Some are bringing in extra money with additional overtime and a surge in business. Some are loving the chance to home-school, whilst others are struggling to manage that on top of working remotely themselves. Some have faith and hope, some say the worse is yet to come. We are all facing the same enemy in the form of the virus, but we are very aware that we are all experiencing a very different journey through it. As a Senior Leadership Team, we have worked tirelessly to try to ensure that our pupils and parents feel supported through this period of lockdown so that they still have a structure and routine that is so important, that they do not ever feel alone or disconnected from our community, that our pupils are still excited to learn and develop, and that they are given opportunities to focus on their emotional and mental wellbeing as well as their academics.
Remote Academic Learning
In our remote learning parent survey, we were delighted to hear that 100% of respondents were happy that their child felt well connected to the School; 81% said that the overall workload was right; 95% said that the frequency and detail of communication was right and 95% said that the physical activity provision was good.
Remote lessons: In the Senior School, we are aiming to follow the normal school timetable as far as possible and live lessons are delivered via Teams. For the few remaining non-live lessons (mostly single period lessons or where staff are absent), we set work via Firefly to ensure that all our pupils are still making as much academic progress as they can during these unusual times. Our staff are all on hand to answer any queries or questions and are all working hard to make sure that each pupil has enough work but without feeling overwhelmed.
In the Preparatory School, teaching is set using a dual approach allowing families with young children some degree of flexibility when trying to juggle so much. The day starts with Form Time, allowing pupils to prepare for the day ahead, to share some social time as well as looking at personal, health, social and emotional learning that is so important at this time. Daily, using Microsoft Teams, Maths and English sessions take place for all but our very youngest pupils. Staff expect pupils to work independently during part of these lessons but remain online to support, answer questions and queries to try and simulate as much as the normal classroom experience as possible. Our youngest pupils have Form Time too and it includes counting games and a separate phonics session. Some of the lessons that are more conducive to ‘live’ lessons such as Music and Spanish are also features of our week. The rest of the curriculum, including PE, History and The Arts, are accessed through pre-recorded videos and PowerPoints on Firefly and are made especially for our pupils. An overview of work and any accompanying useful information is shared with parents the evening before in order to help them prepare and structure their day for their family.
For all pupils, we have been very open with our recognition that sitting in front of a screen all day is tiring and not good for one’s mental or physical health. We are encouraging all teachers to incorporate into their lessons time for independent work which may be undertaken away from a screen. Pupils below Year 10 are not set additional homework – after all, all work is “homework” at the moment and we want to make sure that our pupils have the flexibility to do the equivalent of a 09:00 – 16:00 learning day, but also leave ample space for additional wellbeing, extra-curricular, social and family time which is so important at the moment as well. This has been incredibly well received by pupils, parents and also our staff who are working incredibly hard to prepare high quality remote lessons.
"I think the school has approached the remote learning brilliantly and cannot fault anything that you are doing. I would like to say that Dr Murphy, Miss Davies, Miss Barham and all the teachers have dealt with this unexpected situation very well with regular updates and communication. Grace is very happy and I am reassured that she is still getting an excellent education. I am so pleased that Grace is attending Loughborough Amherst School."
Remote Wellbeing provision
We have produced a document: Looking after your emotional and mental health during lockdown to give our pupils and parents some guidance and support with regards to wellbeing at this time when schools are closed.
We absolutely recognise that schools are more than just academic institutions and during this time, we as a staff wanted to ensure that our school continued to provide a caring and rounded education, helping to nurture confident, compassionate and above all, happy, young people.
We have set up a bespoke wellbeing page on Firefly which all of our parents and pupils can access. Every parent receives an email from the Pastoral Team every Monday morning to draw their attention to some of the fun challenges and activities that we are encouraging them to participate in.
The Wellbeing resources are broken down into the following categories. All activities are optional, but hopefully give pupils and parents a range of ideas to engage them:
A = activities (various fun activities for children, teenagers and their families – including practical activities such as cookery, and cultural recommendations, such as films and internet sites)
M= mental wellbeing (guidance and suggestions for relaxation, mindfulness and coping with stress)
H = health and fitness (resources to help provide healthy workouts and fun sporting activities)
E = educational guidance (resources to provide support with study skills, and some fun activities to help exercise the concentration, memory, logical skills and creative skills)
R = reading (recommendations for reading – and audio books – for all ages and levels, along with some useful book reviews and other articles related to reading)
S = spiritual life (weekly prayers and devotional guidance, along with reflections and assemblies, including a weekly video assembly from me)
T = tutor time = resources and activities for maintaining your tutor time (personal, social, health, citizenship and emotional) curriculum while at home
Our staff are missing our pupils! We have arranged twice weekly tutor sessions where the tutor can see their tutees, discuss how things are going and just see each other as a form group. Some are completing quizzes, sharing what they’ve been up to and even welcoming new members of the school that started last week!
Our tutors are also keeping in regular contact with parents. They are keeping a log of who we’ve heard from and who we haven’t, just so that we can follow up if anyone is struggling at this time.
The Heads of Year and Senior Deputy Head are daily and weekly monitoring who has been missing from any live lessons so we can then follow up if necessary and check they are ok – physically, mentally or technologically!
Some of our more vulnerable pupils are receiving 1:1 Zoom or email contact from identified staff. We have put together bespoke packages of support where needed and have regular meetings of the Pastoral Team to share any concerns or successes.
Our school counsellor is working with some pupils remotely aswell.
We are also conscious of the importance of staff wellbeing – lots of checking in with each other and there’s also a weekly staff quiz on Zoom for a little light relief too!
Celebration of Achievements
House points are still being awarded by staff for remote learning.
Our social media pages, in particular our Twitter accounts (@LboroAmherst and @LboroAMSport) are being updated regularly to share our pride in the efforts of our community with the wider world. The Preparatory School continues to make good use of Class Dojo and great work is being shared by class teachers on the class pages.
The Amherst community spirit is alive and well. Some of the messages we have received from our parents make us incredibly proud to be part of such a special team:
“I am just writing to thank you for your handling of the current crisis with regard to student learning, and especially in relation to your concern for getting the balance right between learning and mental wellbeing.”
“Thank you to all of your teachers who are working so hard to make this work and to adapt to a very different style of teaching. We appreciate their commitment!”
“I just wanted to thank you and your staff for the remote learning provision. My children are really enjoying the lessons and in particular the Zoom sessions. The way the remote sessions are being delivered is really helping us to still feel like part of the school. I think you and the rest of the staff are doing an amazing job.”
“Both of our children’s teachers were amazing in communicating with us and our children over the work set and I have no doubt that this will continue.”
“You’re all doing an amazing job – I keep telling everyone how amazing you are – not many other schools are doing as much and showing how much you care – we really do think a lot of you all.”
“Really pleased with how things are going. We are very pleased with the individual guidance that he is being given.”
“What a wonderful job the school and teachers are doing – we are really impressed.”