Dear parents and carers of Stepney Park Primary School,
Apologies for the very long letter, there is quite a lot to cover this week..!
Thank you for your responses to our Remote Learning questionnaire, we have received around 100 responses from different families.
We are carefully considering everything you have said, please read the results and our response to some comments, questions and suggestions later on in this letter.
Of course we will also make sure that all of your positive individual feedback will be passed on to the staff.
Arrival in school
Can I please remind parents that children who are currently attending lessons in school must be dropped off by the main gate by 9.00 am at the latest. The big playground gates open just before this.
I have also noticed that some parents who drop their children off at school by car, park their car in a very unsafe way. I have seen parents double park their car and park their car just in front of the zebra crossing. Not only is this very unsafe, as it limits the view for approaching cars, it is also against the law. Please park your car in an available parking spot, even if this is a few minutes walk from the school.
Engagement with learning:
Thank you for all the fantastic work you are doing to encourage your children to engage with their remote learning. When a child does not attend the morning register, we will call you to check why this is the case unless you have told us that your child is absent from school. This is for safeguarding reasons and it is something we are expected to do. Please let us know in the morning before school starts if your child is not well enough to attend our online school, so we won’t need to call you instead. Thank you.
Some children have told their teacher that they have been visiting relatives or friends from another household, this seems to happen mainly on the weekends. I know most of our families are sticking to the ‘no household mixing’ rule very carefully, however a small minority of parents do not seem to follow this particular rule. I would like to make a plea on behalf of everyone, that all families carefully follow the Government guidance from now on.
I also need to remind parents to ensure that the whole family goes into self isolation, if any of the family members display any of the main Covid symptoms: a fever, a persistent cough or loss of smell/ taste. Please do not send your child into school if this is the case, even if they do not have any symptoms and even if that means you will be unable to attend work. Sending your child into school puts our staff and other families at risk, and this is not acceptable.
National Mental Health Week
Please remember to ensure your child gets plenty of exercise each day. Exercise is good for the mind, body and soul and it is excellent for maintaining good mental health.
As you may already have noticed, we have asked teachers to ensure that each child in their class has an opportunity to have some ‘discussion time’ in a small group each week. This is an opportunity for children to socialise and have a chat together. It may help them to stop feeling lonely and from feeling isolated from their friends.
We are aware that many children may have lost a relative or family friend during the pandemic. Please let us know if you feel your child will benefit from some bereavement support. We have some trained staff members who can offer support and some counselling.
Getting in touch with teachers during school hours.
I know that in an ideal world, parents should be able to get in touch with teachers directly and straight away if they have a question or a concern. However, like we would not expect a parent to walk into a class to ask the teacher a question during lesson time, we are not able to answer parental questions during online lesson hours. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or concerns. Teachers will get the email and either the teacher or the Milestone Lead will be in touch with you with a response. We try to do this on the same day where possible.
Parents are kindly requested to not:
Try to speak to the teacher at the end of a MEET.
Email the teacher directly with their child’s email.
Type messages on the Google Classroom stream or on Hangouts and Chat.
We have asked teachers to ensure that the work they set is appropriate for each child, and to offer additional support to individual children through Chats or Hangouts where needed. Your child knows how to request help from their teacher if they need this.
I know some teachers will find it difficult to remind parents who try to talk to them after a MEET, as they do not want to come across as uncaring or rude. However by talking to some parents during lesson time, they limit the time they can spend with children and provide support and feedback to all. We appreciate your understanding on this matter.
Feedback from our Remote Learning Parental Questionnaire:
Almost all of you (87%) said we have given families enough information about supporting children at home. A small percentage (8%) was not sure.
98% of parents said their child knows how to use their chromebook well. Comments included:
Hats down to the teachers for putting so much effort into teaching how to use the chromebook. My children are able to jump from meet to classroom, turn the work in, join the meeting, make a call, contact the teachers if needed.
Almost all parents said that their child was able to contact a member of staff during the day(92%). Some parents said they were not sure (3%).
80% of parents said they felt their child had enough work to do at home. Some parents said that the school needed to give more work, whilst some said school needed to give less work.
Parents said that most children are able to do their work at home well (91%). A small percentage of parents ( 5%) were not sure.
Here are some of the comments I have copied from the survey about what we are doing well:
There is enough work for children to complete and it’s challenging enough. There are also lots of extra links like bug club and sumdog that they have access to.
Myself and my son are very happy with the school teaching and communication and support. Thank you to every teacher, teaching assistant and support staff and everyone in school for their dedication and hard work.
It's good to see teachers and kids interact on a daily basis and teachers are setting work daily which is keeping the kids busy for a short while. My child has said she finds the meets very helpful and enjoyable because she gets to see and talk with her classmates and friends.
