Education as we know it has completely changed since the UK entered its first national lockdown in March last year.
Since the start of 2021, most children of school age have found themselves once again adapting to online learning and virtual classrooms.
West Lodge Primary School in Pinner is one of the many schools that has stepped up to support students and their families.
PinnerNews spoke to the West Lodge Primary’s Headteacher, to find out more about how the school has shifted to online learning.
Headteacher Mr Jim Dees said: “It has been a real story of collaboration, with constant innovation and learning. Collaboration amongst the West Lodge staff team, with the parents, governors and with other local schools.
“The schools in the Pinner cluster have been amazing, meeting regularly, sharing ideas, documents and research helping us come to the best decisions for our schools. The connection with other local schools has been really powerful, it has been a real Pinner collaboration.”
“Then we have a wider network with Harrow Schools and the support from the local authority and Harrow Public Health and there is also a weekly meeting with a national network of schools where we are able to tap into the latest advice. All the different levels of collaboration have been really key in helping us to chart a course through the storm.”
West Lodge Primary has kept a strong sense of community spirit throughout with regular live whole school assemblies and special events. In the most recent lockdown, a challenge was set for the school to work together to climb the equivalent of the highest mountains in the world by climbing stairs.
The Friends of West Lodge (FOWLS) have been involved, finding innovative ways to bring the community together. During the autumn term, FOWLS raised money to purchase air filtration units for the classrooms, guided by the research and advice from Mr Rollason, also a parent.
Headteacher Mr Dees noted that working as a team with parents and teachers has been a key part of the home learning success. He said: “One thing we have valued is getting parental and staff feedback on how things are going by carrying out regular surveys and adapting and tweaking things based on this.”
Parents have been impressed with the school’s efforts to maintain a sense of normality and structure to the students’ days by operating classes and assemblies virtually.
West Lodge Parent Visha Sodhi, whose daughter Saakshi is in Year 1 said: “The first lockdown took the whole world by surprise, everybody was almost in shock, no public infrastructure could cope. Now we are more used to this different way of life and the school has been fantastic.
“As soon as the announcement was made, Headmaster Mr Dees was on a Zoom call on the Sunday for a few hours, answering questions from parents. The school has created this amazing online learning programme. A lot of prep and thought has gone into this and West Lodge parents are very grateful. It’s the drive and determination of the teaching staff that has made it such a success.
“The reality is most children are struggling, especially those at the beginning of their school life. They are learning how to interact with peers for the first time.”
The switch to online learning has naturally seen an increase in pupils screen time. Some parents have been concerned that children are finding it difficult to switch off. West Lodge has incorporated ‘Mindful Mondays’ into the weekly timetable: for one afternoon a week, children work on creative tasks away from their screens to help reduce screen time.
Parents and guardians have had to make changes to ensure home learning is a success.
Visha said: “Parents have to come up with creative ways to work together. There is much greater pressure on parents now and you do feel overwhelmed at times with working, constant meal preparation, home learning and making sure the kids are happy as they aren’t going out interacting with friends and family. It is a lot for parents to juggle and we all feel it to varying degrees.”
Headteacher Mr Dees said that parents and governors have been understanding and incredibly supportive with the transition to home learning. When the first lockdown was announced, Mr Nahata, a parent, helped set up the school with Zoom accounts and trained the teachers on how to use this tool effectively.
Mr Dees added: “The real stars are the children, who have been so resilient and period throughout this period.”