In this spotlight Henley School describes how they created an effective and meaningful online/hybrid learning experience for their ākonga. This required thoughtful planning and involved input and feedback from students, parents/whānau and staff. After engaging with their community (and their learnings from previous lockdowns) the school modified their approach to ensure that all families and students were engaged and taking an active part in learning.
Henley School is a large primary school that draws from a diverse demographic. They have children with professional parents that have been working from home during COVID-19 and would continue to do so. Other parents/whānau were juggling pre-schoolers and some continued to work as essential workers.The Seesaw platform is used to share children’s work and the school had an up-to-date register of those families that had internet and email connectivity. Families took advantage of this and used it as a communication tool rather than a learning platform during lockdowns and Alert Level 3. Most families are familiar with the platform and can access content online, which also helped the school identify the families that did not have devices and/or internet access who needed additional support. Teachers connected with the identified families to ensure they were supported and provided devices, alternative learning materials, and structure.
What we did
Gathered feedback and made changes
The school engaged stakeholders after each lockdown seeking feedback on online/hybrid learning. A focus group of parents was contacted for feedback by the Principal and this parental input was used to shape up modifications for further development of hybrid learning. Feedback from the focus group indicated parents wanted appealing, engaging content that would require minimal parent input and time. At the same time, they wanted interesting activities that would engage children throughout the day.
Consistency, consideration for families
Students said that they like structure, which the school achieved through deploying a remote learning programme that is consistent across the school without adding additional pressure on families. The key messages were:
- not too many learning activities and resources
- activities that are fun and familiar
- students have a sense of belonging and connection when engaging online
- consideration is given to blended families and students that move between households
- consideration for children in different syndicates at Henley School. Timings to be staggered to cater for households with limited connectivity or fewer devices
- some parents had children at three different schools, and this needed to be taken into consideration
- reducing the number of ‘clicks’ to get to the relevant page
Provided a two-week programme of online learning for remote learners
Teachers had a collaborative planning session to incorporate the feedback into the online teaching content using the structure provided by the Ministry. Staff decided to structure students’ learning in a Google Slide format as it is simple and accessible. Three different sets of slides were created, one for each syndicate level. These slides all followed the same format – a set of slides for the week, broken into each day and then a slide for each subject area. Each day began with a timetable slide and a total of 10 days of lessons were made available for students who had to isolate. The school created a Learning from Home link from their website for easy and quick access.
Example of a Set of Slides for the week
Junior Syndicate Timetable Wednesday, Week 1
Slides based on subject areas were carefully designed for the year levels, with the aim of supporting students, for the most part, to work independently. Science, PE, and Art slides were consistent across the syndicates so that families could work together. Slides in these subjects were simplified for the lower levels.
Slides were interactive and engaging (music, visual, videos and links) with a focus for current topics or events.
Junior Syndicate Timetable Wednesday, Week 1
Provided modified learning programmes for those without online access
The lessons were modified for families who did not have devices/internet connection. They were given hard copies (without the links) and the required resources and stationery.
Pastoral care and wellbeing check-ins
Incorporated into each day was a set class Zoom session at the beginning of the day, staggered in syndicates so that families could attend all sessions. This allowed families with one device and more than one sibling at the school, to attend all the classroom sessions. The purpose of the Zoom sessions was purely to connect with students and families and was not used as a teaching tool. This gave teachers a sense of how things were for students at home and an insight into the family with a focus on pastoral care and wellbeing. The Senior Leadership Team was rostered to “check-in”, and they attended Zoom sessions to get a sense of what family support might be required and to monitor staff wellbeing. Teachers and senior leaders monitored students’ attendance during the Zoom session and connected with disengaged families offline, providing support and resources.
Kāhui Ako collaboration
The Waimea Kāhui Ako helped the 12 schools in the cluster by making shared folders available to put units of work or slides into for others to access. Henley School also worked closely with other Waimea Campus Schools to ensure messaging and communication out to parents was consistent and accurate. A high degree of sharing of resources across the schools took place due to the close connections they have as a Kāhui Ako.
Summary of key actions
- Seesaw was used as a tool to ensure all parents were contactable online and as a medium to send home learning Zoom links. The school phoned parents personally if they weren’t already connected.
- Staff and families were trained and supported to use Zoom.
- The school took note of who attended daily Zoom sessions and provided support where needed, without putting pressure on parents to have their children attend every day. Zoom sessions were used purely to connect with children, chat with them and to introduce the learning for the day.
- A strength was teachers’ commitment as professionals to do the best for their students and to support colleagues through the process so that they were able to provide the best support for their classes.
- Daily “themes” were used to engage and encourage attendance e.g., Pet Day, Pyjamas Day, Dress-ups etc. Zoom sessions ended with a “social time” for students where they could freely chat and socialise.
- The school’s focus was on engagement and support but without adding additional stress on families while isolating.
- A strong home-school partnership ensured that vulnerable students were engaged. Teachers knew their families, were mindful of different cultures, and used the challenge of hybrid learning to build even stronger relationships with families.
- Principal connected with disengaged families to discuss what support was required to engage with learning.
- Focus on family and time; parents given autonomy to choose learning activities that are suitable and engaging for their children, rather than teachers prescribing what students needed to complete.
- Senior Leadership Team connected with Syndicate Leaders and teachers regularly to reflect, ensure staff wellbeing and to discuss any challenges and problem solve.
- School devices were made available for families to use.
What have you learned?
Reflections or observations from leaders or teachers
Parents appreciated the opportunity to give feedback and help co-construct the online learning programme. Getting their perspective meant that the Henley School Learning at Home programme was consistent no matter what level of the school their child/ākonga was in. The simple ‘home page’ from our school website meant that it was easy for parents to navigate to. We also mailed out the links through our Student Management System eTAP and via our school Facebook page.
Reflections or observations from students and/or parents and whānau
Feedback was mainly about the simplicity of the approach used and how we had a coordinated approach across the school. The use of ‘themes’ was popular as it meant that families were focussed on one main topic for the duration of the work. This required close coordination by the planning teams in each Syndicate. The elevated level of student engagement indicates that the programme was well received.
Reflections on the challenges / barriers to success
Initially some teachers were challenged by the rapid move to learning from home so the Senior Leadership team ensured that they were supported by being ‘buddied’ up with a more confident colleague.
So what is next?
Henley School is well prepared if we had to move to online learning. We have increased the technical capacity of our staff and we have ensured that it is not all dependant on one person. We have a number of ‘experts’ at various levels of the school to ensure a succession plan is in place.
Learning from home could be used in the event of another pandemic but equally it could be used following an adverse weather event or natural disaster.