During the period of national lockdown, we have taught using Microsoft Teams as the principal platform. This has had its challenges, but has proved to be a relatively manageable mode of delivery, enabling teachers to help learning with a variety of methods and an element of live interaction in most lessons.
Lessons were shortened, to allow screen breaks and to ensure students could print off worksheets in between lessons. Inevitably, teaching time was reduced, some subjects (like modern language teaching) were more adversely affected by this delivery mode, and students’ ability to participate effectively has sometimes been compromised by domestic issues regarding the serviceability of their devices, wifi problems and so on; nevertheless, the system worked well overall.
The school sought to maintain normal end-of-year exams and testing, albeit without the ability to monitor performance as one might in an exam hall; therefore current year 13 students have sat additional, formal internal tests in September 2020 to enable staff to give accurate grade predictions for universities.
Of course, more teaching time has therefore been lost. Our school calendar concludes the academic year at the end of June 2020. This is unfortunate, as this coincided with the ending of lockdown, as more and more year groups in other schools with longer summer terms were returning to school. As lockdown eased from mid-June, our day students in year 12 were mostly seeking to attend school, if they could arrange travel, but lessons remained virtual for all. Boarders living further afield were not able to return to school; in particular, international boarders clearly were not able to rejoin the community, and had the additional challenge of attending lessons in a different time zone (sometimes late at night) and might have had to listen to recordings instead, without the live component.
Our Co-curricular element, usually a strength, has been profoundly affected – in particular, there is only now a gradual return to some sporting activity within the school; drama and other group activities have been postponed, although some individual 1-2-1 activities have survived using Teams.”