At Reed’s School we’ve always believed that we have a duty to prepare our pupils for the future, and part of this is to ensure they are digitally literate as well as responsible and safe users of technology. We regard technology not as an intervention, but as a tool that supports our existing teaching and learning practices and enhances our pupils’ learning.
Technology has always had a strong presence at Reed’s and, prioritising our investment in this belief, a number of years ago we appointed of a Head of Digital Learning and introduced Firefly, our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Our iPad scheme means that all Year 7 to 11 pupils (as well as all teachers) have school-provided iPads; Sixth Formers have a ‘bring your own device’ scheme to encourage independence and responsibility, allowing their choice of device to suit their individual A Level needs.
This investment allowed us to make adjustments to teaching and learning methods, develop new digital educational resources, allow pupils to be confident and responsible with use of technology, and improve their digital literacy as well as to encourage a desire to stimulate independent and creative learning as well as personal organisation.
Over the course of the last few years our teachers have undergone extensive training to ensure they are able to use technology effectively. Consequently, when we had to quickly move to a distance-learning model in March 2020, we were fully prepared and able to use the technology in place. This ensured the immediate continuation of lessons by switching to live, online remote learning via Microsoft Teams. Timetables mirrored pupils' on-site experience and they had the resources to continue their learning at home; teachers also had the resources to teach from their homes from day one of lockdown.
The School Day
Whilst our aim was to ensure that pupils had a full timetable of lessons and thereby continue with the scheduled curriculum, it was recognised that a few changes were necessary because a full, online learning experience is different and can throw up some challenges. A considered balance was put in place between onscreen and off-screen time spent in lessons and doing prep.
The extra-curricular provision at Reed’s is integral to the broad educational experience we give our pupils, and we were determined that this should continue in whatever way possible.
The Sports programme was adapted to encourage pupils to maintain a healthy lifestyle with activities such as: mini skills sessions from our Sports Professionals; fun challenges with a fundraising element involving pupils (and staff) plus regular training sessions run by our Head of Strength & Conditioning.
Drama provision continued with LAMDA lessons and various year group-specific production rehearsals all taking place remotely, along with Theatre trips with pupils accessing a variety of streamed productions. In Music peripatetic lessons continued remotely along with Choir and Ensemble practices – the Brass Choir produced an excellent rendition of Putting on the Ritz for our virtual Speech Day.
Many of our regular after-school Clubs (such as Art Club, Microsoft MakeCode Arcade Club, all Choir and Music clubs, LAMDA, Drama Club, CCF, DofE, Epicureans, Debating Club, Film Club, Strength & Conditioning, Ministry of Writers, Gardening Gang, Christian Union and our many academic clubs) ran in online formats, whilst a number of new activities were also instigated. Overall, our pupils were able to enjoy fun sessions that allowed them to continue with the activities they enjoy and maintain contact with like-minded peers.
Although live events were impossible to hold we adapted the format of the vast majority of planned events so that they could still take place and our pupils could still benefit from a full and rounded experience. Along with online Assemblies and Chapel services every week, our Lower Sixth students were able to talk to Old Reedonians about their experiences at university in the FutureUni Day, parents were still able to attend Parents’ Evenings for one-to-one feedback, we held our Reunion Day in an engaging format for former pupils, everyone enjoy an excellent online exhibition of the GCSE and A level artwork and Speech Day was a resounding success with an inspiring guest speaker, prizes for all year groups and a photographic presentation of the school year.
We fully understand that, for some pupils, remote learning, coupled with worries about the situation around the pandemic, can cause anxiety and loneliness. Maintaining daily contact with Tutors allows them to continue their role proving pastoral support to all our pupils. Housemasters and Heads of Year are also available to help with any concerns.
When pupils returned to school fully in September 2020, Reed’s moved smoothly to a blended, or hybrid, learning model where in many lessons teachers taught simultaneously the pupils in front of them, and those who were at home isolating.
Once again our teachers were able to quickly adapt to this form of teaching to deliver blended lessons as if they were the norm. We can see that this model will continue, even when life gets back to normal, benefiting pupils who, for whatever reason, need to be at home.
The Future of Digital Learning
We are very proud of what our teachers and pupils have achieved in what has been a truly challenging time. We see this as a moment in history which has allowed us to leap forward by years in a matter of mere months and plan to continue this mission.
By evaluating how our systems are currently utilised and what lessons we have learnt over the previous few months, our strategy is to continue to invest in new technologies as they emerge and continuously provide specific key skills development for both teachers and pupils. We envisage that key areas such as lesson structures, the curriculum and even the physical structure of classrooms could change to allow for better use of digital resources which both enhance and compliment traditional teaching methods.
Recognising that the world is changing at an ever-increasing rate, it is vital that we anticipate the skills and attributes that our pupils will need to succeed in a more digitally-integrated future and, as such, evolve our teaching to ensure success at every level for our pupils.
- iPads are provided for all pupils in Years 7 to 11 and for all teachers.
- Bluetooth keypads & styluses are also recommended to supplement learning.
- A ‘Bring your own device’ scheme for pupils in the Sixth Form allows choice to suit individual A Level needs.
Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)
- We use Firefly, one of the country’s largest VLE providers, giving pupils, parents and teachers, access to school information such as lesson resources, prep tasks, feedback, calendars and messages.
- Microsoft Teams is used to deliver all online lessons. It allows easy, but secure, collaboration between teachers and pupils. Teams has also become a crucial communication tool in many aspects of school life.
Digital Educational Resources
There are a myriad of teaching Apps available for teachers to use to enhance pupils’ learning. Our Head of Digital Learning keeps abreast with these and he periodically introduces any he feels would be beneficial. Examples currently being used are:
- Microsoft Office, including OneNote for distributing content, marking work and giving enhanced feedback
- Microsoft OneDrive for online storage, sharing and collaborating of documents
- Nearpod for interactive presentations
- Socrative for online quizzes
- Clickview for education video content
What do our Parents Say?
“We feel so incredibly lucky that our children have both been at Reed’s during this time. The support (academic, pastoral, extracurricular) has been exceptional, and just makes them miss school even more.”
“Reed’s has been a shining example to our pupils since lockdown began and the school had to physically close its doors to most of our children. The school has adapted and delivered a brilliant virtual version of the school day and I thank all the staff for their support, dedication and humour during this unprecedented time.”
“I have to say we are so grateful to Reed’s on many levels during this lockdown. The online teaching has been brilliant, it’s given him focus and purpose. And the way you, the other teachers and the Headmaster keep communication lines open has been much appreciated. Sometimes it’s challenging to find out from our sons directly what they do on a daily basis, so Firefly has been a good go-to to help engage with them on topics and gradings. And I’m very grateful for the tips and techniques you’ve shared.”
“Congratulations on the remote learning arrangements. It really is excellent and much appreciated. I know from experience that these things do not miraculously happen and I can see the management effort that has gone into creating a really good experience for all the pupils.”
“Listening to friends elsewhere – both private and state, we feel very grateful indeed to have Reed’s support. So a heartfelt thank you and well done!”