by Think Ahead to present how the reputedly sixth-oldest school in the world had successfully shifted and adapted to remote learning and teaching along with presenting Swift and how to create workflow efficiencies. 

We may have found this period difficult and challenging, but the support of our community and our business as usual learning has helped us all through it. Rest assured, other parents have had it tougher, creating content that will live online for many years to come. We have received many comments from our parents across all four schools and one stated how RGS has ‘Redefined Outstanding Education’ – we truly believe we have and we have been proud to support our community throughout this challenging and historic period. Here are a couple of clips to make you smile:

Making our half-dressed partner Zoom-bomb, being caught wearing pyjama bottoms or accidentally choosing a virtual meet background that turns you into a potato pale into insignificance. 

We wish you a very happy break and hope you do not spend the summer struggling for bandwidth, fighting off fridge raids and battling over the dishwasher. Our summer Learning Programme might help keep our children busy (although we are sure they have a long list of distractions) and make sure they do not forget us. We will be looking forward to having you all back with us in September, as long as the situation permits, and seeing all of your happy faces and hearing our schools once more reverberate with children’s voices. 

For those who do not know us yet and like what you have read, we are open all summer for private visits so please do call us for an appointment at any of the RGS Worcester Family of Schools.

Throughout school closures, RGS Worcester remotely taught 10,390 lessons, with the RGS Worcester Family of Schools teaching 18,503 lessons in total. We set, the pupils sat, and we marked a total of 5,488 exams, and 1,500 Centre Assessed Grades were submitted to the Exam Boards for GCSE, A Level and BTEC.

A short film made by staff, parents and pupils

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