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2 June 2021
By Staplehurst Primary School

Blended Learning: Taking Account

The rapid introduction of remote learning during lockdown presented schools with a plethora of new challenges. In this guest blog, school leaders from Staplehurst Primary School explain how their approach ensured that parents and pupils were supported and motivated so that they continued to enjoy learning and make progress during this period.

At Staplehurst, we chose to use Purple Mash as our blended learning platform. We chose this due to its accessible, child friendly design, and because the system was already embedded in school and allowed us to have a whole school approach that both pupils and parents were familiar with. The software facilitated instructional teaching of our knowledge-rich curriculum through videos and two way communication though the use of blogs. We could also use the system to share resources with home learners, and to engage directly with the learning taking place. Pupils uploaded completed work that we were able to respond to, providing feedback to extend and develop their learning through a combination of learning support, constructive feedback and challenge. This was shared directly with the learners.

Having this platform made it easy for us to share and celebrate good practice, and it also made it easy for us to identify strategies that had a high impact on learning. By sharing instructional videos each day, we were able to specifically target any misconceptions and to move learning for whole groups or classes, and through personal feedback and the class blog we were able to target specific children or groups for support. Our platform allowed us to achieve a wide variety of learning outcomes and to deliver impactful feedback on learning.  We were able to view these together, discuss, feedback and identify ways to be more impactful in our practice.

Sam - EYFS Lead

Parents could share their child’s learning with staff by uploading to the platform, enabling us to see the learning taking place and offer support and feedback. This feedback although directed at children, offered suggestions for parents to develop the learning further as well as reinforce our expectations. This was particularly evident in writing activities. We used a combination of commercial videos such as White Rose and RWI in addition uploading our own to cover topic work and more targeted activities to support the needs of our cohort. We also included videos and blog posts aimed at advising parents in supporting their child.

The hands-on nature of the EYFS curriculum required careful planning and consideration of resources parents may or may not have at home. Where possible, we provided practical activities which could then be photographed and uploaded onto PM. This enabled us to measure engagement and by encouraging parents to add comments in addition to photos, we could see how the children had completed the tasks. Additional information on learning was gained through regular telephone conversations and email contact with parents.
As a school we used a whole school spreadsheet to track engagement, vulnerable children, collection of paper packs and IT issues. This allowed us to easily identify issues and take action, through additional phone conversations, offering IT support and in some cases offering more personalised learning through the provision of paper packs. We also worked closely as a team, sharing information where appropriate. Our Flo provided support contacting who were hard to reach. Through whole school parental questionnaires and parent forums we were able to identify issues and take action, adapting our provision where appropriate.

In addition to monitoring the learning of the children at home, staff were in daily contact with staff in school and teachers regularly checked the work produced by going into school. Live assemblies involving children at home and school allowed the children to share their learning as well as maintain some contact, although remote, with staff and fellow pupils.

Joe - KS1 Lead

It was imperative for us that all children were able to access a strong and consistent learning across the blended learning period. All lessons which were submitted to our online blended learning platform, were carefully planned and delivered to enable children to access their learning with ease and enjoyment. Lessons were planned inline with the schools development of delivering a knowledge-rich curriculum. With a large percentage of our children completing the lessons remotely, and the remaining children participating in their learning within our school setting, it was crucial that we provided impactful feedback to all children. In order to do so we, as a team, met regularly to discuss problems and successes, before addressing and sharing them quickly amongst the phase.

In order for us to be able to effectively capture the impact, we used a whole school tracking spreadsheet. Using this spreadsheet, we identified focus groups within each class and monitored daily engagement – firstly logging in, before subject specific tracking. This subject specific tracking was crucial for teachers: firstly to identify barriers to learning as well as potential gaps in the learning as the lockdown period eased. The regular extensive tracking led to teachers making contact with parents through phone calls or via email. The tracking of engagement allowed us to swiftly identify barriers to learning. Using this information, we liaised closely with the Pupil Premium lead, FLO and SENCo and created a plan to enable greater access – through IT support, provision plans. The use of the tracking spreadsheet was fundamental in ensuring high impact for all children.

Feedback was quickly identified as an area which was of utmost importance. In line with the school policy, we wanted to provide immediate same-day feedback to children for all pieces of work. For those at home, without a teacher to provide this face to face, teachers ensured they provided feedback in a variety of forms which were accessible to all. As a team, we wanted to ensure that it was consistent across the phase and school as a whole. We agreed that feedback would be constructive and positive. In order to make feedback impactful with our younger students, teachers often provided audio feedback or short instructional videos that would demonstrate alternatives and solutions for the children and their families. Other feedback methods included short written comments, once again providing simple constructive feedback to allow the children to make progress.

Using Purple Mash, I was able to identify examples of strong practice that demonstrated positive impact for the children. Across the phase, teachers provided exception remote learning, which children engaged with and greatly enjoyed.

Jack – KS2 Lead

It was important for us that we were impactful for all children, so children on site were also accessing full blended learning either online or as a class. We used weekly phase and bubble meetings to collaborate and ensure consistency across the phase and for all children. The children in school benefitted from immediate feedback from staff in school, in line with our Feedback policy, and support for SEN pupils and those with EHCPs were seamlessly able to continue throughout the blended learning period. Further to this, we used regular telephone conversations and email to communicate with parents and to ensure our provision was effective for every pupil. Live assemblies provided opportunities for children to share their learning, and for teachers to celebrate pupils’ successes.

For us to be able to effectively capture the impact of our provision, we needed to have a firm grip on engagement. We tracked this throughout the week across the school, with regular communication between class teachers, leaders and our FLO. Identified focus children were identified in each class and group and log in data and uploaded work was monitored and records kept of engagement. We followed this up with teacher phone calls and follow-up emails. If families had already been identified as vulnerable, we worked with our SENCo and PP lead, and if not referred them to our FLO or Phase Leader. This swiftly enabled us to identify any barriers to learning and put in place appropriate support, such as tech support, or a school place for vulnerable pupils. This was key to ensure high impact for all pupils.

As school, feedback was something that we needed to get right. We wanted it to be bespoke, to praise, to challenge and to provide next steps in learning. Impactful feedback was consistent across the phase and available to every child to ensure that they had the tools to continue learning from home. Feedback came in a variety of forms, but we wanted it be constructive and impactful. In some cases, this was as simple as providing a next step, in others, it was specific praise, or providing support or additional resources to scaffold and support children in taking the next step in their learning. We also wanted this to be accessible and impactful for all children, so whilst written feedback was in many cases effective, being able to audio record our feedback meant that we could work with learners on a personal level to have impact on their learning. For us, the key was consistently providing feedback that kept the children engaged while supporting their learning.

As a leader, I was quickly able to use our blended learning platform to find a wide variety of examples of strong practice that were clearly having a positive impact on pupils. In every class, in every subject it was clear that children were engaged in their learning, enjoying learning and finding the school’s provision supportive and impactful.

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