This guest blog is written by Barbara Langford (Deputy Head) at Westbourne House. It originally appeared in their school magazine.
Some things never change, and although we have not been physically in school for the last 3 months it is report time again.
Reports are always a time for reflection; What has the pupil learnt, how are they progressing and what should they work on in the future. This year however reflection seems even more pertinent as we think about what we have all learnt on a micro-level from a global pandemic.
The first thing that strikes me is how many of the High Performance Learning characteristics our staff have shown. Going through the Values Attitudes and Attributes (VAAs) I can tick them all off.
Empathetic - Their concern of society and the ability to work together recognising differences and similarities between people has definitely shone.
Agile - They have all had to adapt to a completely new way of teaching. Demonstrating a willingness to innovate and invent new and multiple solutions to our new situation. They have experimented and been open-minded.
The hardwork, perseverance and resilience has been evident to all in the quality of the lessons produced that each take hours of preparation while tackling new technology as well as the new challenges of how to impart knowledge and skills remotely.
How about the Advanced Cognitive Performance Characteristics (ACPs)? Well, here again, I can see the staff have used all these in their lessons; Self regulation while at home, alone, they are constantly evaluating the lessons and self correcting, creating new teaching styles by building on existing skills and getting to the stage by the end of term where talking on zoom and setting lessons on line has become an automatic skill.
So the staff have risen to the HPL challenge and shown how they model this behaviour for the children.
What about the pupils? As I write my reports I am able in almost every instance to draw on the VAAs and APCs and feel proud of the pupils in my care. Some curriculum knowledge may have been lost in this term but the skills that the pupils have learnt are far more long-lasting.
Empathy; The ability for almost all the pupils to realise that although they don’t like this situation, it has been so much worse for so many others has been heartening. They have looked out for their friends and told teachers when their peers are struggling. They have organised fundraising ventures and virtual chats and have shown that in adversity the Westbourne House pupil can rise above their own immediate worries.
Technology; This is an easy one, all the pupils are now confidently working with a variety of programs and many are typing at speed. They whip between programs and different websites with ease and have been happy to share their skills and knowledge with other pupils and staff.
“Mrs Langford, if you look in the top right corner and press that button with the dots on it you can mute us all”
Agility; There is a preconceived idea that the only reason pupils work is because they have exams looming. I spend many hours refuting this because one of the joys of schools is learning purely because it is interesting not necessarily useful. In our “new world” we have made all our lessons optional to all pupils and yet almost all pupils have still fully engaged in the learning. They have shown enterprise and the ability to be curious. Importantly they have shown the intellectual confidence to experiment and work in unfamiliar contexts.
Meta-thinking and Analysing; Pupils have continued without constant support from staff to self-regulate and strategy plan. They have worked logically, reading instructions independently and have learnt to figure out ideas and concepts with less help. These independent learning skills are the foundations of a life of learning and will help immeasurably in the future.
Finally, I have been impressed by the originality and intellectual playfulness of the pupils. Given a wide range of tasks and assignments they have produced extra-ordinary work in extra-ordinary circumstances.