Learning across the miles and time zones

Apr 01, 2020

Virtual teaching continues for students at Thornton College.

THE SPREAD of coronavirus may have brought classroom learning to a shuddering halt. But it has not stopped education and other school activities continuing at Thornton College near Buckingham.

Virtual learning means that students as near as Buckingham and as far as Spain, China, Pakistan and Hong Kong have been checking in for registration and lessons.

As the students adapt to the new ‘normal’, the prep girls have attended virtual assembly in the chapel, senior girls from all over the world have attended lessons via the video conferencing platform Zoom and many have interacted with their friends socially.  

Pastoral and safeguarding work has continued as girls wake up and are ready at their computers for morning registration with their form teachers before classes begin at 9am.

Thornton remains physically open to key workers’ children and a number of teaching and support staff continue to work in the school.  However the majority of teaching staff are working remotely from their homes and going online to teach their lessons, interact with and support their students.  

A Thornton College student takes part in learning at home.

“We have also put additional resources together to support students settling into a different working environment, with the Sixth Form team and students sharing videos of their home study spaces,” says Jenny Walker, Thornton’s development and marketing director. 

Students continue to progress their plans beyond the Sixth Form, having careers appointments with the college’s careers and enterprise leader Jo Scott, as well as attending virtual university fairs and making progress with their personal statements.  

“The Sixth Form team has also been checking in with some of our former Sixth Form students, including those isolating at universities in Europe and the USA,” says Jenny. 

The youngest pupils at Thornton sign on to Zoom for their remote learning lessons. Teachers are greeted each day with smiles from girls who are happy to see their friends and who are embracing the opportunities to use technology in innovative ways.

“Some girls have even commented that it is just like being at school but better.”

“Teachers have been incredibly creative in the ways they are delivering their lessons to our Early Years Foundation Stage, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2; from story dramatisations and ballet for EYFS children, coding, singing and scavenger hunts in KS1 through to debates, PE, investigations and RE performances in KS2,” says Jenny.

“Indeed, the full timetable has been delivered with such little disruption that some girls have even commented that it is just like being at school, but better.”

It is the same at sixth form level, adds Suzanne Kurze-Kinton, head of business and economics. “The girls have joined lessons with enthusiasm and embraced the opportunity to use additional technology. They have been creative using chat and photos to research and present back to each other.

“My highlight was teaching lessons to girls in the UK, Spain and China simultaneously – it was wonderful to see the girls working together as normal despite the physical distance.”

Students have responded well to contact via video, taking part in prayer, pastoral activities and quizzes as they would when physically at school. “We have also taken the opportunity to see things that are not ordinarily possible such as meeting each other’s’ pets,” says Suzanne.

“I will treasure the moment we sang Happy Birthday to a student quarantined in her home country; She could not see her family or friends physically but we were able to sing and see her beautiful cake.”

Interactive video links via Zoom have enabled education to continue as near to normal as would be possible. “ As a community, we are stronger and closer than ever,” says Jenny. “The girls have loved sharing with each other snippets of their home life and we have also seen siblings and parents taking part in class activities from arts and crafts, science experiments, cooking and dance. 

“Zoom is helping us to maintain strong links with everyone and we to continue to support each other across the miles and time zones. Most importantly, the school’s ethos continues to pervade every aspect of school life, with girls enjoying opportunities to share in reflection and prayer every day, meet with their friends and benefit from the caring, family atmosphere.” 

by ANDREW GIBBS e: news@businessmk.co.uk

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