Case Study article
Case Study: Marine Park First School, Whitley Bay
We spoke to Stephen Easton, headteacher at Marine Park First School. Based in Whitley Bay, the school accommodates up to 520 children aged 3-9 years old.
During lockdown, how did you manage remote learning?
We used a combination of school-generated and other resources during the national lockdown, but are now using Oak because we know that it is curriculum-mapped and can be used in a range of ways. This allows us to develop a comprehensive learning offer over time if we have to become reliant on a remote learning plan intermittently or for extended periods.
What are your plans for remote learning for the coming term?
Unfortunately, we had three classes that had to go into lockdown at the end of the first week of the autumn term after positive tests – that’s nearly a fifth of the school in isolation within the first five days. This was much more than expected – and much sooner.
We developed and followed a flowchart to move to remote learning at short notice and we’ve ensured that pupils have access to emails and VLE logins. It also allows for the provision of video calls with the class keeping the class community together.
We have found that allowing some flexibility seems to promote engagement and participation. In the early stages, we have allowed parents and pupils to share completed work and learning by email, photos or attachments whilst we gauge the most popular and useful form of work submission.
Next, helping pupils to join our online class streamlines the process of assigning learning tasks. The great thing is that it’s possible to integrate lessons from Oak into email or to a VLE. The online classroom allows us to offer remote tasks (including homework) as well as traditional written homework.
Our aim was to have systems in place before we encountered class isolations, but with so many children off in the second week, the imperative became to establish things much more quickly. Now these classes are back and we are trying to keep the remote learning infrastructure ticking over so we’re ready to go if any future isolations occur.
What sort of issues do you face around remote learning?
The early class isolations had a ripple effect when we’d just welcomed back pupils to school for the first time since March: some of those required to self-isolate have siblings which creates logistical problems; some families have members with underlying health conditions; some parents may have feelings of anxiety about whether to send their child in. These factors can result in higher absences across the school community.
One of the biggest challenges we face is when small numbers are absent, rather than a whole class. If the whole class is in isolation, a teacher can also work remotely to support learners. However, when most of the class are in school, there are competing pressures. If a teacher has a class of 29 full time, it is very difficult to provide remote learning for one that is absent.
This is where Oak comes into its own. The schedule of daily lessons offers an immediate solution for families that are self-isolating.
The option to download and print resources (at home or school) is a popular addition. This is important to provide physical copies to those that need them as not all pupils have reliable technology readily available.
How are you getting pupils and parents ready for potential remote learning?
We are planning ahead in a way that fully integrates our remote learning platform into homework so that parents do not face barriers because they aren’t sure how to access work at short notice. We have found it helpful to have a video introducing them to Oak and showing them how to use a VLE.
And staff, how are you preparing them for remote learning?
Staff are embedding blended learning into their practice to support the fast-paced nature of classes isolating. Developing a flow chart has helped everyone know what they need to do for everything to work well.
Some schools are using Oak in other ways - are you?
We’ve also been using and would recommend schools consider using Oak for some homework activities. This helps raise the profile of this resource and helps teachers, parents and pupils get used to using it. It then means we can scale this up when needed for full remote learning.
We think that there may be opportunities to integrate flipped learning so children are able to look at an Oak lesson before we cover it in class. This will also help bridge gaps between school and individuals isolating.
We also think it could be used for ‘post learning’ or ‘catch up’ for children who need to revisit previous or less secure learning.
What have you learned from lockdown that will help you with remote learning this term?
We’ve learnt that the changing nature of the situation means we have to be prepared, without much notice, to switch from classroom to remote learning and keep it relevant and effective. Having a clear plan that can be picked up immediately is very important.
And what would you say about Oak to other teachers?
Oak can be used in a range of ways. It offers a continuously updated schedule of immediate learning for individuals or whole classes. This gives a valuable buffer to schools whilst school led remote learning clicks in.
Schools can also search for lessons which match the learning that would have taken place in school. These lessons are integrated very easily into the school system and are user-friendly for parents and children.
It would be a good investment to start using Oak on a VLE regularly to familiarise everyone with it before you rely on it. Getting staff and pupils comfortable on whichever platform you choose will pay dividends.
Support your staff to link to Oak’s lessons through the learning platform and set a lesson as a homework assignment in your VLE. Alongside this, encourage pupils to submit photos or attachments of work completed to ensure you know which households are able to do so and are engaged in the process.
What else would you like to tell us?
We are very impressed with all that the Oak team have done in these unprecedented times and in such a short period. We really appreciate the fact that Oak has created such a versatile package. There are millions of children that can continue to learn during isolation as a result. It can also be used in other innovative ways to support learning at other times.