The last few months have presented many challenges to the education sector. It has been particularly difficult for primary schools, like Coupals, where we’ve had to quickly adapt to both maintain the delivery of education to our pupils as well as support their development at such a young stage in their academic years.
Our teachers and parents have worked tirelessly to achieve this, but it wouldn’t have been possible without a digital education platform that allows our pupils to continue their learning while at home.
The pandemic has forced all of us to upskill in digital technology and weave it into our teaching practices and we have learnt a lot about the different options available to primary schools.
Coupals Primary is a Demonstrator school, which means we support other schools and colleges to make the most out of the technology already available to them.
We have been working with other schools to advance teaching methods through technology during lockdown. And already, many teachers have created efficiencies, using online platforms that have reduced their workloads.
Choosing a platform
It can be tricky deciding which platform is best for your primary school, and they all have pros and cons.
Most schools tend to stick with Office 365 Education as many of them are used to using Microsoft as their primary IT software. Having said that, G Suite for Education contains a free set of productivity tools for classroom collaboration which is really useful.
It’s accessible from any device and already used by over 120m plus people worldwide. Many teachers we work with have used this system to continue delivering lessons remotely.
Google Classroom is also another great option as it helps teachers to organise learning activity, hand out and mark assessments and provide structure for students learning at home.
It has been great for many teachers we work with to be able to give students immediate feedback through these platforms – helping to motivate and keep our pupils engaged despite the fact they couldn’t come into school.
We’d recommend using Teach from Home as it provides teachers with easy-to-use resources to get started with G Suite and how the tools can be used.
We have found at Coupals that bringing together the apps you know and love, such as PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook, with powerful cloud services like OneDrive, Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, Office 365 enables our teachers and students to effectively and securely create, collaborate and share from all their devices regardless of location.
We know this way of working has also been really useful for our parents at the school who are often juggling full-time jobs with attempts to home school. These digital tools mean school work can be accessed at home and at any time of the day, working around different families’ schedules.
Technology that goes further
You don’t have to limit yourselves to using purely education technology software for teaching. One of our biggest concerns as a school is the social and cognitive development of our youngest pupils. Starting school is also about developing those social ties and becoming a part of a school community.
We really missed this during lockdown, so to stay connected we started running ‘Zoom assemblies’. We shared Zoom dial-in details with all students and parents and held assemblies like we would usually during term time. It was nice to remind pupils and teachers that we are still a community.
The future of remote education
Lockdown has given us the opportunity to rethink how we teach. We had always wanted to implement flipped learning and now we are able to try it out and, we hope, continue it into the future as all pupils return.
There is no denying that digital education platforms have long-term benefits. They improve learning outcomes, reduce teacher workload and streamline processes to save time and money.
We want to see schools continue to use technology to complement traditional teaching after children return to the classroom.
To take advantage of the free support, and help your pupils now and in the future, visit: covid19.thekeysupport.com.
David Maguire is headteacher at Coupals Primary Academy.