Andrew Richardson, headmaster at Sheringham High School, keeps us up to date with what’s happening at the school in his regular column
Everything about the covid crisis has been about distance. We must be physically apart; we might find ourselves emotionally apart; and we have been compelled to be educationally apart.
Recent press headlines and discussions have focused on the difficulties of engaging students without in-person contact. Some press reports have used statistics gathered in dubious ways to talk about the percentages of students who are actually working remotely. Indeed, a recent study by UCL has suggested that 20pc of students have done “little or no schoolwork” since lockdown.
Whatever the alleged national picture of student engagement in distanced learning, the crucial question that has emerged is: how do we engage learners when we are not together physically? It’s a complicated question and, as with most issues, there isn’t one solution, one style, or one computer program for increasing learner engagement and motivation.
But the answer, as with many things educational, seems to be what many of us call common sense!
Research seems to say that online teachers need to combine multiple strategies to reach learners and, unsurprisingly, they must be behavioural, cognitive and emotional. In short, teachers must set a variety of work. They must reply and feedback early and often, building relationships. There must be regular, simple parental feedback so that the carer knows what work is actually being submitted. There must be a caring ear and a personal call for students and parents.
Here, at Sheringham High and Sixth, we set work which can be done independently and in REAL households with all their individual restrictions such as connectivity issues and multiple use computers. We mark and feed back quickly. We track students fortnightly. Student managers and tutors ring home personally.
So, let me share our actual statistics since the closure on March 23 at Sheringham High, given that 20pc of students nationally seem not to have been engaged by their staff. On average, each of our students has completed 73pc of the work set on time. Only 0.4pc of students have completed no work since lockdown. More than one third of all our Year 7,8,9 and 10 students have submitted over 90pc of their work on time. A quarter have done ALL work set! Since March 23, our students have watched 7,033 podcasts on our GCSE Pod portal with usage doubling since last year.
Between March and June, 3,079 individual pieces of work have been set by our staff for Years 7-10 and 435 for Year 12. Over half of our sixth form students have completed 100pc of the work set.
If we believe what we are told about national statistics and the etymology of the word “remote” (to push away), what we have at Sheringham High and Sixth is an engaged, embraced learning community which is working well and bucking the national trend. Well done to students, parents, carers and staff.