How we strengthened links with our community during lockdown
Way back at the start of March, when Potter Street Academy and Purford Green Primary began planning for the prospect of school closure due to the Covid 19 outbreak, they knew their first priority would be to stay in touch with each and every one of their pupils’ families.
Both schools prioritise supporting the well-being and mental health of children and adults within their schools’ communities, and understand that maintaining connections with others is at the heart of this.
The daily supervision for the children of key workers, which included covering school holidays and bank holidays, was just the start. Since lockdown began, teachers have sent daily emails to every child’s family, keeping them updated, celebrating pupils’ work and guiding parents through the challenges of home learning. If any family has not been heard from that week, teachers call the parent to see how they are. If parents are struggling, a member of school staff calls or texts every week for a chat. Counselling support from an external provider has also been available for those who need it. Senior staff have made home visits to catch up with families and see the children. Some class teachers have even knocked on the front door of every child in their class, just so they could talk to them and see their faces. Others have sent personalised video messages to their pupils to help families and children stay connected and feel supported.
Associate headteacher of Purford Green Primary, Rhonda Smith said, ‘Many of our staff have their own families to support, and are dealing with personal challenges, so there was not an expectation for staff to provide support on this scale for children and parents. But staff have wanted to, demonstrating a wholehearted commitment to educating and supporting children and their families. From admin staff to site staff, teachers and classroom support staff, everyone has continued to work every day to ensure our families are safe and feel looked after and cared for. The staff’s response has been exceptional.’
Now that schools are opening to more children, well-being surveys are being sent to parents so that staff can understand the impact lockdown has had on each individual child, and can provide appropriate support upon their return to school. But this hasn’t meant the level of support given to children who remain at home has slowed down. Teachers are still contacting children who aren't in school every day, and continue to provide the same support for pupils whether they are learning at home or in class. The schools are proud to say they are listening to parents’ feedback, and as a result, home learning has evolved and improved over the weeks. The amount of online work being set has been reduced, and teachers are providing families with more guidance on what to do each day. For children in the reception class, staff have created video lessons to keep them learning and engaged. Weekly themed projects have provided flexibility for families and enabled siblings from different year groups to work on tasks together. Children have enjoyed creating thank-you posters to celebrate the work of NHS staff and key workers, made time capsules to preserve memories of lockdown, and sent home-made birthday cards to Captain Tom. This work supports the schools’ core values, encouraging children to think of others and show empathy and kindness. And using the power of Twitter, strong community links have been formed.
Emma Bloomfield, who is the Executive Headteacher across both schools said: ‘Feedback from parents has been wonderful and very supportive. Parents can see how hard staff are working to stay in touch and appreciate the level of communication we have had with them. One group of parents responded by organising a video message from everyone in their class and sent it to staff.
Although this has been a challenging time for everyone, when you hear staff say they know and understand their children and parents far better than ever before, you know it has all been worthwhile and we have been successful in supporting our community’.