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Headmaster's Blog

Education is being forced into the modern era as we return to school in the virtual classroom

There is no way one can sugar coat what has happened over the last few weeks. COVID-19 has been devastating to our society in so many ways but it has also brought out the best in us and in some ways this terrible virus could be said to be giving us a reboot as we start to think more about others and reconnect after what has been a pretty torrid time during Brexit.

There is understandably great apprehension about children’s schooling at the moment and concern as to what it means for the schools, in their physical context, to be closed. However, I hope that as we begin this new chapter, the pupils, parents and future employers will all recognise that the coming weeks will actually open up a whole new world to our children as education is dragged (kicking and screaming!) into the 21st Century. I genuinely believe we should see the next few weeks as an opportunity for education to start setting the pace rather than always playing catch up. It has been a constant frustration that while technology and ideologies race ahead, education has languished behind. That can no longer be the case.

Already in my school, the pupils are increasingly confident in participating in online meeting rooms and using Google Classroom as a way of accessing and sharing their work. On Google Meet they are now making presentations to their teachers and peers. Could they have done this even a month ago? We are also now using another new educational platform called Century Tech which I think is amazing. It is available to our pupils from as early as Year 3 and all of a sudden, the teachers are able to see in real time how pupils are managing with online tasks and can observe where individual pupils are having difficulties, enabling the teachers to offer bespoke support and tailor the tasks to each child. This will be even better when we are back in the classroom and the teacher can set extension tasks for those needing academic stretch whilst spending time reviewing topics with other pupils. Already platforms like Century Tech are opening our eyes to the possibilities in education and we may not have engaged with these so readily had it not been for our current circumstances.

I would wish to say at this juncture that I am not someone who is in favour of pupils having too much screen time. It is perhaps my greatest worry that the pupils will have too much time in front of their computers in lieu of the classroom experience and this is indeed why the place of schools will always remain so important in society. We cannot replace what our pupils learn at school in terms of social interaction and communication skills through virtual classrooms but for now we should seize upon what the pupils will be able to take from these unprecedented circumstances and see the positives where they are to be found.

When we return to school next week there will be no small degree of apprehension amongst the teaching staff. This is uncharted territory for us all but we are determined that we will do the best that we can. Along the way we will make mistakes but as Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I sincerely hope we won’t have 10,000 failures along the way to achieving the success that we crave for our pupils but if we do it will be because we are striving to emulate something else that Edison also said – “If there’s a way to do it better – find it.”

For all of you who are anxious about returning to school next week, don’t forget we are all in this together. We are going to learn so much about ourselves and realise previously untapped potential as we develop new skills and talents. At times it will be very frightening but it is also going to be incredibly exciting and when we have come through all of this, we will be better than we were before.