Unlocking Your Child's Potential When Learning from Home – some FAQs
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At the High School of Dundee, we work hard to give our pupils the best school experience whenever they find themselves learning from home.
Our focus is on enabling every pupil to achieve their full potential. Our Integrated Curriculum therefore brings together the academic, the co-curricular and pupil health and wellbeing to provide a coordinated, genuine all-round education with the pupil at the heart irrespective of whether they are learning on-campus or from home.
As every school has approached online learning from home in different ways, here are some of the more frequently asked questions about how we have achieved the very best learning environment for our pupils in Junior and Senior Years.
Online Learning FAQs
Do all of your subjects/departments continue teaching during lockdown/periods of online learning?
Yes, in Senior Years we are able to provide a full timetable with live lessons (delivered through Microsoft Teams and recorded where appropriate) in all subjects across all year groups just as though you are in school. During the last lockdown, more than 600 live lessons were taking place in the Senior Years each week.
Resources and materials are regularly uploaded to our Virtual Learning Environment (Firefly). Again, as if you are in school, teachers are available for support and guidance.
In Junior Years, we provide age and stage appropriate learning across every school day. The timetable focuses on core subjects such as English, Maths, Geography, History and Science, interspersed with lessons in PE, Music, French and PSHE. Teaching is delivered through live lessons with resources and study materials, appropriate for each age and stage, being uploaded through Teams and Firefly. During the last lockdown, around 220 live lessons were taking place each week in the Junior Years.
As if you are in school, teachers are available for support and guidance.
Does your co-curriculum run when pupils are following online learning?
Yes, where possible co-curricular activities such as CCF, music ensembles, sporting activities, Debating Society, our Pupil Newsletter and Duke of Edinburgh, continue in various ways. These include live meetings on Teams, pre-recorded challenges on Instagram, live music performances, etc. We do all we can to keep as much as we can going, and have found innovative ways to do so!
Can pupils still take part in practical, hands-on work? e.g. PE classes; science etc.
Yes, all subjects continue and, where possible, practical learning can take place in a variety of ways from home. Our staff – and pupils – have found ways to ensure that the practical aspects of some subjects are met. For example Chemistry experiments take place using resources found in the home; Environmental Quality Surveys are completed in the home area to support learning in Geography. Departments also reschedule their programmes of work to ensure that essential practical work is completed on our return to school.
Can pupils still take their music lessons?
Yes, in both the Junior and Senior Years, individual instrumental music lessons continue via Teams. During the most recent lockdown, our Music Department staff were delivering more than 500 individual tuition lessons each week, with class lessons also taking place.
How does the timetable operate during periods of online learning?
Our timetables are age and stage appropriate. In Senior Years the in-school timetable is simply moved online to ensure that all subjects continue as normal. This session, to reduce pupil movement around our campus, our pupils have been learning in 3-hour blocks – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. For pupils completing National 5 qualifications, they have half a day of each subject per week. For pupils completing Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications, they have two half days of each subject per week. Pupils in Forms 1 and 2 are timetabled on a two-week rotation so that they cover the full curriculum each fortnight.
Although 3-hour lessons were a big change for our pupils this year, they have adapted quickly and now recognise the benefits of extended time to delve into subjects in depth, as well as time to move learning outdoors. Lessons are broken down into shorter sections, to include live teacher input and discussion, an independent task(s) and then a return to the live lesson to discuss progress and findings. There is a morning break, a lunch break and an afternoon break to ensure pupils have sufficient time to stretch their legs and get fresh air. Short rest breaks are also provided in between where required.
In the Junior Years, time is allocated and planned by the teachers to cover the learning objectives and subjects in the curriculum, but – as is appropriate for the age of the pupils - the teacher is more involved in the timetable throughout the day. Regular breaks are built into the day.
Where pupils require to learn from home whilst the remainder of the class is in school, they can join the lessons via Teams or watch a recording.
How does your guidance system operate to ensure my child's pastoral needs and general wellbeing are being looked after?
In Senior Years, every child has a dedicated Guidance Teacher who stays with them and supports them throughout all 6 years. During periods of online learning, pupils meet their Guidance Teacher every week during a live PSHE lesson on Teams. Pupils and their parents can continue to contact the Guidance Teacher via email or arrange a Zoom call for a chat at any time just as would happen in school. Subject teachers are also there to support pupils during their live lessons every day. Lockdown provides challenges for everyone and we keep a close eye on the wellbeing of our pupils during lockdown situations, and as they return to school.
In the Junior Years the class teacher keeps a caring and close watch on the children. If there are concerns the class teacher or Mrs Rose, Mrs Proudfoot or Mr Petrie will call the parents to ensure everything is alright and offer 1:1 support.
How do you ensure pupils get exercise during home-learning?
Fresh air and exercise is vital for general wellbeing and in enabling young people to learn as effectively as they can. During online learning, the lunch break in the Senior Years is extended by 30 minutes to allow the opportunity for a walk or other form of exercise. This also affords our pupils more time to make and eat lunch, to engage with their families and to have a proper break away from screens.
In both the Junior Years and the Senior Years, PE remains part of the curriculum, with live lessons taking place for every pupil each week. A variety of choices are offered to encourage engagement, for example, yoga, HIIT, Couch to 5K running programmes, Dance, Hockey and Rugby. We also set Get Active challenges that pupils – and sometimes whole families! - can take part in after school and at weekends. Some of them can contribute to house points too.
