'We've all had to adapt and evolve' - Hatfield head on coping with pandemic
- Credit: OSA
Heads, teachers and support staff from schools across Welwyn and Hatfield are celebrating their achievements in the face of unprecedented pressures brought on by the pandemic.
The last 18 months has brought about unprecedented challenge for schools with successive lockdowns and two summer exam series without formal exams.
Schools have been faced with providing remote learning, supporting vulnerable students and the children of keyworkers on-site in addition to the huge logistical challenges of keeping staff and students safe and administering lateral flow tests to the whole community.
They have also had to undertake Centre Assessed Grades for all students in Year 11 and Year 13 for the past two years, which have had to be moderated to ensure they are accurate and reflect the level of work students have completed or would be capable of achieving.
David Bullock, headteacher of Onslow St Audrey's School in Hatfield, explained how they have coped with these experiences.
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"It has involved every member of staff at OSA and created a strong team ethos for everyone involved.
"One of the key challenges we have all faced is providing remote learning and devices to enable students to learn at home. Initially we had to audit our students and families to establish how much support was needed to enable them to access their online provision.
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"As a school we received over 100 laptops from the Department for Education which needed to be configured by our IT team before being allocated to our students.
"We had an incredible response from our local community to support this process with laptops and devices being donated from a variety of sources, including: ASDA, Computer Friendly, Hatfield Rugby Club, JJ Burgess and Love Hatfield. A huge thankyou for all these donations- they made a real difference."
Based on feedback from students and staff OSA launched Google Classroom to the whole school last September, which significantly improved their remote provision and enabled teachers to provide ‘live’ lessons, mark and feedback students’ work, host assemblies and develop a far more engaging platform for learning.
At the school's most recent Challenge Partners Review in June, it was reported that the development of Google Classroom had a positive impact during the lockdown and ensured the school was very well prepared to teach online, while allowing blended learning since the return to school.
David was keen to highlight some of the positives of the past year: "This lockdown has provided students with the opportunity to improve their IT skills and understanding of learning in new ways as well as developing their resilience and independence."
His team of teachers and leaders have had to reflect on how they ensured students continued to make progress and learn remotely; exploring new ways to teach, new resources to access and being more creative than ever.
Meetings and briefings took place on Microsoft Teams and Google Meets, including recruitment, staff training and virtual parents’ evenings.
He added: "We have all had to change, adapt and evolve which has opened up new avenues of learning for our whole school. This experience has galvanised us together as a community and really value the relationships which exist in schools and society. It has also made all our local schools work closer together to share ideas and we have been fortunate to work with the consortium of schools in Welwyn Hatfield to support this process.
"As we move towards the end of term, we have a great deal to celebrate. Over the next two weeks we have our OSAwards ceremonies to reward and acknowledge the amazing work of our young people in spite of the challenges they have faced.
"Never more so has our school vision of opportunity, success and ambition been more relevant and we will continue to support our whole school community to ensure that we achieve success together."