It would usually be at this time of the Easter holidays when we all start to look forward to returning to school for the Summer Term and seeing the children walk through the front door of the Castle. Sadly, this year we are starting the term in a very different and distinctive way and although the children and staff will not be attending school in person, the school community will very much continue and thrive from home, all be it, in a virtual environment.
We are experiencing a unique period which will be remembered for years to come. For all of us we have had to endure and manage different challenges associated with the unprecedented time we are all experiencing. Therefore, we have decided to recognize and embrace the different approach Hatherop Castle is having to operate and facilitate learning. I feel it is appropriate to launch Hatherop’s Home Learning School with a new logo and phrase, ‘learning together at home’.
At Hatherop, we pride ourselves on the manner in which the whole community works together to provide the best learning environment and opportunities for the pupils at Hatherop. I have said on numerous occasions to prospective parents, it is this strength of our community which sets Hatherop apart from other schools. However, the strength of our community and ability to work together will be tested over the coming weeks. To ensure the pupils continue to achieve and learn we all are having to, ‘learn together at home.’ It is not only the children who will be learning in a different manner via Teams and having to get used to a different routine and environment to conduct their learning, but we as adults are also having to learn new skills, routines and environments to navigate our way through the next few weeks. Hence, we are ALL ‘learning TOGETHER at home’.
Over the past few weeks, the teaching staff have been planning how the children will continue their education from home through the platform Microsoft Teams. This is a unique and new method of working and learning, and although we know it will be embraced by the whole community, it is important to recognize that we are approaching uncharted waters and whenever we embrace a new system, challenge or task there will undoubtedly be teething issues and, at times, frustrations. It is the school’s responsibility to listen, respond to feedback and evolve our provision to ensure it is intuitive and provides the best learning opportunities possible.
I believe this new system of learning is exciting and should not be feared. I am confident the skills we encourage Hatherop pupils to embrace in their daily lives; resilience and perseverance, will be instrumental in rising to the challenges we will face. There undoubtedly will be feelings of anxiety, apprehension and concern that the children will be missing out on important learning opportunities and the question of, ‘will this absence from attending school affect my child’s education?’ Will, I am sure, be at the forefront of every parent’s mind. However, let me try to reassure you.
Firstly, and most importantly, children learn in many ways and I believe that this period of uncertainty will provide the best learning opportunities, not necessarily in traditional subjects like maths and English, but providing and developing life skills. It has been truly wonderful and heartening to hear, read and see the type of projects Hatherop pupils and children up and down the country have been embracing during the period of lockdown. The amount of experimentation, creativity, comradery, teamwork and ingenuity that has gone into learning new skills, has been inspirational and in my opinion, provides far more learning opportunities than sitting and doing a maths worksheet can ever provide.
My message to you all as parents as we prepare and embrace for another few weeks of negotiating with our children to sit and learn from home is, please do not be concerned or worried if the children (and you) are finding the new and different ways of working challenging. It is not easy, and please do not feel you are failing your child if they only manage to sit still for 15 minutes to complete an English comprehension or if they take ages to complete the task. Little and often, balanced with creative (child led ideas/projects), alongside physical activities, are the ideal recipe for a productive and enjoyable home learning environment.
It is hoped the introduction of Teams next week, will provide some social interaction via video meetings which is probably the largest aspect of school life the children are missing. I know I am certainly missing seeing the children and engaging in conversations with them. The teaching staff and the school will be working alongside you at home and will be on hand to support, encourage and provide learning opportunities in new and creative ways to ensure the next few weeks are beneficial for everyone. I am sure we will all look back on this significant period of history that Hatherop Castle really did ‘learn together at home’.