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Opinion1st March 2021

In their own words: the experience of remote learning

When schools closed in March 2020, many parents were forced to try and replace teachers overnight. Families had to maintain routines, encourage their children to engage with their schoolwork while dealing with work and life challenges.

As schools in England prepare to welcome back students from Monday 8 March after the latest lockdown, we spoke to one family whose daughter Astrid is a Year 10 student at Ark Alexandra Academy in Hastings, and they shared their experiences of remote learning. They explain how they adapted and embraced home schooling, praise the ongoing support they received from the school and offer advice to parents.

Meet the parents – Steve and Jane

In the spring 2020 lockdown, we weren’t sure what to expect. Settling into a routine was probably our biggest challenge but the school was very supportive and explained that they wanted Astrid to get her work done and submit it regardless of the time of day.

It got a lot easier for us as we got into the third week. We knew what was coming and we could plan, and the workload felt more manageable as we went along. We were amazed at how quickly everything for us fell into place.

We were sent booklets in some subjects but didn’t feel they suited Astrid’s needs, so we spoke to her teacher, and she was given tailored projects or experiments to work on which was fantastic. There was a focus on enrichment and doing different challenges. We took part and found these really helpful as children were doing fun things related to their subjects like the weekly Maths challenge, photography and Science cup. By June, we were counter-challenging the teachers back with challenges, so there was lots of interaction.

We got regular feedback from Astrid’s teachers, so we knew how she was doing. We were delighted when Astrid was named as a top performer as she had sent in the most pieces of work in a week.

We struggled getting to grips with logging into Google Classrooms and looking up and remembering passwords, but we overcame those quickly. Since then, things have improved as the principal has been receptive to parent feedback and implementing changes.

Welfare has been at the top of the agenda throughout; we had regular weekly calls with the head of year, making sure we were ok mentally and physically, that we were looking after ourselves, taking breaks, walks etc. We really looked forward to these calls as I know other families whose children attend other local schools, and they had little or no engagement from their head of year. We felt very connected and very involved, and if there was a problem, we could raise it.

When we went into this latest lockdown, this felt a lot more like school. We’re following the timetable, and we’ve switched to MS Teams (we had to learn to use that). Naturally, we had a few issues at the beginning of the term, such as the number of breaks between lessons, but the school responded so quickly and adapted accordingly – it has been incredibly impressive.

The organisation of remote learning is definitely better, and teachers know how to react to students online. If there’s any problem, they might tailor the lesson for some of them or use the voting button to see what the class wants to work on.

Our tip for successful remote learning… do make sure there’s enough space for someone to go and have a temper tantrum – but seriously, feel free to speak to the school if you’re struggling; they want to help. We felt listened to and supported throughout.

And the final word from Astrid…

“I would say just try your best to get your work done, and then you can have a break. Listen and make sure you’re prepared for your lessons, like having paper and pen etc. If you have a question for your teacher, just ask them. I really like Teams as you can raise questions in the chatbox, which is a bit easier than when you’re in a lesson, and you raise your hand in front of the whole class. I have noticed that a lot more questions being asked by students that way, which is good.

“This has been a weird time and I’ve missed my friends, so I’m looking forward to seeing them when I go back to school.”