When the lockdown was announced in mid-March the Thamesmead School Headteacher, Phil Reeves, the leadership team and IT department, immediately began planning how schooling could continue for over 1000 children in their care. Within a few days, a system had been set up for students and staff trained. By Tuesday 24th March, the second day of lockdown, fully interactive online learning was taking place. Students could follow their daily timetabled lessons live with their teachers in virtual classrooms, using the Microsoft Teams function remotely. Lessons are delivered by teachers from home in a variety of ways with videos, worksheets, PowerPoints and other resources. Teachers, students and their peers can speak to each other for support with all subjects and even continue with practical lessons such as PE, music and Food & Nutrition, where they have been completing physical challenges, using music creating software, and preparing meals.
Meanwhile, the school has remained open for children of key workers and those more vulnerable students. With support from Teaching Assistants and other support staff they can also access the online lessons. Students with special educational needs are also being supported individually with Teaching Assistants joining their online lessons and giving them 1-1 support remotely.
The extra-curricular activities have continued too. There is an online Filmmakers Club and students have made wonderful films about Positivity and Thankfulness during lockdown. House Points are still being rewarded in line with the school’s values of Resilience, Commitment, Independence, Confidence, Respect, Aspiration and Community. There is ‘Race Across the World’ house challenge where students can submit the kilometres they do exercising each day to see how far across the world the school can travel virtually. A ‘Capture the World’ challenge has seen students sharing their photographs on a range of themes each fortnight. Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme participants also progress with their awards by attending online training sessions such as First Aid.
Another challenge was that faced by Year 11, whose GCSE exams had been cancelled. The Careers Team are sending regular newsletters with updates and resources from their new colleges, apprenticeship links and webinars for advice. A supermarket style queuing system was put in place so that they could safely deliver books, papers and assignments for review by the teachers who are assessing their work for GCSE grades. For the expected new students, teaching and support staff are working to prepare for the new Year 7s who face a somewhat different start to their secondary school life. The SCITT team also prepare remotely for new staff joining the Teacher Training scheme in September.
In support of those in most need the school has administered the Free School Meals scheme, worked with the Jubilee Church and Shepperton Aurora Rotary to provide food parcels and vouchers and made over 400 PPE visors for local care homes and nursing teams, which have been in very high demand. Some recipients include care homes in Sunbury, Shepperton and Laleham, Shooting Star Hospice, Princess Alice Hospice, staff at HMP Send, Richmond children’s nursing team, St Peter’s paediatrics, the Downs Syndrome Association, Sunbury GP surgery, Playwam, Cygnet Nursery, St Mary’s Primary Byfleet, West Byfleet Infants and Steyning Primary (West Sussex!). 150 science department safety goggles were donated to the Phase Council for local hospitals. The school was able to buy 40 extra laptops to support those without IT equipment at home and set up a loan system with support on how to access lessons. A handful more were acquired through the government’s laptop scheme. However, if there were any members of the local community who were able to help the school get more laptops to students who are sharing devices or depending on phones and tablets to access the online provision it would be greatly appreciated. We have also seen news of students making PPE visors at home and even dying their hair blue to raise money for the NHS charities.
It has been clear that parents and students have hugely appreciated the way the teaching timetable has remained in place with structured lessons enabling learning to continue and parents to continue in their work. The school has received so many emails of thanks including:
“I have nothing but respect and appreciation for all the hard work that’s happening in the school to try and keep lessons and learning at the top of the agenda, for the long term good of your students.”
“It’s clear you have the very best interests of the students and your staff at the very heart of everything you have done.”
“Overall the real care from all the staff for the pupils as their top priority has come through so clearly.”
“I literally couldn’t be more impressed with Thamesmead school. What a difficult task to set up online, virtual classrooms in record times. The lessons/teachers are amazing, proper lessons in real time, real learning going on.”
“I just wanted to say thank you and I’m so glad we chose Thamesmead”
The school continues to make plans in light of the most recent government advice and looks forward to a time when all staff and students can be welcomed back into the school building to continue their learning and be a real community again.