The numeracy and literacy sessions are conducted very well. The children get to participate and contribute during these sessions and it allows them to interact with their fellows and the teachers.
Definitely online teaching. But I believe this is only possible because the school so generously offered chrome books for each child. As a parent of 4 children, which are still in education, it would be almost impossible to provide enough devices for learning.
I love how well school communicates with family about the current situation and informs us about any changes to COVID regulations.
I don’t think there are enough words to express how grateful I am to all teachers, support staff and management team for providing such high quality of teaching during this terrible time.
We believe the staff at Stepney Park Primary School have worked extremely well at organising the remote learning for the children. We, the parents/children are really grateful for the learning they are being given everyday and are able to continue with their education from home. We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone and that we appreciate all the hard work.
Good focus on Maths and English (although he finds English a bit repetitive in style - but could be because he doesn’t enjoy it as much as maths). The chromebook is much appreciated as he doesn’t have to share devices anymore.
Stepney Park Primary School is very well resourced. They are providing children with everything they need for their learning.
Everything! We want to say a massive heartfelt thank you to the headteacher, all the staff, receptionists, everyone- for everything. For all the effort, hard work, care and support you are providing for every child in these difficult times. I’ve realised how much effort every teacher puts into every classroom every day (I could never be a teacher lol)! Thank you so much for supporting my child.
Of course, we also had some questions and comments and suggestions for improvement. We know we have been on a massive learning journey and are constantly thinking about how to improve our practice further. Some things we have already been working on. I have listed areas for development below, with a response.
Quantity of work:
Whilst some parents said their children struggle to do all the work that is set for them, other parents felt that there was not enough work. We are looking into setting some optional extra work which will be given to children who have completed the core work to a high quality. Please email admin if you think your child will definitely benefit from this, so we can explore this further. We would not want to increase screen time too much, so we would aim for some of this work to be practical and off -screen. Before you email us, please make sure that you have checked the quality of work that your child is submitting. Some children rush their work and appear to have finished very quickly. We are looking for quality of work first, before we consider adding more work for children.
Work is too similar/ repetitive/ not covering all the subjects:
We have decided that placing a bigger focus on reading, writing and maths will benefit children most, when they return to school. A lot of children are falling significantly behind with what is expected of their year group, and we want to make sure that they acquire the essential skills to access the wider curriculum when they return. We are also prioritising Physical Exercise and PSHE/ discussion time, because we feel those are also very important for children’s physical and mental health .
We still offer a range of subjects in the afternoon, although what we can expect at home may be a bit limited. We know that we need to be sensitive to families who may lack resources at home for example for Art, Music and DT.
Written work vs typed work:
Our experience with previous lockdowns was that the quality of writing suffered greatly when children were expected to submit ‘typed’ work. Their typing fluency and stamina was not yet strong enough. When children returned after previous lockdowns, they also struggled with their physical writing, as their stamina and quality of handwriting had suffered a lot. We have realised that children produce better writing when they physically write on paper. We know that the quality of uploaded photos isn’t always great, and that it is difficult for the teachers to see the work and comment on it. We are looking into this and will develop this practice further.
Work is too easy/ too difficult
We all know that there can be a wide range of ability levels within a class. We differentiate the work where we can, sometimes through setting different work and sometimes by offering different levels of support from a teacher or a TA. Please email the admin team if you think your child is not getting work matched to their needs, so your concern can be passed on. Please note that all the reading tasks we set through Bug Club are carefully matched to your child's reading ability level.
Cameras on during MEETS
We would normally like all children to have their cameras on. However, some families have a poor wifi connection, and having cameras on may make the WiFi connection even slower. We have supported families with connectivity issues, please get in touch if you also need support with this.
Longer MEETs and interactive teaching
We know that secondary schools have a lot more on-screen/ live teaching time. However, our children are much younger and it is not always advisable to ask them to try and concentrate on very long online lessons. Through experience and through talking to other schools and following DFE guidance we have decided that two or three short Meets work better and result in better quality work
More videos to explain the activities
We are working very hard to produce more online teaching clips. We want our teachers to produce these themselves where they can, because this is better for the children. Our teachers have been attending school training and are sharing good practice. You will see more of this in the next few weeks. A great benefit of the ‘home-produced’ clips is that you as parents can view the clips as well, which will enable you to better support your child at home. We will keep these clips, as they will also be useful even after lockdown.
Remote Learning is not as good as in school learning
We totally agree! Despite our best efforts, we will never be as good remotely as in real life. As soon as we are allowed to open school to more children we will do so, following DFE guidance. We hope this will be from March 8th, this will be confirmed nearer to the time.
