The sudden enforced closure of the School in March was not anticipated by anyone, pupils, staff or parents. Teaching staff and the School’s Leadership Team pulled together to provide Remote Learning whilst remaining open for children of Key Workers.
The Mount School has been using Microsoft Office 365 tools and Microsoft TEAMS for teaching in School for many years. Teachers were able to quickly adapt their teaching to provide continuity in learning at home. “Teachers worked with pupils in many diverse ways, including providing video and written instructions, photo assignments and setting self-marking quizzes which pupils could answer and mark themselves. There were individual and group tutorial sessions, and teachers were able to dynamically provide their pupils with feedback through TEAMS,” commented Bridget Perks, Deputy Principal.
Lessons were taught online in a variety of ways. English lessons were posted to Junior School girls online, via TEAMS. One activity they were set was to create stories about dragons. The girls used SeeSaw, an online animation tool, to create stories about and images of their dragons. The girls also enjoyed story time as Junior School teachers live streamed themselves reading various tales. In the Senior School, English teacher Mr Dawson brought to life HG Wells’ classic tale, The War of the Worlds, with an extra-special twist. “I recorded each chapter as a podcast, and the girls began sending in requests for a differen accent or voice in each one. So, we had Greg from Glasgow, Barry from Belfast, Harry from Huddersfield, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and event Gru from the Despicable Me films!”
Teaching remotely did not stop our Science teachers from setting practical lessons. Year 9 were challenged to make a model of a cell using readily available items at home. Girls raided their kitchens to create labelled 3D models of a typical cell, using Jaffa Cakes, pasta, noodles and jelly! College Biology students created the own quadrat at home and carried out biodiversity studies in areas local to their homes. They then compared the results of the different areas. Video conferencing proved an invaluable tool for Remote Learning, particularly in Modern Foreign Languages. GCSE and A Level Language pupils took part in video calls to practise their speaking and listening skills and receive feedback from their teacher.
Senior School girls expanded their digital skills learning to work with Microsoft Stream, to make short videos and animations. The skills they learnt came in handy during the final week of term, when girls competed in a four-day long House competition comprising of a variety of activities across a range of disciplines including Sport, Art, DT and STEM. Mr Davies, Head of Digital Learning commented, “The girls benefited tremendously from this practice in the competition. But also, in a wider context, connected online working is the way of the future. Having this experience in sharing digital work across multiple platforms will be a key skill for business in the future.”
As the weeks of Home Schooling went on so did our teachers’ determination to keep girls engaged with their online lessons. As they began their revision, Year 11 PE pupils played an online game of Snakes & Ladders, with a twist! Before they could roll the dice, the girls had to answer a PE revision question correctly. Girls in the Junior School were treated to their very own interactive ‘Big End of Year Picture Quiz.’ Ms Wilson asked everyone to mute their microphones, so that they couldn’t shout out the answers by mistake. The young girls really enjoyed taking part in the visual and interactive quiz, as did their parents!
It was important for us that children’s home-schooling experiences did not all take place solely in-front of a screen and that creativity was still inspired. Junior School pupils were asked to submit a piece of artwork they created from the resources they had at home. The girls rose to the challenge and lots of ideas were shared on their class Team Sites. Chalk drawings, glitter paintings, sewing and baking were just some of the examples sent back! Girls in Years 7 to 9 were tasked to use their Design Technology lessons to create a product to fit inside a tin. They were certainly imaginative and creative with their hand made designs including jewellery and toy mice. Year 11 artists had the task of choosing and reconstructing a famous piece of artwork, using themselves or their family as subject matter. We did enjoy seeing the girls’ creative recreations! A Level artists were inspired by the #portraitsfornhsheroes campaign and painted portraits of NHS workers.
The lockdown did not stop Mount staff from challenging the girls to live an active life! Exercise was important not just for the girls’ physical health but also for their mental health! In the Junior School, girls kept an Exercise Diary. Each week they sent it in to Miss Harvey, Junior School PE teacher. She was delighted to learn of the girls’ activities including: running, rollerblading, trampolining, yoga, and even flying a broomstick! One girl missed her swimming lessons so much she attempted lengths of her paddling pool! The girls were also encouraged to get outdoors and were set tasks such as den building. Senior School girls made fitness plans and created their own workout videos (perhaps motivated by the success of Joe Wicks!) College girls kept active by running their own Thursday lunchtime exercise sessions using Zoom. They held a Zumba class, a Just Dance session, yoga, Pilates and stretches. 40 girls from Years 6-11 also took part in a terrific online dance workshop with actress Tara Sweeting who taught them choreography from the award-winning musical, ‘Six’. The term culminated in a virtual Sports Day in which girls competed in a series of events from home including, jumping, running and throwing.
The sense of community so unique to The Mount, continued, despite the physical distance between us all. Head of Junior School, Miss Capper, made sure she caught up with each Year group at least once a week. They enjoyed an informal chat via TEAMS which included what the girls have been doing, how they are finding the online learning, and asking any questions or concerns they may have. Ms Richmond, Principal, also joined Class Chats with every Year group learning, more about the work the girls were completing from home. Virtual Form Time took place in Senior School. Girls used their usual Form Time for a virtual catch up, checking in on each other and with teachers. This provided a way, whilst not being able to see one another at School, of girls keeping in touch and supporting one another remotely!
The School community found many ways to stay connected and keep up traditions. Ms Richmond produced weekly ‘Morning Meeting’ videos, weekly newsletters were shared with parents, College Leavers performed their Leavers Play and shared their memories of the School via video, The Strawberry Ball was held via Zoom and the term ended with an live online interactive Meeting.
The Mount School did not stay closed completely; we remained open throughout lockdown for the children of Key Workers who were able to access remote lessons in School. They made the most of a quiet School building and became intrepid explorers. Ms Wilson took the Junior School girls on a very special guided tour! They enjoyed exploring the secret staircases and doors throughout the building.
Although it was a very challenging term, the staff at The Mount were determined to continue to provide the girls with a high standard of education. The feedback from parents about how well-focused, organised and driven their daughters had been to get up each day for home-schooling and to follow their timetable, was wonderful to hear. The hard work, dedication and commitment of our staff and pupils was a great success!
“Thank you to you and all the staff for all the hard work that has gone into setting up and running the online school this week. My daughter thinks it is amazing, is really enjoying it and is getting a lot out of it. In fact, she emerges from the study at 4.05pm every day looking more worn out than after a normal day in school!”
“I just wanted to let you know how grateful we are to you and your staff for the efficient way they have, and are handling this awful situation. As I type this, my daughter is beavering away at an assignment and she has had regular contact with both her teachers and friends. Please thank her teachers for keeping on top of things.”
“We have been really impressed by your organisation during this crisis and we appreciate this precious support. Congratulations to you and all your colleagues.”