Like schools around the country, Winton Community Academy went into lockdown on Friday 20 March. Remarkably, thanks to the skills and dedication of our fantastic staff, the ‘virtual school’ opened as normal after the weekend. Students, parents and teachers have risen to the challenge and the innovation and engagement from the whole of our community makes me incredibly proud to work for Winton and to be a part of the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET).
Fortunately all of our Year 7 and 8 learners were already equipped with AET iPads. In addition we have loaned over 100 school computers to students to ensure we can keep providing high quality learning from home. The central AET team have been fantastic in providing additional equipment, prioritising students who receive free school meals. As a Trust we have purchased 9,000 additional computers, and are now sending 14,500 devices into the homes of our most vulnerable learners to ensure they are able to continue their education at this challenging time.
I decided against setting work for children to do independently in favour of delivering virtual lessons via Google classroom. On a daily basis, students have a virtual assembly where we set the tone for the day, pick up any key issues and share information. We then provide four hours of virtual lessons, where teaching staff are able to see the work as it happens, provide high quality individual feedback and really support the learners. At Winton, 94% of our students are now engaging on a daily basis from their homes and we are working on ensuring the remaining 6% get involved. We know who you are kids and we’re coming for you!
We are extremely proud of the efforts that everyone has been making to continue their learning – a recent national poll showed that only around a third of children are accessing online learning at home, so for us to have over 90% of students engaged is very impressive.
It has also been important to carry on with the fun aspects of school. There is a daily Headteacher’s Challenge which could be anything from balloon juggling to learning a TikTok dance. There is also the Remarkable Lives competition run by the wider AET group. We’ve been sending students virtual birthday cards and also invitations to sign the Book of Distinction, an existing school practise which celebrates amazing pieces of work. We’ve also been using the good old-fashioned postal service to send out prizes and at the end of term I made a special Easter egg delivery (making sure we kept our social distancing) to our top five students, surprising them at home. The video of this and all of the challenges and assemblies can be found on our website.
In the evenings we have provided community music quizzes for our families and we have a weekly virtual parent meeting providing an opportunity for parents to ask questions or raise any concerns.
Beyond our school community, we have been thinking about those remarkable key workers who are keeping us all safe. Hundreds of Winton students sent in images for our NHS thank you poster, our Design Technology department has been making PPE equipment for local nursing homes and we’ve now started sewing items to support the NHS locally.
Nathan Thomas, Headteacher said:
Winton is a community school and I am incredibly proud to be a part of it. I’d like to say a huge thank you to our whole community who have managed to keep learning and keep positive at this difficult time.
Students have said:
I think that moving to virtual school has been very positive and the school have supported us with everything and provided us with work. They have also gone above and beyond with entertaining us and putting smiles on our faces. This could be through setting daily challenges, the assemblies, the music quiz, the Google meets and many other things we have all done as a community.”
Kate Beckingham Year 9
I think the virtual learning at Winton is amazing, especially given the circumstances and how quickly it had to be put into place.
Katy Smith Year 10
Throughout this change, I’ve found myself being more focussed than I thought. I find working on a computer makes me want to work more and more. This has made classes more encouraging, and feedback has made me proud of my work.
Alicia Jordan Year 10
For more information about Winton Community Academy (WCA) please visit https://sites.google.com/aetinet.org/winton-community-academy or alternatively email email@example.com
You can also follow WCA on Facebook here www.facebook.com/wintoncommunityacademy/