How are friendship and social circles maintained?
In Junior Years lessons begin a little earlier than scheduled to allow for some social chat beforehand. Taking part in fun online activities and our Rainbow Round Up challenges is another great way to keep connected with friends and classmates too. The Junior Years Rainbow Roundup every Friday is a bit like a virtual assembly and connects pupils across the school by celebrating what’s been going on throughout the Junior Years. Teachers also find ways to bring the class together through online celebrations and parties. This is particularly helpful in ensuring that those in the School’s Care Hub (which may run for the children of key workers) have the chance to ‘meet up’ with the children who are home-learning.
In the Senior Years, online assemblies take place regularly, bringing pupils together and making sure they feel central to the school community. Many co-curricular activities continue to run, and friendly competitive fun is a key part of our PE activity challenges. PSHE lessons focus on time to talk with peers and catch-up with each other, while many subject teachers offer fun activities during short breaks to encourage friendly engagement with peers.
Can my child join the school during a period of home-learning? How will you ensure they settle in?
Yes, we have new families joining all the time. In Senior Years your guidance teacher will have a Zoom chat to get to know the pupil (and their family). Sometimes they will bring in a few buddies who are likely to have the same interests as your child. During live lessons, we encourage our pupils to have their cameras on, especially in Breakout Rooms, so that new pupils can get to know their classmates in a virtual way. Similar to being in school, joining some of our co-curricular activities is another great way to get to know more pupils, ensuring a great network of friends once in-school learning returns.
In Junior Years it is much the same as the class teacher will introduce a new pupil to the class and our buddy system ensures that all new pupils feel welcome, can settle in and make friends.
How does home learning differ from in school learning?
We appreciate that online learning can’t exactly replicate the in-school experience, but we do our very best to try to recreate the same experiences from home. There is no reduction in academic learning - all subjects continue. A slightly longer lunchtime and morning and afternoon breaks in Senior Years ensure pupils have a chance to exercise and take a rest, with similar arrangements in place in the Junior Years. We make sure that pastoral care and wellbeing aren’t neglected, recognising that home learning can bring challenges for our young people. Where possible co-curricular activities continue too.
My child needs support from their teacher in a particular subject. How is this achieved?
If a pupil needs support this can be achieved in various ways: they can contact their class teacher directly about academic matters, or their Guidance teacher if they feel they are struggling more widely, either with the curriculum or with their general wellbeing.
If a pupil wants to ask for help with a particular subject, they can do so during a live lesson by asking the teacher directly or using the Teams Chat function. They can email their teacher too. This often results in a 1:1 Teams call being arranged. A single face-to-face support session (albeit virtually) may be all that is required to support your child, or a series of 1:1 meetings can be arranged.
Teachers provide feedback on work using Firefly and as parents you hear about your child’s progress via our virtual Parents’ Evenings too. As parents, it might be helpful to get in touch with your child’s Guidance Teacher if you feel they may need support across a range of subjects.
How do you maintain interest and enthusiasm among pupils learning at home?
It can be hard to maintain focus when you have to learn from home; we recognise that. Teachers use a variety of different learning tools to break up the lessons and provide opportunities to submit creative forms of work, such as videos, animation, storytelling exercises, etc. Co-curricular challenges such as sport for House points, recording book reviews or holding baking competitions bring out creativity. Our pupils write a weekly magazine called Quarantimes with helpful tips, interviews and fun activities to keep everyone motivated. Our teachers are aware of the challenges and try to mix things up so that pupils experience the variety and stimuli to continue to achieve.
Does Support for Learning continue for pupils who are home-learning?
Yes, if you usually have a timetabled Learning Skills class you will tune into a live class on Teams. We have also ensured that additional support tools and techniques are available on Firefly to help with the challenges of learning from home. Your Learning Skills teacher is only an email or Teams chat away.
A flexible future
What we’ve put in place has been in response to COVID-19, but we think it’s also a crucial part of our future; we know that we’ll need to be flexible and agile as we move forwards and out of the pandemic. Our remote learning programme allows us to do that, ensuring that our pupils can continue with high quality education regardless of where or how they are learning. The pandemic has also reinforced vital whole school values such as togetherness and adaptability which have already served to strengthen our community.
Wellbeing and our values
Rector Lise Hudson says, “The wellbeing of our pupils is always our number 1 priority, and is something we have worked hard to protect and safeguard during lockdown; we listen to our pupils' concerns and their feedback and respond to their needs.
“We are a community that works to support each other and kindness is at the heart of all that we do. We have learnt how precious our shared humanity is and the power that we have to change the world for the better through our individual and collective actions.”
You can still join us when we are learning from home
Here at HSD we have children joining us all year round and even during periods of lockdown.
“My son has been very happy with the process so far. There is a good quantity of information/resources available for him. The online classes where there is real interactive teaching makes a big difference in enabling him to feel some confidence in the process of settling into a new school. To meet the teachers and to have some very basic interaction has been helpful for him to begin to feel a part of the school. Thanks to everyone for being so welcoming”.
Parent of a pupil who joined the school during lockdown
Our Admissions team is ready to answer your questions, give you a flavour of life at the School and, during periods of lockdown, we can also arrange virtual meetings with key members of teaching staff.
If you’d like to find out more about joining the school, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org