Distance Learning at Teesside High School

Monday 11 May 2020 | By Samantha Hockney

If someone had told me earlier this year that millions of us would be working from home while we lived through a global pandemic, I would have said ‘that’s impossible!’

If someone had told me we would have to send home our Teesside High School family, temporarily closing our doors and making online, distance learning standard for all…impossible!

Seven weeks later, we continue to live this new reality.

The time has flown. It is quite an overused phrase at the moment, but this really is an unprecedented situation. Although as the cliché goes, I am so proud to see that the Teesside High School community really has made the impossible…possible.

We are proud to have been delivering distance learning to all pupils since Monday 23 March. The staff at Teesside High School continue to work hard to adapt to this challenge, innovating and developing new ways of working and using our expertise to meet the changing needs of our pupils. We truly have joined together to get through this tricky time, standing by our THS families and serving them proudly.

Our first two weeks of distance teaching and learning felt like a rollercoaster; it was unsettling for many pupils and they had to dig deep to find the resilience and tenacity needed to change from such a familiar routine. We found the following guidance for pupils helpful:

  • Stick to a daily timetable. We quickly created a new distance learning timetable for younger pupils in Prep and shortened lessons slightly in the Senior School and Sixth Form to ensure everyone had a daily, and even hour-by-hour, focus.
  • Create a productive learning environment, away from distractions and interruptions.
  • Yet still, be flexible. As a 3-18 school, we have families with both toddlers in Nursery and teenagers in Year 10; we understand the complexities of home learning and are on hand to support those for whom sticking to a rigid timetable was not as easy as they hoped.
  • Prioritise your health and well-being. We send daily riddles and pastoral challenges to get students away from their screens for periods of time, embracing skills such as creativity through a weekly photography challenge, for example.
  • Share your success. We made it a priority to continue to showcase and celebrate our pupils’ achievements, even from a distance.

Our incredible staff have been delivering over 1000 lessons a week via Google Meet and Google Classroom; each lesson following personalised and purposeful learning journeys adopted from schemes of work which would have been followed just as if we were in school.

Our students have not let us down – we have seen amazing work produced during this time. Just last week our Head of Biology was able to share her favourite moments from Attenborough documentaries with Year 7 students exploring predators as part of their learning. They followed up the lesson with some fantastically creative and imaginative predators of their own! Further down the school, children in Years 1 and 2 have been challenged to games of Google Meet bingo in their Mathematics lesson, reinforcing their learning on tens and ones. The personalised, tailored learning and outstanding challenge and support that Teesside High School is renowned for has not stopped, just changed in style.

We register students in each lesson, as we would in school, and have found engagement to be very positive.  In the Senior School, for example, engagement for w/c 27 April across all year groups stood at 95% – a figure we are extremely proud of.

As a Senior Team, we work with great foresight to ensure our students will not be disadvantaged by COVID-19 in the months and even years to come. We recently adapted our teaching timeframes for A-level study for Year 12 and GCSE study for Year 9, amending timetables to suit option choices and ensuring we had plentiful time to teach, recap and revise ahead of GCSE examinations in two years’ time. Similarly, we devised an online transition programme for those heading to our Sixth Form, aware they have a long stretch out of education over the summer months due to the sudden closure of school. Year 11 and Year 13 also said their farewells virtually last week in organised celebration events. Such approaches have been commended by parents, pleased to see the school adapting to not only give students the best possible chance of success, but to take care of the smaller things that often mean the most.

Best of all, we have retained our fantastic school community spirit, with family quiz nights, a virtual VE Day music concert and a weekly #ClapForCarers.

‘Thank you for doing a great job in these difficult times. The setting of work and home school communication has been brilliant. We are all really proud to be part of the Teesside High community.’

We are eternally grateful for the kindness and support from our students and their families, providing us with the reassurance and motivation whilst also doing an incredible job themselves to facilitate learning from home.

We are a community with a common goal.

Becoming a teacher was my dream for as long as I can remember. Thinking back to when I was newly qualified, there were days (and long nights!) when I wondered if my teaching was making a difference. Then I would see a student’s face light up when they finally understood something, I would get a thumbs up in the corridor or find a ‘thank you’ note on my desk and I would know, for sure, it is worth it.  During this time, teachers have rightly been recognised amongst many vital key workers for the job they do and the value they add to the lives of young people.

We now find ourselves in a settled and strangely ‘normal’ way of working; despite the absence of our beautiful school grounds and usual contact with colleagues and friends. Surroundings aside, and whilst social distancing remains, the important thing is that we still have each other. We are embracing this situation together, and we will continue to strive to deliver the very best we can each and every day.

I wish to thank each and everyone of our staff members and pupils for such a collaborative team effort – you have made this possible. Each day brings a new unknown, but please remember, ‘we are all in this together.’

Mrs Harrington

Assistant Head, Teaching and Learning at Teesside High School