'It is a challenge but it's something we relish' - head of Barking school talks teaching during Covid-19
- Credit: Thames View Infants
No situation has forced schools to innovate more than the coronavirus pandemic.
But for Paul Jordan, headteacher at Barking's Thames View Infants, the challenge is one to relish.
The introduction to the January term has been confusing for schools across the board, with the situation only truly clarified by the third national lockdown announced on Monday (January 4).
Barking and Dagenham primary - infant - schools were due to undertake home learning for the opening weeks of term anyway, though this will now be extended.
The Post caught up with Mr Jordan on January 4; the first day back for teachers, and the day before children were due to start lessons again.
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Thames View Infants is starting a new way of delivering its lessons. Rather than use Google Classroom, teachers broadcast their lessons via Twitter.
Mr Jordan explained: "Everyone has a phone, and we wanted to have a home learning system that wasn’t too technology-dependant. All the staff are using the school-branded accounts for this purpose. Children can watch the lessons on a phone with their parents or caregiver."
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This method coincides with learning resources being sent out to pupils, both via secure virtual portal Parent Mail and physically by post (at a cost of around £70 per class).
Teaching assistants also ring families to make sure they have everything they need.
Mr Jordan is confident that everything will go well; firstly, he has a "really dedicated team of school staff, working hard to do their best for their community", and secondly, the system has been perfected over previous terms.
At the start of the first national lockdown back in March, three members of staff did videos each day - with the hashtag #CarryOnTVI - to get used to the process (alongside daily assemblies by Mr Jordan).
Such was the promise of this method that all 14 teachers were trained to teach in this way at the end of the academic year, with Covid-related issues meaning that some classes became familiar with this teaching style during the autumn term.
All this preparation has given the school an advantage, said Mr Jordan: "The moment we found out on New Year’s Eve that schools were closing we knew exactly what to do.”
The depth of commitment he feels towards his pupils is clear, a dedication shared by the "hard-working group of professionals" with whom he works.
He's very conscious of what it means to be a headteacher in the Thames ward - "the most deprived" in the borough.
That's why the issue of accessibility informs any teaching delivery decisions, with Mr Jordan succinctly summarising the school's approach: "We have to do what we have to do. The priority is keeping these children as safe as possible, and as clever as possible.”
Safety spans beyond matters of health. As he explains, there are also safeguarding issues when it comes to delivering online lessons to pupils aged between three and seven, such as ensuring the parent holds the social media account and that children's specific names are never mentioned.
With these just two of many issues that need to be considered, it's clear that pulling this together has been no easy feat.
But speaking on the eve of the first day where all classes will learn like this, Mr Jordan said he and his staff are "excited" to get started.
When full, there are 438 pupils at Thames View Infants. Of those, Mr Jordan is expecting around 60 (the 10-12 per cent who are children of key workers) in person.
Teaching two sets of pupils; one in class, the other at home, is amongst the most unique challenges presented during Mr Jordan's 13-year tenure.
But in his view, the "constancy of change" in education is a good thing, with pupils remaining the ultimate priority.
"When we were plummeted into this pandemic, it was about turning what could’ve been such a negative situation into something positive.”
Delivering lessons in an accessible way feels like the most appropriate way to do that.
The pressure on teachers and schools - well-documented long before the pandemic - has only ratcheted up since Covid-19 began.
But having presided over Thames View Infants since 2007, Mr Jordan is clear: "I wouldn’t be head anywhere else.”