The Education Village Academy Trust have implemented a series of changes in their way of working following school closures to ensure that students have access to a fair education.
As closures were announced, staff at the Trust contacted parents to communicate that the school will be open to provide childcare support; especially for key worker parents, and to work out how many pupils would need to attend school. Alongside this, a list of pupils who need transport has been collated with a member of staff being in charge of arranging provisions.
Additionally, decision makers in the school have introduced ways of protecting staff members. Those who are parents have also been given support by the Trust who have allowed their children to attend Beaumont Hill Academy where needed, which has allowed them to continue to work. Also, to minimise social contact, the staff have been split into two teams, with one team working at the beginning of the week and the second working at the end of the week. By working in this manner it has allowed the schools to be prepared if more staff are required to self-isolate as time progresses.The introduction of ‘wellbeing champions’ has ensured that not only pupils are keeping themselves physically and mentally healthy, but the staff are also being supported.
The school is learning about the best way for them to become a support system for families who are within the school. To help increase their knowledge they have met with Major Shirley from the Salvation Army who provided the school with tips and tricks on the best ways to provide food to parents who are in need. For Free School Meal pupils there is a group of staff who are dropping off these each day, and those who are far away have been offered Asda vouchers. Mike Butler, CEO of the Trust said ‘ we have built up a bank of food, toiletries, drinks and essentials and delivered around 40 hampers to those families who are going to find this time extremely difficult.’ He also added ‘one parent rang school upset as she struggled to find any size 6 nappies when shopping today, immediately staff jumped into action, went to the shops, found her some and dropped them off at home for her.’ Examples like these show how our teachers are stepping up to support not only their students but their whole school community.
As well as support for families, key focus is of course pupil support with schools in the Trust setting up a specific team of staff who are responsible for pastoral care and safeguarding those who are not attending school. They have also set up a Red, Amber and Green (RAG) system which allows staff to understand which pupils may need more contact than others and makes sure that the most vulnerable are not left feeling isolated. Those who are in Amber and Red groups are being contacted at least twice a week and house calls are made if there is any concern. Senior and Middle leaders have cases where they are required to make regular contact with some households along with key questions to ask which ensure the pupils are safeguarded whilst they are away from school. The staff who are delivering the free school meals have also been asked to help keep eyes on pupils where possible. The senior leaders are monitoring the call logs to make sure checks are being made. In situations where parents of high risk students have requested to keep the children out of school staff have been working closely with social workers to ensure the wellbeing of the students.
The way in which lessons are delivered has shifted to incorporate the ‘FROG Virtual Learning Environment’ where work can be shared through a variety of methods which all ensure that there is a good level of understanding from students. EYFS pupils have been using a program called ‘Tapestry’ to access work. For both of these virtual learning spaces the parents have been given step-by-step instructions which explain how to use these sites which are being regularly updated by staff. The schools have also responded positively to requests from parents whether it is for work packs to be supplied or the need for pens, paper, paints, etc. the school has worked to meet these needs. Also, the use of the parent app has allowed teachers to check on how pupils are progressing with tasks.
This level of care from the staff for their whole school community, not just students, also combined with efficient communication through their parent app, letters and their Facebook page is an excellent example of how North East schools are raising the bar during a period of uncertainty.