My child is not getting enough feedback
We are constantly looking at ways to further develop our practice. The DFE expectation is that children should get feedback at least once a week. We are managing to do this much more, although a lot of feedback is given verbally on Hangouts or through Chat. Parents may not be aware that this is happening, as it is not as evident as physically marking a book.
Giving individual comments and support takes much longer than it would in class. For example, if a teacher sees in a normal class that a number of children are not grasping a concept, it is very easy to quickly stop the whole class or a group and re- explain something. This is not possible when Remote Teaching, it is not as efficient as in class teaching and takes much more time.
Effective assessment and feedback are areas that we are in the process of developing further. We are coming up with innovative ways, for example through quizzes on Google Forms to assess children.
Information to parents about the learning gaps
We are going to be assessing all children when they return to school. We will have parents’ meetings after this, and will be able to let you know where the learning gaps are for your child. We have received additional funding from the Government and will do everything we can to ensure that your child will catch up over time. We know that there is no reason why all children would not be able to do well, but it will take some time. We are confident we can do it though.
What is Bug Club?
Bug Club is an online reading and comprehension App. It has a huge number of books, they are the same books that your child would be reading if they were at school, the only difference is that they are online. Every child is given a number of books to read at their own level. Each book has a number of questions for your child to answer, so we can see if they have understood the book well enough in order to move up to the next level .
What our teachers and support staff do each day:
Our staff still work a very full day during lockdown periods.
They attend a briefing meeting at 8.30 in the morning and ensure that they release the mornings online learning on Google Classroom or Tapestry at 9.00 am sharp.
All teachers and support staff have a registration period in the morning and in the afternoon, followed by a short and focussed live teaching activity.
Teachers digitally meet with their support staff throughout the day, from 8.30am onwards to discuss the work, the learning expected of children, and which children need to be contacted either by phone call or by Google Hangouts for extra support. Teachers need to update the attendance and engagement trackers twice a day and report any issues to relevant other staff, so follow-up actions, including support to individual children can be given.
Teachers organise and teach short small group PSHE lessons and other small group lessons such as phonics lessons throughout the day. All staff are on hand to answer children’s questions throughout the day, either by Chat or by Hangouts.
At 11.30 teachers and/ or support staff attend training sessions. When teachers are not in meetings during this 11.30-12.30 session, they have their entitled PPA time (Planning, Preparation and Assessment time), whilst the support staff carry on ensuring that children are supported at home. During these sessions, senior members of staff introduce new teaching techniques and staff share good practice, so they can learn from each other.
We encourage all staff to take a screen and lunch break and get out to get some exercise, although they do not all manage to find the time to do this each day.
In between activities, teachers find time to record teaching clips which they post on Google Classroom and they talk to their colleagues.
Staff are also checking children’s progress in Bug Club and other learning platforms. They assess submitted work, comment on the quality of work for individual children and make note on where adjustments to planning need to be made.
After school, teachers meet in year group teams to discuss their daily assessment and adjust their planning. Planning takes longer, because the teaching is so different from in-class teaching. Teachers also attend other year groups and milestone meetings after school. Many teachers give up part of their weekends to plan and prepare lessons.
All staff are on a rota and come into school to support the children who are vulnerable, or those of key workers. Somehow they manage to support both those learning in class and those at home at the same time.
The average teacher works at least 9 hours a day (some much more), so they definitely are not on a ‘holiday’, as someone suggested to me the other day. Like many other key workers in our country, teachers have suffered the effects of Covid, either through work place acquired Covid or through bereavement. They have shown spirit and resilience and we are grateful for their commitment, good will, flexibility and professionalism.
Our Milestone Leads drop into Google classes (both live lessons and otherwise) and check children’s work daily. They and the Year Group Leads are supporting all staff and are ensuring everyone is able to do their job to the best of their ability. We have all started from different starting points, staff with less digital confidence and expertise have made enormous strides to catch up; all staff have had tailored CPD and they have lots of support from their colleagues and senior leaders.
Thanks again for all of your feedback and engagement with the questionnaire - we really appreciate it!
We will be discussing and considering all of your other ideas and suggestions too, for example competitions to keep children motivated or having a class novel to be read to children by their teacher.
In the meantime.
Please enjoy reading about the Digital Learning that our children have done in the rest of this newsletter.
Ridwan using his measuring skills when making gingerbread men at home. Aayan getting his morning exercise after watching Judy's video. Dawud used some dots to help him add and Serena made puppets to help her re-tell a story. Well done children, keep...
Whilst taking part in remote learning, we have been working on our comprehension skills. Above is a picture of some of the skills we have been working on in our comprehension answers. You can see this child has explored using evidence from the text to back up their ideas and explained their thi...